American Idol “song choice” involves a lot of work behind the scenes

Besides being accused of being “pitchy,” whatever the hell that means, the American Idol contestants most often find themselves being criticized for their song choice. So how exactly do they choose songs? answers that question today, finding that song choice is “the one true strategic element in the ‘Idol’ race.”

In the final rounds, “the show’s producers actually do get them started by sharing several possibilities,” says.

Once they’ve selected a song, it has to be cleared. Of the “five different rights in the copyright of a song,” the show “needs two of them to use it on the show: the performance right, which ASCAP and BMI handle, and the synchronization right.” The latter, according to an ASCAP VP, is what “you need to get when you sync a musical composition with any type of visual: motion picture, video, etc.”

The show’s producer, Nigel Lythgoe, walks us through an example: “If we wanted to, say, clear a song by the Eagles, we would have to ask the publisher, the person who holds the rights, the songwriter and each one of the Eagles. And if one of them says no, we can’t sing the song.”

While some readily give up the rights, others refuse. Lythgoe says, “A lot of people that have written the songs just say, ‘No, I don’t want you to sing my song.’ People just don’t want their songs sung by good singers.” Or, you know, by horrible hack singers who are will be accused of doing bad karaoke five seconds after finishing.

‘Idol’ Finalists Spill Song-Selection Secrets; Bo Bice Offers Advice [MTV]