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Why Phillips is doing better than Jessica in iTunes

Elvin Luciano

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The industry will now be watching how commercially viable Jessica Sanchez is

MANILA, Philippines – Votes have been cast, confetti has fallen, and the American Idol finale dust is settling. America has spoken and Phillip Phillips is their new American Idol.

Filipino-Mexican Jessica Sanchez, meanwhile, finished the race in 2nd place, leaving behind a trail of theories and speculations as to why she lost the contest, which she seemed to have already won in the 1st week of the final rounds.

But as we have seen in the show’s 10 previous seasons, no other cliché applies better to American Idol than “the end is just the beginning.” Every time Ryan Seacrest says his final “good night!” for the season, the American Idol singers stop being reality show contestants and start being real players in the more fierce and cut-throat competition known as the music business.

So how is the Philippines’ new favorite Idol faring in the real world, a few days after the season finale?

If the US iTunes Chart is to be considered, Phillips is beating Sanchez in the numbers game by a massive landslide. The day after the show’s finale, Phillips’ Idol-selected winning single “Home” easily dominated the list at number 1, while Sanchez’s “Change Nothing” was outside the Top 100, barely reaching the 150th spot.

The iTunes Chart bases its ranking upon digital downloads from Apple music store iTunes (not officially available here) – not to be confused with the Billboard Charts, which also considers other factors such as sales in physical form and radio airplay. It is very dynamic, changing from time to time as it is said to reflect real-time figures.

As of this writing, Phillips has 11 of his American Idol songs in the Top 200, with “Home” still sitting on the top spot. Sanchez now only has one, “The Prayer” in the 194th spot, beaten by Joshua Ledet with also his lone Top 200 entry, “It’s a Man’s Man’s world” which is at number 175.

Different on YouTube

Idol fans have observed that this seems to be the first time since Idol sold iTunes singles that the runner-up’s winning song is not charting along with the winner’s single. Last year, both champion Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina had their respective singles in iTunes Top 10 in the first week of their songs’ release.  Same in Season 9 when final two Lee Dewyze and Crytal Bowersox’s singles charted in the Top 10 and Top 30, respectivley.

Sanchez’s impressive run and online support during the course of the show, so far, is not translating to single sales. It is worth noting that Sanchez fans outnumber Phillips’ in both Facebook (310,000 vs. 261,000) and Twitter (507,000 vs. 425,000). Even American Idol’s official Youtube channel has Sanchez’s videos ranking as the most viewed (Her  “I Will Always Love You”is No. 1 with more than 5.5 million views while Phillips’ top solo performance video is at No. 8 with 1.5 million views).

But these are global figures. Sanchez’s online number dominance probably supports the analysis that although she has massive support overseas, Phillips is simply winning it all in the US where it really matters as far as voting is concerned. 

And of course, online support, viewership, along with landline and online votes cost nothing, while iTunes purchase costs USD1.29 per song.

iTunes chart figures suggest is that Sanchez’s supporters were voting, but not buying. They supported Sanchez as the reality show contestant, but not as the artist who records and sells music.

But there’s a glimmer of hope. In the iTunes chart that measures album sales (not individual singles), Sanchez’s Idol performances compilation is currently at No. 14 while Phillips is at No. 2. The compilation of the two’s finale songs is at No. 4.

Each season, there is always that sentiment of “(Name of Runner-Up) should have won!” but what fans must realize is that no amount of fighting, arguing, and theories can change the results. Instead, they must see that a new game has begun and it’s their favorite Idol contestants vs. the rest of the players in the music business. It’s time to walk the talk.

Sanchez, through American Idol, has opened another opportunity for Asian artists to be represented in the US and worldwide mainstream music scene, and her supporters – especially Filipinos who supported her in the competition – must not let this opportunity go to waste.

The industry will be watching not how well she performed during the contest, but how commercially viable she is, especially once she releases her debut, testing-the-waters album. Acceptance and sales of the first album are often a make-or-break point for Idol contestants who’ve gone to make records. Often too, sales become a keep-or-drop decision point for music labels who signed them.  

Whether or not Sanchez will suffer the fate of others before her – those who enjoyed a meteoric rise to pop culture stardom only to suddenly fall into oblivion once a new set of Idol finalists step into the limelight – will depend on public support for her. –

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