It’s the 10th anniversary of Big Machine Records, and as such, CEO Scott Borchetta sat for a wide-ranging interview with Billboard. Here’s what he had to say about mentoring American Idol season 14 and the final 15th season, and The Voice country acts he has on his roster:
Recently you said, “There’s a huge rock animal out there that needs to be taken care of.” How quickly are you looking to expand into rock and pop?
With Nick [Fradiani, Idol’s season 14 winner], and with the next winner of American Idol, there’ll be a continued partnership with Universal. It’s way too early to project what kind of artist would win season 15, but obviously Nick is a pure pop play. We’re not going to jump in and sign 10 artists, but in a year, we’ll have more pop than we do now, and we’ll also have more country than we do now, and we will have some rock.
Obviously, signing up to mentor American Idol contestants was about possibly expanding his roster further into the pop realm.
You’ve got veterans from American Idol and The Voice on your roster, but neither show has sold many records in recent years. How do you break that streak?
The first Cassadee Pope single sold well for us — over a million, and it was a top 10 record. We’ve had a couple follow-ups that didn’t perform as well. The reason I bring that up is I got to see Carrie Underwood sing at the All for the Hall benefit, and [she is] such an amazing singer. Such an outlier. You have to kind of take Carrie and Kelly [Clarkson] out of this mix and go, “OK, what is the realistic timeline of developing an artist?” We have a new single out on Cassadee right now that’s off to a great start. When she came off [The Voice], she wasn’t ready to be a solo female country artist yet. She had been in bands, and she’s fantastic on television and an amazing singer, but she had to find her wheels. And now she’s killing it, but it took this long to really get her ready to … I hate to say compete, but to compete.
With Nick, we didn’t rush a record out for one simple reason: The music wasn’t ready. We had a single that did great at [adult top 40] — it was a top 25 hit; it was the biggest record [off] Idol since Phillip Phillips. But I was not going to have Nick flying in and out of New York or L.A. or Nashville in between tour dates to rush through a record. Now he’s writing like crazy, and we have great songs and producers lined up to work with him, and the development continues.
I said it at the end of last season: None of these shows anoints you a career. It anoints you an opportunity to have a career.
He considers Carrie and Kelly “outliers,” which they are. At this point, these shows don’t create enough buzz to sell records. The only hope IS to take the time to develop an artist. Nick wouldn’t have done better if an album had been released quickly. Just look at Idol 13 winner, Caleb Johnson. He had an album that came out in the summer, and it sold poorly. Now, he’s got a half-baked debut album as his Idol legacy. Even if Nick doesn’t become a star, he’ll at least have a carefully crafted album that wasn’t half assed.
I thought it was interesting, when the interviewer referred to label superstar, Taylor Swift’s “…battles with Spotify and then Apple…” Scott was quick to interrupt, “You’ve got to remember her battles are my battles. There’s no separate battle there.” Exactly. I never believed the PR spin of Taylor Swift and the lone wolf, out in the wilderness, championing for artists rights on her own.
Read the full interview at Billboard.