Following is a transcript of a conference call held on Wednesday morning with American Idol executive producer Ken Warwick:
Why are the males dominating? Could online voting and social networking have contributed?
KW: “That’s exactly it. Most reality shows are female driven either my mums or by young girls. We know we’re going to get a heftier amount of female votes. Case in point–losing Pia a couple of weeks ago. It’s something we’re going to have a long discussion about after we finish. We won’t be in the process of changing anything at the moment.”
On the lack of judges guidance. Could the judges provide just a little more that might influence the voters?
KW: “These kids are very good, and I wouldn’t influence the judges to say anything they didn’t honestly believe. (He points out that Jennifer advocated for Haley last week.) “They are trying to keep things on the straight and narrow.”
On retooling the voting system. Changes for next year?
KW: “We are going to have discussions on how we can keep it fair. If people want to vote kids, I’m not going to start fiddling with the votes or do anything that’s untowards. If that’s the way it goes, I’ve just got to swallow it and maybe change the voting system slightly next year. Maybe we limit the amount of SMS votes, or online votes. We’re talking about it.”
On the Xfactor and Voice:
KW: “I can’t get worried about it mate. What will be will be. I’m amazed our show has been here for 10 years. Our show is the best, it’s got the most integrity, it’s got the best track record, I love the fact it’s young talent. I’m not about to change anything radically to try to keep up with anything I haven’t even seen yet or hasn’t been proven.”
Advice for someone like Pia who is voted out early and wants to make a career?
KW: “She needs to be able to record songs that people want to buy, listen to and download. Hopefully she will get some expert guidance. She is a talent. She went at the wrong time for me. It’s the public that vote and that’s the end of it. The girl has something that people want to listen to. That’s why she’s been successful. She’s a nice kid…a lovely girl. She’s on a lot of shows at the moment mainly because people believe that an injustice was done, I guess. It’s all in the hands of the record producers and the people who look after her now. I sincerely hope she makes it. She’s got a great voice.”
Are early ousters good for the show?
KW: “Anything that makes people talk about the show is good for the show. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but as long as people keep talking about it, that’s what it’s about.”
Does he think this years’ tweaks have worked?
KW: “We knew if we could get Jlo that it would be huge because she’s such a standout star – all the credibility in the world, looks a million dollars, knows the business. We knew that was a slam dunk. It was not the same with Steven. It was a leap of faith on both our parts. He got a lot of stick from his mates. He wasn’t sure he was doing the right thing and neither were we. We knew we could not replace Simon. This has absolutely worked spectacularly. Mainly because the guy has got a heart. He’s the quintessential rock and roller, he’s got a side to him that’s a little bit edgy, but underneath it all he’s a lovely man. The public has hitched into it. The talent this year is a diverse group that lots of people can hook into and get to know. There are kids working in a bank that could be the biggest stars in America, they just don’t know it. Hopefully, we give some of them a chance. It’s a harder production process – we’re using Jimmy Iovine and Universal. The kids are down there working with record producers making downloads on a much more detailed basis than they’ve ever done before. It’s working, but it’s a harder process for us. It takes two days out of our week to make a TV show.”
Will the judges be allowed to vote like the do on DWTS and SYTYCD next year?
KW: “That’s just one of the ideas on the table. There are a number.”
Are you concerned about marketing another male winner?
KW: “I make a television show, at the end of that show, I hopefully give the record company a person who has a following of 20, 30 million people. What they do from then on has absolutely nothing to do with me. I then move on to the next year’s show. Have there been mistakes made in the past by record companies? Yes. Has necessarily the best person always won? Kris Allen hasn’t really broken, but there was always a hell of a buzz around Adam Lambert. In the top 5 upwards, there is usually a star in there somewhere, it just is a question of luck. Not every Idol has become a star, there are lots of Idols that have become stars. I’m pretty sure that whoever comes out of this series is going to break. There’s a big changeover with the record company and a whole mentality with how we market the person who wins this. I’m confident the winner has some ongoing future.”
Is there a plan to get music out faster for Pia, etc?
KW: “If we’ve got a rising star that the record companies and CKX think ‘Hang on a second, this person is very marketable now’ then they will try to get records out and make a star of that person irrespective of when they go out. I don’t know exactly what the plans for Pia are, I know if I was in the record company’s seat, I would be looking to get her out as early as possible while there is all this buzz about her.”
What do you think of the importance of Latino audiences to American Idol?
KW: “Every audience demographic is important to me. We make a concerted effort to make the group as diverse in culture, in ability, in just the way they are. We try to make it as different as possible.”
What are the roles of the various record producers? Are they taking Simon’s role?
KW: “Yes, they are. there’s a bit of competition between them too. They want the arrangements to do better than the other kids. They are very nice guys. Normally they’ve got six months to get a record out. They’ve got 24 hours to get the kid, pick a song, got through the arrangement, record it, mix it then do a cutdown version for the TV show. They’re doing a good job of it.”
Is the schedule wearing out the kids?
KW: “It’s wearing us all out. I have the kids one day less a week. Nobody gets a day off on this one. They’re exhausted, but they love it. Nobody is going to pick up a kid and put them in an audience in front of 25-30 million people every week for three months.”
Is there actually a musical instrument rule? Are the kids limited?
KW: “No, it’s really up to the producer’s discretion. If someone wanted to perform behind a guitar every week, I would say no. I don’t want any of this hiding behind an instrument because you don’t know what to do with yourself. You’ve got to put yourself out there, you’ve got to capture your audience, and you’ve got to do it. If you do a performance and you want to play the guitar, that’s fine. Initially, I’m going to say twice. However, as we’re going through the process–every year is different. This year isn’t an issue. Last year it was an issue.”
On Pia guesting on Dancing with the Stars, Ken is friends with the DWTS producer. They worked together on World Idol in London.
KW: “In Hollywood there are these studio barriers that go up, but a lot of it is nonsense. We’ve got a good ongoing relationship with them. The truth of the matter is, why shouldn’t she? It doesn’t effect us. She’s out of the competition. It’s not unfair in any way. They asked, we had a little conversation, and we said yes.”
Is there any concern about allowing an eliminated contestant to get their music out there before the winner is announced?
KW: “We used to in the old days, it was a concern of ours. As time’s gone on, we’ve realized that seeing so often the big star doesn’t come from the winner, it’s really unfair to hold someone back just so we can promote someone else. The kids are so diverse this year, that’s it’s every likelihood the music direction that the winner goes in will be different than the big power ballads Pia sings. It doesn’t worry us.”
Why have we not seen a radical rearrangement of a song?
KW: “The public loves to hear a song they know and can sing along with. Unless you are very good, and you have a huge following, it’s dangerous to change the arrangements too much in competition. There are a number of kids that have confidence, are musicians, and know what they want. For instance, Casey will do what he wants. He’s a muso, and he’s got a great ear. He changed up a song last week and went his own bluesy way. It worked. We always encourage it, provided the kids singing it is happy with it. I would step in if a producer was trying to push the kid into a way they didn’t want to go. It’s also a question of time. It will happen, but it will probably happen a little bit later on in the series.”
Are you happy with the time change?
KW: “We’re all fine as a result. The decision to change was a network decision. Had more to do with the programming through the week, than worrying about DWTS.”
Will the album by the winner be out a lot sooner?
KW:“It might. It depends on who wins and what kind of backlog of songs there are ready for them to sing.”