Does Musical Genre Affect Ratings on Singing Shows?

Kyle Montplaisir
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TRAE PATTON, NBC/Eric Liebowitz/ABC

Singing competition shows have been bringing in the ratings since season one of American Idol in 2002. Because of its success, many other shows have emerged from The X Factor to The Voice to The Sing-Off…the list goes on! Now, after the initial boom has subsided, the remaining shows have found their own niches. The Voice and American Idol feature predominately pop and country singers, while The Four focuses more on hip-hop and R&B. But how do these niches affect their ratings? Or do they at all? Let’s take a closer look at what the numbers say.


The Voice and American Idol continue to be ratings powerhouses, as they have been for years. Even though the numbers have dropped since earlier seasons, The Voice leads with right under 12 million viewers tuning in weekly. Close behind is Idol with about 9.5 million weekly viewers. These shows do especially well with women ages 18-49, which is their target demographic. Between the inspiring stories, entertaining performances, and witty banter between the judges and coaches, what’s not to love? Many viewers make it a point to watch these shows live, during their first broadcast.

Who is Watching Singing Shows?

Idol and The Voice primarily appeal to what some people call “Team Minivan,” AKA the moms who generally tune in (and vote) every week. That explains why the ratings generally work in their favor! Their primary focus is on pop and country music, which has the most widespread appeal. This is apparent when watching the show and seeing who the judges/coaches are. The Voice has consistently had a rock/pop coach (Adam Levine) and a country coach (Blake Shelton), but the other two coaches and their genres fluctuate depending on the season. American Idol began focusing on pop and country judges recently as well, starting in Season 11 when Keith Urban joined the panel.

The emphasis on those genres is highlighted even more when you look at the success of past winners. American Idol’s biggest winners—Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood—fall right in line with those two genres. The Voice has especially seen success from country artists, particularly due to Blake Shelton’s influence and mentoring. Performers like Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbery, and RaeLynn have been some of the biggest names to come out of the show.


The Four, however, doesn’t do as well in the ratings. Season one had an average of just over 4 million viewers per week. That is less than half of what Idol did this season! However, The Four was FOX’s most watched and highest-rated new unscripted series in nearly four years when it premiered. This season, less than 2.5 million viewers tuned in for the first episode.

What Genre Pulls the Most Hype?

In attempting to replace American Idol, FOX decided to shift its new talent show’s focus from the genres singing competitions generally gravitate towards. The Four has prided itself on highlighting more on hip-hop and R&B singers. By recruiting DJ Khaled and Diddy as half of their judging panel, this was clearly an intentional move. They also bring the truth and harshness to the table. 

The Four has set itself apart in this way. Whereas American Idol and The Voice focus on building the singers up, The Four doesn’t mind breaking them down a bit. That could also have an effect on the ratings, but it’s hard to say for sure what is the most influential for the numbers. Chances are, it’s a combination of many of these factors.


Due to all this, The Four’s audience seems to skew younger. Their videos tend to do better on YouTube and streaming than some of the other shows. But because this younger audience doesn’t watch broadcast, appointment television, viewership of The Four doesn’t translate well in ratings. However, The Four is great at creating viral moments like no other show does. Rebecca Black’s appearance this season already has over 4.6 million views. And who could forget Jason Warrior confronting Meghan Trainor last season? Or the success of Zhavia and how her performances were a viral sensation? Their success comes in non-traditional forms.

All in all, it’s easy to see that these shows have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to drawing eyeballs. Over the years, The Voice and American Idol have made it clear that they’re not going anywhere. They have proven they can hold their own, even in competition with each other for the same time periods. Focusing on popular music genres and positivity, they are both able to pull huge ratings. And while The Four may not be highly-acclaimed in traditional ratings measurements, they are finding success in other ways. Musical genre may or may not be one of the biggest impacts on viewership, but there are definite pros-and-cons to attracting and targeting these different audiences.

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