"Rock Star: INXS" Delivers Low Ratings But High Music Sales

There's good news for broadcast TV music shows with so-so ratings: they can help boost music sales.

"Rock Star: INXS"--the much-maligned summer show from Mark Burnett Productions--seems to have worked for the Australian band INXS. The show was a contest among 15 singers seeking to be the new lead singer of the band, replacing Michael Hutchence, who died in November 1997.

The band's new single "Pretty Vegas," co-written by new lead singer J.D. Fortune and band member Andrew Farris, debuted in 33rd place in the Billboard Pop Chart last week, and 37th on the Billboard Hot 100. These are the highest ever debuts of an INXS song. Billboard's Hot 100 chart measures the popularity of singles via a combination of both radio airplay and sales data, including paid online downloads.



These results are terrific considering the show underperformed by all estimations. The performance shows averaged 6.3 million viewers, while the results shows drew about 5.4 million. The finale peaked close to 8 million. INXS' album with Fortune, "Switch," is set to hit stores Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Perhaps this is all the more remarkable because, as an older band past its heyday of the late '80s and early '90s, INXS has basically been out of commission for the last eight years. The band had a run of six top-10 hits, beginning with the group's only No. 1 song, "Need You Tonight," in January 1988.

Fox's "American Idol" is naturally the gold standard for a music show, given its high ratings. But while "Idol" has been the top show on network TV, it has created only two artists with consistently good sales--Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken.

The most recent "Idol" winner, Carrie Underwood, had her song "Inside Your Heaven" given a big boost by the show, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100--which makes sense. The No. 1 TV show in the land delivered the No. 1 single in the land. Now all eyes will be on Underwood's new album, "Some Hearts," due out Nov. 15.

Until recently there's been little imagination among record companies when it comes to music marketing. Most of that marketing credit should go to TV producers for raising artists' sales levels and visibility. Even small-time music-based shows can have a rock-solid impact.

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