The Dark Horse of Success: Cowell Becomes a Hit
Now that Cowell had started his company, he needed to find an artist that would help take it to the top. That was when he met Sinitta, an aspiring pop singer, who Cowell immediately both asked out on a date and signed a contract with. In little time, her single “So Macho” had become a smash hit in the UK. At the same time, Cowell struck up a friendship with successful producer Peter Waterman and, in his own words, “followed him around like a dog,” in order to learn as much as he could about the industry.
By the time Cowell was 28 years old, he had achieved a modest level of success but it wouldn’t last long. He had made a series of bad business investments and he owed a bank almost $1 million, forcing Cowell to move back into his parents’ home. Despite the setbacks, Cowell was still determined to make it big in the music industry. Soon, his efforts would pay off when he was hired by BMG Records.
In 1989, when Cowell was 30 years old, he began his new job as an A&R consultant for BMG. This would mark Cowell’s comeback. After noticing how popular WWF Wrestling was – along with all its related merchandise sales – Cowell decided to create a WWF-themed record, with tracks actually sung by the wrestlers themselves. It became a monster hit.
Cowell followed up this success with his discovery and subsequent signing of the hugely successful pop bands 5ive, Sonia, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Robson & Jerome and Westlife. Cowell recognized the rising popularity of pop music and tried to sign the Spice Girls, but was unsuccessful. With the initial success of Westlife, Cowell worked hard to convince the other studio executives to replace the less attractive members of the band with cuter boys. After they agreed, Westlife would go on to become one of the most successful pop bands in the UK.
After his achievements in the music industry, Cowell turned his attention next to reality TV. He had witnessed the huge success of the show “Popstars” and was determined to take advantage of what he saw as this rising trend. In 2001, Cowell teamed up with producer Simon Fuller to create “Pop Idol”, where audiences would vote in a national talent search for a pop singer. Cowell himself was one of the panel judges, whose brutally honest criticisms soon became the show’s main attraction.
The success of “Pop Idol” in the UK led to a similar version in the U.S., called “American Idol.” Cowell was determined to conquer the larger American market. With the same premise as its predecessor, Cowell was again a judge and again came to be known for his harsh comments. Winners of these shows would then be signed onto Cowell’s newest music label, S Records, which he launched in 2002. In 2003, BMG bought out Cowell’s half-share in S Records for $42 million. Cowell had become a multi-millionaire.
In 2004, Cowell returned to his musical roots and created Il Divo, teaming four opera singers from four different countries together in what turned out to be a hugely successful operatic pop group. That same year, Cowell created another British TV talent show called “The X Factor”, which also proved to be a success. Using the formula it seemed he had now perfected, Cowell launched “American Inventor”, a competition show where entrepreneurs across the country could compete for best new product. Cowell also signed on as executive producer of “America’s Got Talent”.
Cowell lives a lavish lifestyle with houses in both California and England, but his entrepreneurial success is what has made all that possible. He continues to be a host on the wildly successful “American Idol”, giving doses of his unique brand of insights to millions of households nationwide.
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