Talent Recap

‘American Idol’ Contract Change Aims to Benefit All Future Contestants

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Season 19 of American Idol was way different than any other season because of a new label change. BMG teamed up with 19 Entertainment for this season and the upcoming Season 20. Previously, winners of the show were given contracts under Hollywood Records and Disney Music Publishing. The label executives spoke to Billboard about the exciting new changes.

Country crooner Chayce Beckham was crowned the winner of Season 19 of American Idol in May. He has already hit the studio with Ross Copperman, the producer behind his original song “23.” After the song topped the iTunes charts, we assume Chayce did end up signing a contract with BMG. However, no official details of a contract have been released. Working with Copperman indicates that Chayce is already getting support from the show just one month after winning.

‘American Idol’ Quietly Changed Up Record Label Before Chayce Beckham Won

Past winners of the show were given a contract with Hollywood Records that stated that the winner received $250,000 but not all in one shot. They first got $125,000 and only get the second half of the money once they completed their album under time constraints. Some of the early winners who found instant fame were known to have signed $1 million deals. Now, artists will have the chance to finally find their sound and not have to rush the music-making process.

“[We want to] give the artists the opportunity to grow,” Monti Olson, Head of Publishing at BMG said. “Our development ideas won’t be nine-month plans; it’ll be 18-month plans…We’re looking at it more as artist development versus ‘let’s just capture lightning in a bottle right now, and if it doesn’t work, we’re gonna move on.'”

One major difference in the American Idol contract now is that the winner and other contestants are not guaranteed a contract. They are also not obligated to sign with BMG if they are offered a contract. This is a definite plus for those who do not want to be forced into a contract that they don’t entirely agree with. It is exciting to note that the Top 10 are now all considered for contracts though. Season 19 also saw the Top 6 contestants have their own original songs released by 19 Recordings and BMG. This is the first step in helping these artists find success.


How Will This Help the Contestants Moving Forward?

Elissa Felman, 19 Recordings’ VP of Music, looked at the success of some of the past contestants who did not win the show as inspiration for this change of pace. Gabby Barrett is the perfect example of someone who did not win or get a contract immediately. She has still gone on to be one of the most successful contestants since the show’s shift to ABC.

After competing on Season 16, Barrett released her single “I Hope” independently. The song became one of the best-selling country songs of 2020, leading Barrett to sign with Warner Music Nashville. BMG is hoping to sign those contestants who have the potential to dominate the music scene just like Barrett.

Several American Idol contestants have signed with 19 Recordings including Francisco Martin, Julia Gargano, and Grace Leer. Season 19’s Casey Bishop has also expressed her desire to get signed after competing this season. Contestants who did not win definitely have a better chance of getting signed now than they might have in past seasons.


“It’s really up to where the artist is at in their career with how we roll that forward,” Felman added. “What we don’t want to do is rush anybody to the detriment of their career — but also while capitalizing on what they’ve got from American Idol, which is a fan base.”

Chayce has already grown quite the fan base since his American Idol audition. With this new label and the support of American Idol behind him, he could become one of the more successful winners of the show. Only time will tell if he can actually reach the Kelly Clarkson level of fame.

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