Chapter 4

Fair Incentives to Motivate

We know nothing about motivation. All we can do is write books about it.

—Peter F. Drucker

They filled a stadium, but they were not there to watch. They were auditioning, joining the roughly 10,000 people around the United States.

Since 2002, these massive tryouts had become the norm because of a simple promise: a fast track from obscurity to fame and fortune. For over a decade, American Idol demonstrated that it could discover talent from a seemingly endless stream of aspiring performers and set them on a track to stardom. American Idol winners have succeeded in almost every way that matters for musicians: they have gone on to win Grammys, made it to the top of Billboard charts, and even garnered Academy Awards—attaining success seemingly overnight.

American Idol has tapped into an age-old promise: all things are possible if you have the talent. While the motivation for some may have been sex, drugs, and rock and roll, for others it was the drive to build massive personal brands that could lead far beyond music to everything from fashion lines to sports franchises.

But first, you have to be a star.

In the past, talent discovery in the music world was largely hidden from public view. It took place in small clubs and behind the closed office doors of a select few king- and queenmakers. Music industry insiders were constantly seeking out and promoting new talent.

But American Idol turned this whole process inside out.

The program is unlike any ...

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