"American Idol" judge job poses opportunities, risks

Fri Aug 6, 2010 9:16pm EDT
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By Ann Donahue

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Goodbye, Simon Cowell. Goodbye, Ellen DeGeneres. Hello, Judge to Be Named Later.

Amid the past week's flurry of rumors about who would fill the two vacant judge slots on "American Idol" -- Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Harry Connick Jr. and Chris Isaak among the names mentioned -- one fact remained unspoken: Being an "Idol" judge presents almost as many risks as it does opportunities.

The paycheck is outstanding -- according to the Hollywood Reporter, Cowell earned $36 million per year -- and with Nielsen Media Research's tally of more than 20 million viewers twice per week for the Fox show, the promotional platform is unequaled on TV.

But signing on to a TV institution -- especially one in flux -- is a loaded proposition both professionally and personally.

"Here's the thing about TV: The good news is, it makes you real famous," Crush Management founder Jonathan Daniel says. "The bad news is, it makes you real famous. You're much more famous on television than you are as a musician -- the fame of it could be distracting. Look at how huge Bret Michaels is from his TV stuff -- more so than when he was the lead singer of Poison."

The two leading candidates for the job appear to be Tyler and Lopez.

"Jennifer Lopez is an entertainer first, so it makes a lot of sense," Daniel says. "Steven Tyler is not an obvious choice -- but he's an awesome personality and maybe this, in his mind, is something where he can be real outspoken and interesting."

"Steven Tyler is a step in the craziest dimension," a senior major-label executive says. "It's quite good for J. Lo. -- her record career is probably pretty much over now, anyway."   Continued...