Home Celebrity American Idol Stars Move from Arista to Universal

“American Idol” is really going through upheaval.

Not only does no one seem to know who the judges will be this season, but the show’s recording contract has changed.

It was announced today that “AI” recording artists will now be part of the Universal Music Group. From the beginning, though. the “AI” acts were signed to Clive Davis and Arista/J Records. It was Clive who cultivated all those stars, from Kelly Clarkson to Carrie Underwood to Jennifer Hudson.

Yes, there were missteps. Ruben Studdard was one. Clay Aiken…well, he has his audience. I’m not really sure who the guy with the gray hair was in the first place.

On the other hand, Fantasia is back with a new album this week courtesy of Clive’s team. She’s still a phenomenal singer.

Moving to Universal isn’t exactly like going to K Tel. But everything going on with “American Idol” this week suggests more than just a sea change. An era has ended. The Universal labels will have to figure out a new way of marketing and delivering “American Idol” stars.

As for Davis, who’s in his mid 70s, nothing stops him. He’s about to launch Carlos Santana’s big rock album in Las Vegas at the end of August. I’m told it’s going to be an event. Clive knows when he’s done with something like “Idol.” He got the best of it. Now he returns to his roots and his big, big stars.

Now here’s another question: will someone from UMG wind up as a judge on the show? Jennifer Lopez just signed with Def Jam at Universal, so her addition to the show makes sense. Steven Tyler’s does not, from the perspective that he’s with Columbia Records. But UMG’s Jimmy Iovine could take a seat, and so might have Sean Diddy Combs–if his ex, Lopez, hadn’t already made a deal.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
2 replies to this post
  1. Clive Davis has always been at the top of his game making and breaking new music stars. I’m sure he will continue to inspire up and coming music hopefuls.

    Your column is the best in the busineess and always interesting.
    Never miss it.

  2. Signing some of these artists, in the first few years, was a no brainer. Some came with built in and huge fan groups. Who are you kidding? RCA did not always do its best to promote and maintain some of their best Idol performers. Sadly, Clive Davis fell short on many occasions. Hopefully Universal will do a much better job and not throw money after losers and forget to support the ones who are winners. Your perspective, Mr. Friedman, has always been so skewed and one wonders who pays your bills or who has paid them.

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