Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Interscope chapter closes for Haley Reinhart

"I'm hot enough, talented enough, and doggone it a new label will sign me."

Well, the handwriting's been on the wall for awhile now. With mediocre sales numbers, minimal airplay for her single (Free), no 2nd single, and no tour, even a simpleton internet blogger could sense that things weren't all that rosy in Label Land.

Still, that doesn't make the news that Interscope chose to release my Haley feel any better. Bottom line is they just didn't believe the prospects were good of her hitting it big, thought new talent coming in had a better shot, and cut her loose. It's a cold blooded industry, and the sting of rejection hurts.

Which begs the question: What went wrong??

Well, to be honest, there's certainly plenty of blame to go around. Some of it's management, some the label, and, yes, some has to go on Haley, too.

Not striking when The Iron Was Hot

Haley's run on American Idol ended in May, 2011. She was riding a ton of critical acclaim from her amazing performances on the show, had a lot of industry and media credibility building, and a huge legion of passionate fans of all ages that were in a frenzy for all things Haley.

So, how did they maximize this incredible window of opportunity? Well, Haley foolishly and shockingly turned her back on twitter and social media for almost 3 months, alienating all but her most devoted fans at the most critical time, and effectively vanished from public consciousness while the other Idol finalists were cranking out music and staying in the spotlight.

Then, either Haley or her team, or both, decided to wait until after the tour was over to even begin the process of creating her album. According to Haley, she completed work on it sometime in January 2012, released her single in March 2012, and her album Listen Up! in May 2012.

Now, May 2012 is one full calendar year from her Idol run when she was the talk of the town. Her album release coincided with Phillip winning Idol and releasing his MONSTER hit Home, which dominated the news cycle and relegated Haley to back page blurbs. By now she was no longer the hot item people were buzzing about, just last year's Idol finalist that some crazy devoted fans still obsessed over. For the rest of the world she was, "Oh yeah, that girl I liked from last season. What's her name again?"

Miss the window, miss a lot. I hope Haley learned from this experience the importance of timing and maximizing life's moments of opportunity.

Free not radio friendly

So, after all that delay, the greedy, shortsighted suits at Interscope decided, "Hey, let's release the one song on the album Haley gets no writing credits on so we can keep all the money ourselves. So what if it's not radio friendly."

Shockingly enough, this "Mature breakup song" never resonated on radio, didn't sell very well, and peaked in the middle of the Hot AC radio chart. It was a tough sell to release a 4 minute, mid-tempo breakup song without a catchy hook or beat, and sure enough it just didn't get it done.

The promotion of it was also disjointed. Instead of emphasizing the song's sadness and frustration with a roller coaster relationship, Team Haley tried to sell it as a "mature breakup inspiration song", and vamped her up as a seductive temptress on her Idol performance and music video.


Nobody wants to buy a song inspiring people to improve their breakup skills, and the vamping routine just made Haley appear the least sympathetic part of the breakup. What a strange, shallow and uninspiring message, and no surprise it failed to resonate emotionally. Now, ironically enough, Free is actually a fitting song for the end of the passionless, inherently flawed Interscope/Haley relationship.

Not enough gigging

Once her radio promo tour of Free was done, that was it. Barely any gigs, and the few she had were almost never with her full band. It showed, too, as all too often Haley struggled in her rare live shows with remembering lyrics, loosening up, and being in synch with the band.  It takes repetition, lots of time rehearsing and gigging, to come together as a cohesive unit.

This is such a tragic shame, because Haley is so good when she's relaxed and feeling confident. Her shows sitting on a stool in small clubs with guitarist John Notto are among her very best performances, because she was able to be relaxed and completely herself with his familiar accompaniment. The charming, funny, warm and personable Haley came out rather than the stiff, tentative and awkward Haley we saw in some of the bigger shows.

Now, who is responsible for the lack of gigs? Well, I have no idea if her manager failed to line up gigs, or Haley was too picky about gigs, or not enough work was done on all sides to get it done, but no excuses. She needs to play live more, period, end of story. It's the only way she'll become a success in this business.

* * *

So, now that we've done the WTF happened here, the next question is WTF needs to happen from here?

Well, there's no question Haley has the goods. She's beyond gorgeous, has one of the most distinctive, addictive and beautiful voices anyone will ever hear, and has fantastic vocal instincts. She also likes to write, and hopefully that will pay off, too.

That all said, what I really hope she does is learn from her mistakes, move forward with real determination, find a smaller, jazz-friendly label that has a clue what to do with her talents, and will mentor, guide and inspire her to take her career to the next level and not waste the once-in-a-lifetime gifts she's blessed with.

Today is a new dawn, it's a new day, and I'm feeling goooood that Haley will now find the right home to become the respected artist she wants to be, and we want her to be. Cheers to Haley finding her path to a long and successful career!

~Kenny Poo


  1. So, so true. Great points. Hopefully Haley will LISTEN UP!

  2. I'll add one factor--the cover of the CD was not good at all. If it had a picture like the one at the top of this post it could have helped a lot! I agree that she should go towards jazz (and standards).

  3. Actually, Haley wanted to use the back cover of her album as the front. Let's just say it definitely shows off her great ASSets better. ;)

  4. Anonymous, very clever! Now, reveal yourself!! lol

  5. You pretty much nailed it, the only thing I'll add is that there was no clear marketing strategy, I could never figure exactly who she was being marketed to.

    I think the lack of gigs is what eventually did her in, it was the final nail in the coffin. What else can you do if you fail to catch on at radio? Casey James, James Durbin and Casey Abrams have all been kept busy touring by doing various gigs and I don't understand why Haley's team didn't follow this strategy for her. Durbin for example managed to get his album to go from 28k to over 150k in just under a year thanks largely to touring and now he's working on his 2nd album.

    1. Regarding the marketing, you're 100% right. They had no clue. On Twitter they decided to have her account follow over 70k Directioners and Beliebers as if they represented her audience. All it did is piss off her real fans who had been dying for follows.

      Instead of gigs, she was set up with ridiculous fashionista and teen magazine interviews, where she talked shoe shopping and her favorite colors instead of performing her music at a club or festival.

      Terrible decision. Haley likes to sing old soul music, in clubs an bars that are 21+, with plenty of booze, adult humor and sex appeal, yet she's saddled with the Selena Gomez marketing program?


  6. I love Haley, but if she wants to be respected as an artist in the long term, she needs to avoid album covers like this and more importantly avoid pop.
    Maybe it's just personal bias, considering I listen to classic rock, metal, acid jazz and funk, but I think LU! is kids music sung by a very mature and adult voice. It doesn't fit.
    Just listen to HOTRS, WIAWSNB. That's the direction she NEEDS to go. Pop is hurting her in that she's not able to appeal to tweens nor a more mature audience as well as she could.

  7. If you want to succeed in popular music, you have to appeal to rebellious teenagers. Too much pop is not the issue rather than are you gritty enough to cater to teenage aingst and show you are not part of the establishment - "the man" as they say. Teenagers to very young adults are the only ones that buy music in bulk.

    That's not to say that that adults don't buy music and one cannot make a career of that. It's enough money to get along and live quite comfortably but Haley had an identity crisis. She wanted to be retro but the teens don't buy retro - period. I won't place blame be it Interscope, Haley, her management, etc but they didn't understand her market. While folks are accused of selling out to pop, Haley would have had to sell out to writers who could write toward the audience and that is not her. She would have sold out to grunge, alternative, or whatever gets kids off on these days. She was too comfortable to relate.

    Haley needs to sing what a label presents her if she wants to sell bulk. They have market analysts that can do just that. But that's not Haley. Haley is a class act and I hope she will find her home amongst her classy fans. No, singing in Vegas, to a crowd that doesn't pay attention is not the ticket.

    She needs to sing for movies, be in movies, do voice acting, and other more mature activities because she IS mature. A jazz release with Casey (who is in the same boat) would sell well. But they both have a handicap in that they aren't just totally messed up and emo. Let's get real, the music industry is now dominated that folks that can't sing a note with any guidance but can appear to their fans to be as messed up as they are. Haley, like Taylor Hicks, are out of their time when people actually liked music. She's gonna have a rough haul, doable, but she's not gonna be a Grammy winner unless she goes country since anyone that can sing can do country.

    Haley and the likes of Carly appeal to the international audience but they don't buy records. They steel it. They download it. They share it. We aren't talking about Susan Boyle here but rather the underclass.