On Tuesday, August 17, 2010, Sony Music Nashville issued an official press release announcing that it had signed American Idol finalist Casey James to a record deal on its BNA label, the same label as previous American Idol finalist Kellie Pickler. Here is what the press release from Sony Music said:
“Cool, TX native Casey James has turned his third place American Idol finish into record deal with Sony Music Nashville and 19 Recordings/BNA Records. The musician and singer/songwriter who’s been fronting the Casey James Band since 2008, had never even seen a single episode of the top rated show before auditioning in Denver and winning a golden ticket to Hollywood.
An elated James remarked, “Some dreams in life are only just that….dreams. All my life I have wanted this and now my dream has come true. Words can’t describe how thankful and blessed I am for the opportunity to give back to all those who have supported me. I’m going to work hard to make the best album possible! I want to thank my Momma for making me go to Denver. Look out! I’m Nashville bound!”
Sony Music Nashville Chairman and CEO Gary Overton says, “We at Sony Music Nashville are incredibly excited about signing Casey James. I flew to New York to see him ‘live’ with the American Idol Tour and I was blown away with his voice, guitar playing and stage presence…and so were the thousands of fans in the amphitheatre. He has honed his skills as a showman with his years of performing live on stage! I can’t wait to get him into the studio to begin recording his debut album.”
Simon Fuller, Creator of American Idol and founder of 19 Entertainment adds, “Casey is an exceptional talent and it is wonderful to see another of last year’s Idols secure a major record deal and the opportunity to fulfill many more dreams.”
James is currently on the American Idols Live! Tour 2010, and will soon be at work on his debut album, releasing next year.”
Being signed to the BNA label means Casey will be on the same roster as Kenny Chesney, Chris Janson, The Lost Trailers, Craig Morgan and American Idol Season 5’s Kellie Pickler. The announcement was not a surprise as Casey had hinted that he would be working for Sony for some time, going so far as to tweet his fans the good news a week earlier. The first inkling that he might sign with Sony Nashville came back in June when he was flown to Nashville to meet with record executives there.
Those who saw Casey at his hometown visits, playing the blues at the Keys Lounge, or who have seen him on the American Idol tour, rocking out to I Got Mine and It’s All Over Now, might question the decision to sign him to a Country label. But Casey answered that question in an interview with Yahoo! Music, where he said, of his new label, “It is in Nashville, but there’s a lot of stuff out that there that I wouldn’t consider traditional country by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to be what I’ve always done. Texas music-a mix of rock, country, blues, soul, funk, whatever…anything that’s good, it’s going to be on there…lots of guitar, good melody lines, good lyrics.”
Reaction from fans to this news has been extremely enthusiastic and has been spread across various social networking sites. Whether on Facebook, on Twitter, on discussion boards, or on blogs, fans who had been anticipating the announcement for some time were thrilled when it was finally, officially made and they unleashed an outpouring of love to the newly-signed artist.
One blog, BurnThisMedia (http://burnthismedia.blogspot.com), received congratulatory comments for Casey not only from around the country, but literally from around the world as fans posted their good wishes from Egypt, South Africa, the Philippines, Scotland, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Israel, Norway, Singapore, Mexico, Latvia, Venezuela, and the Middle East
But as exciting as the news is for Casey and his fans, anyone with even a passing knowledge of the music industry knows that being signed to a record contract is not the end of the road, but the start of a whole new one. From this point on, the hard work really begins. There are many steps, and many potential pitfalls, along the way from signing to becoming a successful recording artist.
You have to put together the band (easier in this case, as Casey already has one), you have to pick the right songs, you have to choose the right collaborations (if any), it has to be produced well, it has to be promoted well, it has to be publicized well. It’s a tall order.
From a fan’s perspective, there’s not a lot to do at this point but wait and hope for the best. When the record comes out, that’s when the fans can do their part. Not just the obvious, buying it and not illegally downloading it or “borrowing” it from a friend, but recommending it to others and calling their local record stations and requesting songs. Voting for the songs, tweeting them, sharing them on Facebook, these are all things that can be done after the record is released. But what kind of a record it will be and how it is marketed is up to the record label under which Casey is signed.
The big pressure is on Casey to make sure he doesn’t get lost in the recording, but that who he is — his musical vision — still comes across. Based on what he’s done in the past, and what he has said about his musical influences and direction, the album is likely to have a great deal of cross-over potential, a country record with a blues-rock feel. It will no doubt have a lot of guitar in it. Hopefully, it’ll be stripped down, just a few instruments, not layers and layers of sound to obscure the raw, natural power of his vocals. Some hard-edged, rough-and-raw Southern rock mixed with some tender country-infused ballads and some blues guitar licks to kick things into high gear.
Who produces Casey’s record and who works on writing the songs is crucial. This is the work of the label’s A & R department and what they choose can make or break an artist. There is no better example than the talented Adam Lambert who seemed destined to defy expectations until the Pink co-written song “Whaddya Want From Me” stormed up the charts and into our collective hearts. That song kept him on the map and, if he gets more like that, he could be a big star and not an American Idol footnote.
It is crucial, especially for a new artist like Casey James trying to establish his musical identity, to work with a producer, engineer and writing collaborators who understand how best to harness and unleash his natural talent. While he already has millions of fans from American Idol, this record will introduce him to an even wider audience and should accurately reflect who he is as an artist.
Even after the record is made, there is more work to be done. The marketing department works with publicity and promotions on a battle plan for how to get the record out to the public and get it sold. The publicity department gets his name and face out there, whether it’s setting up interviews, getting him on TV and on radio, or arranging for him to be at other covered events. They are the ones who keep the business part of the music business foremost in their minds.
Also concerned with the business aspect is the promotions department who works on getting his songs played on the radio and videos played on TV. They work with the new media department to think of creative ways to let the public know the album is out there and reach a wide audience of both old fans and new ones. With his great, radio-friendly oice, superb guitar skills, easy-going personality, great sense or humor, and connection with his fans, there should be endless possibilities of how to promote him not just with women, but also with male fans. With his blues-rock background, Casey can get the Stevie Ray Vaughan fans as well as the Keith Urban ones.
As you can see, there’s a lot more involved than sitting down with your guitar and laying down some tracks. To be a successful recording artist you need not just the talent, but a little luck and a whole lot of people working hard behind the scenes who believe in you. Sony is lucky in that their newest addition brings not just a great, versatile voice, an engaging personality, an fervent fan base, and killer guitar skills, but also a positive attitude and willingness to work hard. If all goes right, they will be able to work to make his debut album the big success his fans expect it to be.