American Idol’s Carly Smithson and Her Strange Road Through Little Rock

Having finally gotten around to reading the now-famous Wall Street Journal story from 2002 about Carly Hennessy (now Smithson) and her failed, pre-“Idol” music career, I discovered an interesting little nugget I hadn’t seen before.

The article (behind the Journal’s paywall here) remains a prime document of how the music business is collapsing under its own weight, and how its business model is laughably absurd. Smithson’s deal with MCA — during which the label spent more than $2 million to promote her 400-copy-selling debut album — is a fascinating case study of labels throw good money after bad, locking new artists into ridiculous contracts that offer little in the way of real compensation or success.

And then, there’s the little humiliations, like this one:

[MCA] sent Ms. Hennessy on a $150,000, four-week promotional tour, where she sang at malls over recorded tapes, backed by two dancers, and at station-sponsored concerts. She bantered with DJs and participated in promotions. In Little Rock, Ark., a male listener won a dinner date with Ms. Hennessy. She recalls him as “the most annoying boy I have ever known in my life.”

Such is the record biz. Concerts at the mall, strange detours to Little Rock.

(And if you haven’t heard, Smithson was voted off “Idol” last night.)

Pop Singer Fails to Strike a Chord After the Millions Spent by MCA – Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d)


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