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American Idol: should it be a singing contest or a popularity contest?

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  • J. Atsu Amegashie

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Abstract

Using the popular FOX TV reality show, American Idol, this paper makes a contribution to the literatures on the design of contests, the allocation of voting rights in committees, and the desirability of low-powered incentive schemes. In American Idol, the judges, who are presumably experts in evaluating singing effort, have no voting power when the field is narrowed to the top twenty-four contestants. It is only the votes of viewers that count. In the 2007 season of the show, one of the judges, Simon Cowell, threatened to quit the show if a contestant, Sanjaya Malakar, who was clearly a low-ability contestant, won the competition. He was concerned that the show was becoming a popularity contest instead of a singing contest. Is this a problem? Not necessarily. I show that, under certain conditions, making success in the contest dependent on a contestant’s popularity and not solely on her singing ability or performance, could paradoxically increase aggregate singing effort. It may be optimal to give the entire voting power to the viewers whose evaluation of singing effort is noisier.
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Suggested Citation

  • J. Atsu Amegashie, 2009. "American Idol: should it be a singing contest or a popularity contest?," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 33(4), pages 265-277, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jculte:v:33:y:2009:i:4:p:265-277 DOI: 10.1007/s10824-009-9102-6
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    Cited by:

    1. Brinja Meiseberg, 2014. "Trust the artist versus trust the tale: performance implications of talent and self-marketing in folk music," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 38(1), pages 9-42, February.
    2. Kräkel, Matthias, 2008. "Optimal risk taking in an uneven tournament game with risk averse players," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(11), pages 1219-1231, December.
    3. J. Atsu Amegashie, 2012. "A Nested Contest: Tullock Meets the All-Pay Auction," Working Papers 1211, University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance.
    4. Qiang Fu & Qian Jiao & Jingfeng Lu, 2015. "Contests with endogenous entry," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 44(2), pages 387-424, May.
    5. Amegashie, J. Atsu, 2012. "A nested contest: Tullock meets the All-Pay Auction," MPRA Paper 41654, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 03 Sep 2012.
    6. Nieken, Petra & Stegh, Michael, 2010. "Incentive Effects in Asymmetric Tournaments Empirical Evidence from the German Hockey League," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 305, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    7. Kräkel, Matthias & Nieken, Petra & Przemeck, Judith, 2008. "Risk Taking in Winner-Take-All Competition," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 233, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    8. Robson, Karen & Plangger, Kirk & Kietzmann, Jan H. & McCarthy, Ian & Pitt, Leyland, 2015. "Is it all a game? Understanding the principles of gamification," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 411-420.
    9. Samuel Cameron, 2016. "Past, present and future: music economics at the crossroads," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, pages 1-12.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    American Idol ; Committee; Contests; Tournaments; Voting; D23; D44;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions

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