Which TV reality singing competition made a bigger impact with music consumers this season, Fox's venerable "American Idol" or NBC's upstart "The Voice"?
Let's look at the numbers logged by both "Idol" contestants and judges and "Voice" singers and coaches.
Following the "Voice" season finale June 29, inaugural winner Javier Colon's "Stitch by Stitch" starts at No. 17 as this week's Hot Shot Debut on the Billboard Hot 100 with 145,000 downloads sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Runner-up Dia Frampton's "Inventing Shadows" opens at No. 20 with 137,000.
The debuts (on Universal Republic) mark the first Hot 100 appearances for each artist this season with original music after each had placed cover songs from the series on the tally. (Colon's Billboard chart history dates to 2003, when the R&B singer was signed to Capitol; Frampton has graced multiple surveys as half of rock duo Meg & Dia).
How do the bows of the top-two "Voice" singers' original songs compare to the recent arrivals of new music by this year's "Idol" winner and runner-up?
Five weeks ago, following the 10th-season "Idol" finale May 25, victor Scotty McCreery's "I Love You This Big" launched at No. 11, six spots higher than Colon's "Stitch." "Idol" runner-up Lauren Alaina's "Like My Mother Does" began at No. 20, the same rank at which Frampton's "Shadows" starts. (The "Idol" songs are Interscope/Mercury Nashville releases).
Not only are the Hot 100 debut chart positions for each champion and second-place finalist comparable, but each series' top pair also combined for an almost identical sales sum in their first weeks.
Here is a comparison of the first-week download sales, according to SoundScan, for the first singles by each show's top-two contestants:
Scotty McCreery, "I Love You This Big," 171,000
Lauren Alaina, "Like My Mother Does," 121,000
Combined total: 292,000
Javier Colon, "Stitch by Stitch," 145,000
Dia Frampton's "Inventing Shadows," 137,000
Combined total: 282,000
Thus, a slight edge for the top two "Idol" finalists' new music (by 10,000) in combined first-week digital sales. McCreery also grants "Idol" the title for highest individual opening-week sum among the four singers.
Unlike with Colon and Frampton, at least as of yet, McCreery and Alaina have additionally enjoyed notable radio support; "Big" bullets at No. 19 this week and "Like," No. 47, on Billboard's Country Songs chart.
Still, "The Voice" further highlights this week's Hot 100, as the bows of "Stitch" and "Shadows" aren't the show's only debuting tracks.
Four other souvenirs from the series, including three featuring "Voice" coaches, bow following performances on the season finale.
Adam Levine and Colon's version of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" debuts at No. 45; Blake Shelton and Frampton's take on Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" starts at No. 57; Christina Aguilera and fourth-place finisher Beverly McClellan's rendition of the former's "Beautiful" opens at No. 74; and, third-place finalist Vicci Martinez's original "Afraid to Sleep" bows at No. 78.
To-date, Colon's "Voice" digital releases have sold 565,000 downloads and Frampton's, 480,000. (Advantage, "The Voice," as McCreery's "Big" has sold 371,000 to-date, Alaina's "Like," 216,000, although only those two songs' sales have been reported to SoundScan, whereas "The Voice" released sales of multiple finalists' tracks).
While the first-week sales between Colon/Frampton and McCreery/Alaina run close, how about the rivalry between the "Idol" judges and "Voice" coaches?
Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez of "Idol" and Aguilera, Levine and Shelton all released singles during their first turns critiquing aspiring talent. (The other "Voice" coach, Cee Lo Green, continued to promote his 2010 album, "The Lady Killer").
After debuting last week on the Hot 100 at No. 8, Levine's band Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger," featuring Aguilera, drops to No. 23 this week. The cut slides 2-13 on Digital Songs, down 48% to 111,000 downloads sold.
Here is a look at the opening-week sales, according to SoundScan, of original singles released alongside each series' respective seasons by Lopez, Tyler, Levine, Aguilera and Shelton:
170,000 "On the Floor," Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull
77,000, "(It) Feels So Good," Steven Tyler
30,000, "I'm Into You," Jennifer Lopez featuring Lil Wayne
213,000, "Moves Like Jagger," Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera
139,000, "Honey Bee," Blake Shelton
Therefore, while the opening-week sales between each series' top-two finalists were similar, with "Idol" boasting a slightly higher combined sum, the verdict among judges/coaches more noticeably favors "The Voice," as songs released during its season by Maroon 5, Aguilera and Shelton outsold those by Lopez and Tyler, 352,000 to 277,000.
As with "Voice" contestants on the Hot 100, similar "Voice" victories can be found on the Billboard 200 albums chart for all four coaches this week.
Shelton's "Loaded: the Best of Blake Shelton," takes Greatest Gainer honors (designating the chart's largest unit increase), rising 60-18 with 25,000 (up 183%). The country singer's new "Red River Blue" drops Tuesday (July 12).
Levine sees his group Maroon 5 motor 73-26 with "Hands All Over," winner of the tally's biggest percentage increase (up 139% to 18,000).
Aguilera's hits package "Keeps Gettin' Better" re-enters at No. 45 with 12,000 (up nearly 1,200%). Aguilera, Maroon 5 and Shelton's titles were sale priced for $6.99 last week in the iTunes Store.
Green was spotlighted in the iTunes Store with a $6.99 sale tag for Gnarls Barkley's "St. Elsewhere." (He is one-half of the duo). "Elsewhere" didn't shift enough to reach the Billboard 200, but it did log a 282% jump to more than 1,000.
AND THE WINNERS ARE ...
More like, who wasn't a winner? Both series' contestants, coaches and judges maintained high profiles on Billboard surveys. Viewers, too, benefitted, enjoying new music from both new talent and experienced artists-turned-weekly TV personalities.
In all, "The Voice" showed that consumer appetite for music by reality show stars is plainly not limited to "Idol." (Colon, Martinez and Frampton are already planning albums and are set to join McClellan and fellow contestants Frenchie Davis, Nakia, Casey Weston and Xenia on a six-city tour starting July 27).
The chart showings and digital sales for "Voice" voices are especially impressive given the ratings dominance that "Idol" continued to exhibit this season. "Idol" ended the 2010-11 TV season as the most-viewed primetime series, as Wednesday performance episodes averaged 26.2 million viewers and Thursday results shows averaged 24 million, according to Nielsen. The first season of "The Voice" averaged 13.3 million weekly viewers, ranking it as the season's 13th-most watched primetime series.
Thus, despite "Idol" owning a nine-season head start and approximately double the viewing audience, in its first season, "The Voice" was heard loud and clear on Billboard charts.
Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield, Los Angeles