“It’s like having a dinner party – you invite people for dinner and sometimes it’s a fun night and sometimes not as fun as you thought it was going to be,” Simon Cowell said of last year’s judge panel on his singing competition series. When did Simon realize last season’s “dinner party” — Britney Spears, LA Reid, Demi Lovato and Simon — wasn’t going well? “It was more of a feeling it was similar to what everyone else was doing and I had this impatience to get on to Season 3 so I could do what I wanted to do,” Simon told TV critics at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013. “This is a fun dinner party,” added Simon of his new all-girl judge panel, seated with him on stage. Last May, Fox announced former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, and Mexican singer/actress Paulina Rubio had replaced Reid and Spears. Rowland is not new to the gig, having been a judge on the Brit version in ’11.
“We said at the time ‘it’s a girls world at the moment in the music business,” Simon explained this afternoon of the switch. “We thought the panel should reflect it.” Brit and Lovato had been added last season – replacing Season 1’s Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger — in hopes of jump-starting the show’s ratings, after the first season clocked half as many viewers as Cowell had promised. But, with Lovato, Spears, Reid and Cowell on the judging bench, last season’s numbers weren’t too hot either and, after last season wrapped, both Brit and Reid announced they had discovered they were too busy to return. X also shed one of last season’s two co-hosts —Khloe Kardashian — in an effort to contain the viewer loss. Judge Mario Lopez survived, as did judge Demi.
Earlier in the press tour, The Voice judge Adam Levine insisted singing competitions don’t actually have to find stars to survive and thrive (because, of course, The Voice hasn’t produced one yet). Horseradish, Simon said this afternoon. (The Voice beats The X Factor, ratings-wise).
“No show can survive without [launching careers],” Simon insisted. “You’re making a promise to contestants, you’re going to turn them into a real live artist. You can’t guarantee, but that is your commitment. Otherwise it’s a game show.”
And, in the ever-moving target that is The Voice prize, Simon said it’s now $1 million, not $5 million any more. “The idea was to raise attention,” he said of the 5 million smackers, but – this is going to sound crazy coming from me – it was almost too much,” he said. “You know, we want artists who really want to be artists,” said, adding “a million dollars is still a lot of money.”
At that point, The Ladies of X jumped in to explain that once you start adding the costs of launching a music career, launch, what with producer costs, studio costs, touring, publicity, marketing, hotel rooms — and something Paulina Rubio called “emotional” – it actually does take about $5 million. “You are thinking as an executive, everything, it’s about $5 million to actually break them to where you feel like they will actually be successful,” Rowland insisted. “So between, what — $3 and $5 million, you can break an act and feel like you get radio air play, video play. Honey, it costs to play,” she prattled on merrily while Simon began to curl up around the edges. When she paused to breathe and Simon could get a word in edgewise, he would only commit to “it costs a lot” and began to natter about his UK X-boy-band-find One Direction having not picked up “anywhere near that amount of money, but it was their drive and their hunger that made the difference. So I think that’s the point we are trying to prove now.”