With his departure from RCA, many people have been speculating about the relationship between Clay Aiken and his record label for the past few years.
The real story behind the break-up will probably never be known, but there certainly has been a lot of speculation and many question the commitment that RCA had towards Clay.
Perhaps the most information we can get about the relationship is to go back to the very beginning.
On October 5, 2003, Josh Tyrangiel wrote an excellent article for Time Magazine that shed a great deal of light on the difficulty that Clay Aiken was facing with RCA.
“Ask the employees at Clay Aiken‘s record label, RCA, if they would listen to Aiken’s debut album, Measure of a Man, by choice, and the response is almost uniform: a lengthy pause followed by laughter.” This first sentence in the excellent expose already lets the reader know that this was not a happy relationship.
Clay’s response to the relationship is just as interesting. He told Tyrangiel; “There are many people at the record label who are afraid of me. They don’t understand the reasons that someone as uncool as me is here. In a way – and this is a horrible word to say, and once I say it you’re going to print it- it’s a revolution.”
Richard Sanders was the executive vice president and general manager of RCA in 2003. He was the person who decided that regardless of who won on American Idol, RCA was going to sign Aiken. Sanders made his name by signing Moby. He would not say whether he was a fan of Clay’s music -“But I’m a disciple of the phenomenon,” he offered.
Tyrangiel’s article goes on to say that many members of the RCA staff are not fans of Aiken’s music and that many have a deep disdain for the Idol industry. “One RCA executive who insisted on anonymity, cited Idol proof that Americans have no taste and described Aiken as Barry Manilow, but with less talent.”
According to Tyrangiel, Clay Aiken had been warned by Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarrini that he might be happy with about 50% of his album. They told him that there were too many people wrestling for control of the music.
Two statements stood out in this article as the root to the failed relationship. From a RCA executive; “How the heck do we market this boy? We’re used to marketing Christina Aguilera and Dirrty. We can’t market clean!”
The article ends with a quote from Clay; “Revolution is a strong word. But RCA would never have picked me or Ruben. Simon Cowell would not have picked us. America has shown them that they don’t know what they are talking about.”
After reviewing this article, it is not surprising that Clay was not supported correctly. As a unique entertainer, the label just didn’t know or care enough to give him the support that would have sky-rocked him to the very top.
You can read the entire article by Tyrangiel here: Building a Better Pop Star