Yesterday, Variety posted an article on the pretty significant impact Winfrey has on the music industry. Basically it boils down to this: If Oprah can convince a whole bunch of people to spend their summer reading three Faulkner novels like she did back in 2005, she can help Michael Buble sell 132,000 albums in three days like he did in October. Hell, Warner Brothers actually pushed up the release date of Buble’s album to correspond with his appearance on Oprah. And if propelling Michael Buble to number one on the Billboard charts wasn’t enough to convince you, sales for Whitney Houston’s comeback album “I Look To You” jumped 77% after she was on the show, and Filipina pop singer Charice sold 60,000 singles after an appearance in September. I mean for the love of God, Journey was on her show in October, and their latest album—which (a) has been out for a year already and (b), holy shit, did you know Journey released a new album?—moved 10,000 copies the following week. In fact, according to Billboard’s “Maximum Exposure,” Oprah is now the second best way an artist can get their music out to the public, the first being an Apple commercial.
I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for this. The obvious one being that Oprah’s viewers will pretty much do anything she tells them. But here’s the other thing, all of the artists that have benefited from the coveted “Oprah Effect” are, well, relatively tame, and sure as hell aren’t going to offend anyone anytime soon (unless Whitney Houston goes crazy again). Look, Ellen DeGeneres can have T-Pain and Snoop Dogg on as many times as she wants, and yeah it’s really great TV when Ellen and T-Pain sing together with auto-tune mics, and it’s even better when you get to watch an audience full of middle-aged white women dancing to a song whose uncensored title is “Sexual Eruption”—but let’s be honest, they aren’t really going to go out and buy a Snoop Dogg record. Maybe some will, but those numbers aren’t going to touch what Oprah can do. I don’t doubt that Oprah actually likes these artists, but she also knows that her audience will like them too, and not just for the fifteen minutes they’re on the air.
Also, another theory: Oprah’s target audience probably doesn’t know how download music illegally.