But will they buy Paul Potts’ CDs?

Odds are you have watched at least one YouTube video of Paul Potts, the cell phone sales guy who arrived at the UK’s Britain’s Have Talent as the unknown underdog and took the world and the competition by storm.

If not…here’s a chance to see him in action.  This particular video has been viewed over a million times and it’s one of many variations.

So why are we so fascinated and taken by Paul Potts?

  • He’s the underdog.
  • He’s ordinary.
  • He’s not gorgeous or appearing to have any other "advantage" in life.
  • He’s afraid but doing it anyway.
  • He has a dream that he’s willing to take risks to explore.

We are suckers for this kind of story.  We take heart in them.  We cheer on the underdog and feel like maybe if he can capture his dream…then we can too! (cue the music.)

But.

I know…I’m the jerk who is raining on the parade.  The world has embraced Paul Potts.  But he sings opera.  And the bulk of the world does not like, listen to or understand opera.  And he is ordinary looking in a field (entertainment) that clamors for beauty.  Think I am being mean?  In his first post-winning interviews, Potts also focuses on his looks and the "repair work" that needs to be done.

So now what?  Do you think Paul Potts will change the world’s impression/buying patterns regarding opera?  Will he at least take the opera world by storm?

Will the traits that attracted the world also inspire them to pull out their wallets?  Or will Paul be a great inspirational YouTube video and in a few months, be back at the cell phone counter?

His personal brand served him well to win the competition.  He won our hearts.  Do you think it will serve him well in the marketplace and let him win our wallets?

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32 comments on “But will they buy Paul Potts’ CDs?

  1. Cam Beck says:

    I’ll buy his first album. I suspect many people feel the same way. But will this last beyond one? Hard to say for certain, but I doubt it. He can still have a career in opera, but I don’t think it will have the same reach as the YouTube video.

  2. It’s an interesting question. Traditionally, the most marketable singers are the ones doing pop who have the “star” looks. But also, the traditional way for people to start a career in music is by being picked as “star material” by a record company.

    But the record company paradigm is breaking down, and more regular people are getting attention for their abilities.

    I think that Paul will be successful, but perhaps not in the way we traditionally think of as “success”. He’s not going to be Michael Jackson or Britney Spears, but is that such a bad thing? At the very least, he showed that he could sing opera and is getting a chance in show business that he would never have had otherwise. That in itself is success!

  3. Lewis Green says:

    Drew,

    If all the opera fans in America bought one copy, he might still need to keep his day job. Now, if he is hired by an Opera Company, his dream is fulfilled.

  4. Melissa Perez says:

    I can only speak for myself here..I have never been a fan of Opera…When I saw the video of Paul, I was moved to tears. I watched it repeatedly. Not only was the story behind him moving, but his talent is undeniable..The song was sung beautifully. As a matter of fact, I loved the song..I have no idea what one single word of it meant, but Ive been humming “Nessun Adorma” all over my house.
    You might be right…the whole “package” might have been what captivates us…However, I believe that Paul Potts has an amazing talent and from what I can see, the US is eagerly awaiting a chance to hear it.
    I WILL reach in my wallet and buy his CD. I havent purchased a CD in ages, (thanks to the internet and music sharing sites and cd burners) however, When Paul’s Cd comes out, I will go straight to the store and purchase it. You are asking if people will buy a second Cd if one comes out…Hey..Lets hear the first one and take it from there..You cant predict how the public is going to respond.
    Right now, the public ADORES this man…thats good enough…

  5. The whole production is what makes it fascinating. The background music, the cameras swooping in, the judges reacting, the background story, the crowd applauding.

    Take all that away and I don’t think it’s even half as captivating. Picture yourself alone in a room listening to Paul on your stereo. Would that give you chills?

    Probably not. Without the production, setup and context, it’s hard to believe we’d feel the same about his performance.

    But that’s not the point. The point is this:

    Paul is fulfilling HIS dream. This is what gives HIM chills, makes HIM happy and satisfies HIM. Us buying a bunch of records would be nice, but to be honest, it doesn’t matter so much in the grand scheme of things.

  6. Matt Dickman says:

    Drew — I am a fan of great music and there is some great opera out there. I think the market in opera has traditionally been singers performing other people’s work. Take the song he performed Nessun Dorma. Do a search on that term on YouTube and you’ll see everybody and his mother singing it. It’s great to do the classics, but to me most tenors sound similar.

    So, what can Paul do to break the mold and do something remarkable? Should he join an opera company and be great at it or should he create his own? Could opera mix it up with hip-hop or trance music? Probably, but it’ll take somebody to make that leap. He may personally be fulfilled by singing Puccini, but he could build on this and make me want to buy his next album by doing something different.

    Look no further than multi-platinum artist Andrea Bocceli for inspiration. His album that crossed over into pop (I think he sang with Sarah Brightman and Celine Dione on that one) was his break-out.

  7. Dan says:

    Note that Simon Cowell signed Potts to his leviathan: Sony/BMG. There’s plenty of track record to go on to project the future – all of it astonishingly good for Potts.

    Simon Cowell is the man behind pop opera sensation Il Divo. Il Divo’s first album went quadruple platinum in the UK, double platinum in the U.S. and was the #1 album of the year internationally. Their second album went triple plat in UK, gold in the U.S and was a top 5 album. The third album rebounded from that enviable “slump” – charting back at platinum in the U.S., selling half a million copies in a week, and besting U2, Eminem, and a Beatles re-release.

    Cowell + popular opera + Paul Potts? We may as well be talking about the second coming of the Spice Girls.

    The Sony-Cowell star machine have been given a gift from Potts – a bankable story, an intriguing character, and globally recognized talent. The rest is simply flipping the switch on the machine.

    And the subtle dork factor will be used for marketing – think Clay Aiken’s “ugly duckling to semi-geeked swan” transformation. Aiken’s another member of Cowell’s stable – his sales haven’t been too shabby either (he’s the creator of the fastest selling solo album in a decade – has lapped platinum almost three times, and all of his subsequent albums have debuted at or near #1).

    Wondering whether the endearing and talented Potts, well-seated on the Cowell/Sony pony, will do well over the long haul is kind of like wondering if Warren Buffett is going to make money this year, or if Oprah’s Book Club impacts the publishing industry.

    Man, I pay way too much attention to news about music I don’t listen to (nothing against it, just not my cup of tea)!

  8. CK says:

    Man you are being mean ;-). On a personal note, I’m not sure why he has to change the world’s buying habits. And if he wants to fix his smile with his winnings, then good for him (tho’ I heart him just the way he is). The only obstacle Paul had was to get over his fear and heck, he won the competition and won our hearts.

    Will people buy the first album? I think so. And what if he is back at the store he worked at before? He will always have gotten over his biggest obstacle (his fear).

    Now if I were a money-hungry agent? I’d be priming him for speaking gigs to reach-out to youth and others whom are also shy, have been bullied/etc…but then again, he needs to focus on his opera career. I could also see a motivational book. It’s the story more than the song that moves me–it’s the extraordinary feeling you get from the unexpected and the authentic. Yeah, he rocks.

  9. CK says:

    Drew: having just read the article in its entirety, he says several times that he doesn’t want a “hollywood makeover” or to become wrapped up in labels/designers. It seems he just wants to be in better shape and fix his (cute!) smile.

    I was glad to read that–and do hope he doesn’t go changing ;-).

  10. Like others here, I’m not much of an opera buff but I, too, was puddling listening/watching this performance. Amazing, homegrown talent, huge heart. If anyone is deserving of being able to make a living at his passion, it’s this guy.

  11. Cam,

    One of the things I was thinking about as I wrote the post is that Potts has three main “roads” he might take.

    He could become a huge mainstream megastar — but that probably means switching genres of music and if he does that, it will feel a little like he let go of his dream.

    He could become an icon/player in the opera world. Stay true to his dream and have fewer but deeper fans.

    He could bomb and go back to the cell phone store.

    It seems to me that if what we all think of him is true — he shouldn’t care if you or I buy his album. We’re not opera buffs. But he should care a great deal if the buffs buy him.

    Once again…the argument about being a generalist versus a specialist.

    Drew

  12. Katie,

    Yes…that’s one of the aspects of this I was wrestling with as well. How would Paul define success?

    My guess is, just surviving the first time he sang on the show without throwing up or getting eliminated would be his answer.

    Now…he gets to dream much bigger than he probably has ever allowed himself to dream.

    Should be fun to watch.

    Drew

  13. Lewis,

    Hmm, I had not thought of that angle. If he’s gainfully employed doing what he loves, then any CD (that’s what we call albums now!) he sells are just gravy.

    Again…lots of ways to define success.

    Drew

  14. Melissa,

    It will be fun to watch, won’t it? To see what the man and his dream inspire. I hope that his records exceed all expectations.

    But I also know the consumer audience is a fickle bunch. That’s at the crux of my question. Is being brought to tears by a man’s talent and dream enough to also bring us to buy?

    We’ll all see together!

    Drew

  15. Ryan,

    Well…yes and no. Paul’s initial dream was to have the guts to stand on that stage and sing. He lived that one out in full technocolor. But now, I suspect as he signs his record deal, he has another.

    And that dream involves us. If he record sales flop, I have to think the dream will be short-lived and he’s a question on the next revision of Trivial Pursuit.

    From the opera I have seen — Paul should find himself in the same sort of show that the TV show created. It’s all about the drama in opera. So maybe its the perfect venue for him.

    It’s nice to see the common man win once in awhile. So I say “go Paul.” But…I probably won’t say that with my wallet.

    Drew

  16. Matt,

    I hadn’t pondered Potts really shaking things up. Wouldn’t that be something. To grow from being a man who could barely speak on stage to being an innovator in one of music’s oldest genres?

    But you’re right — it oculd be done. I wonder how the opera crowd would react to that?

    Drew

  17. Dan,

    Please tell me you had to look at least some of that up!

    You’re probably right. He’s in the system now, so odds of his success are good. Except that it’s opera. That’s the part that has me wondering. Will the non-opera crowd be so taken with him that they cough up money?

    It will be interesting to watch!

    Drew

  18. CK —

    I think what really has me scratching my chin about all of this is:

    I get why we all fell for the guy. His story and his heart are huge.

    But…cheering for someone and buying something (an opera CD) that most people would normally never buy is another. That’s the juxtaposition I am wondering about.

    Will our admiration for Potts get us to do something we normally would not do?

    Drew

  19. Roberta —

    But will you buy his CD?

    Drew

  20. SM says:

    I’ll buy his first album for sure. He has an excellent vocal range. As for subsequent albums, I’m sure they will sell, he may want to brandh out to what I call classic vocals, like Josh Groban and Il Divo. Not many vocalists including Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo have brought me to tears with goosebumps EVERY single time I hear him. It may be the “package” that leads us to this “everyman” finally seeing his dream become reality.
    This is really the crux of his success, the fact that with all that has happened to him, from being bullied as a child to living thru treatment for cancer, he has kept focus on the thing that makes him happiest. He has overcome his lack of confidence to show us all that anything is possible and that no matter how long it takes, follow your dreams, do not loose sight of them.

  21. SM,

    I suspect you’re correct. Many people will buy the first offering as a sort of sentimental vote of support. But a blend of:

    ~ how the 1st CD is — goosebump wise
    ~ how Paul does/does not stay in the limelight so he can keep tugging on our hearts
    ~ If he stays narrowly niched in the opera world

    will all influence what happens when the 2nd CD comes out. It will be quite interesting to watch.

    And of course, you are very right in terms of his message. We all love a comeback kid!

    Drew

  22. Sally Griffith says:

    This is a bit out of date, but I just wanted to point out that Potts’ CD is now (July 10) #15 in sales on Amazon, even though as an import it is more expensive than most of the rest and isn’t due out for three weeks.

  23. Sally,

    Never out of date to add new information!

    It’s amazing and heartwarming to see the world cheering for Potts and supporting his dream. I wonder if this CD will be the biggest selling Opera CD debut?

    Drew

  24. Tiffany Parisi says:

    I have only bought one opera cd in my life and that was the Phantom of the Opera, this CD will be my second. What a beautiful talent. There are so few moments in life that take your breath away, and listening to this man sing was one of those moments. Everyone questions how his cd sales will go….I think they will be wonderful, but remember his dream is to perform and any Opera company in there right mind better be on the phone yesterday trying to sign this man on a contract. Tiffany Parisi Cincinnati OH USA

  25. Tiffany,

    You are very right. His dream was not to have a best selling CD. It was to sing. So in that light, he is already a success.

    Hopefully his CD sales will just be icing on the cake.

    Drew

  26. Galt says:

    Sometimes you find a Gem, is an article I wrote in tribute to Paul. Paul’s opera singing style – bel canto – is definitely my favorite style that…quite simply…unabashedly moves me to tears.
    I’m just a human being who scourers the world of the Internet, looking for Gems, such as the heroic and rare in humankind.

    His name is Paul Potts, and even if you don’t care for Opera, or understand it, his is a name with a voice that is going to set your mind to love, your heart to sing, and your eyes to tears.

    bel canto, translates to Beautiful Singing in Italian, but when it’s more than that, and makes you want to jump up, and scream…Yes!! You realize you have just heard, something, that makes you want to grab it and hold tight, to express the only two real words that say it all…Well done! It’s that most rare of things, a moment of birth, of a new life you can watch grow, and nurture, with a talent you can’t match, but a soul you know.

  27. Pat says:

    I bought the CD and I love it!

  28. Peg Griggs says:

    I have Paul’s first cd and have played it numerous times and just love his voice. He’s appearing in Arizona in March and I have already bought tickets. I can hardly wait to see this “beautiful voice” in person. He deserves all the success for the future.

  29. Peg,

    I wish him nothing but the best as well. Sounds like he is living his dream.

    Good for him…and for all of us. A reminder that we can make our dreams come true.

    Drew

  30. Yi-Peng says:

    While I’m mindful that Phantom influenced the so-called pop opera movement of Brightman, Bocelli, Groban and even Paul Potts, this Lloyd-Webber musical, even if it may appear to be operatic, is most definitely not an opera at all.

  31. Marian says:

    I DID buy his album. I live in an isolated town on the coast but, if Paul Potts, comes to Vancouver, I’ll moved Heaven and earth to go and see him.
    Happy New Year,

    – Marian

  32. Marian,

    Was the CD everything you hoped it would be? I’m curious — is he touring? We don’t hear very much about him anymore.

    I hope he has incredible success. And I hope he gets to Vancouver soon!

    Drew

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