But this is not to say that there is no real novelty in the AI process. There is. Pop Idol debuted less than three months after the MPAA awoke with a start from the industrial nightmare that was Napster, and confronted the new day that dream presaged. The Idol franchise should be understood in no other way than as a specific solution to a historical problem: how to re-monetize pop music in the face of a certain decline sales of both in hardware (CDs, players) and software (songs as such). Idol is perhaps the most successful — and clearest — response to this economic crisis. Whether or not anyone buys the David products Cook or Archuleta, the revenue is shifted to advertising, and to service providers for downloads, online views, and cell phone usage. Which is to say that the reputed "democracy" of the Idol process is nothing other than the industry's monetizing of participation in its own marketing plan.
Jane Dark on American Idol