Simon Cowell is best known as the obnoxious judge on the hit TV show American Idol whose cynical comments sent contestants running out the door in tears, but what most dont know is that his work didnt start there and most definitely wont end there. His list of achievements is long and includes being a successful record producer and executive for the BMG UK record company to gathering wannabe entrepreneurs on his show, American Inventor.
Before The Fame:
Cowell was born on October 7, 1959 and was raised most of his early life by nannies before being sent off to a boarding school. He acted up constantly in school and was consequently transferred sixteen times before finally leaving it all together at the age of sixteen.
Cowell then began work as a modest mail room clerk for EMI Music Publishing where his father worked. He soon moved up to become a record producer but left to form an independent music company, E&S Music, which didnt quite make it, forcing Cowell to return to EMI. He was not content being back and left again shortly to form Fanfare Records with partner Iain Burton. From 1985 to 1989, Fanfare did well thanks to a string of minor hits from its artist, Sinitta.
Moving On Up:
Seeing Cowells potential early on, in 1989, BMG offered the position of A&R Consultant to Cowell when he was only 30 years old. After that, his career took off as he signed several successful artists such as the boy band Westlife and Robson & Jerome.
Cowell first appeared on television in 2001 as a judge on the first season of Pop Idol and then American Idol in 2002. His brutally honest comments helped him to be everyone's favorite to hate. His popularity rose as the both show's ratings rose and his sardonic and biting comments were mocked by millions around the world. Pop Idol's first season attracted over 11 million viewers and American Idol drew 22 million viewers for the first season finale.
Cowell set up another record label named S Records in 2002 which signed the top two finalists of the first season of Pop Idol who both went on to have number one hits in the UK. The winner, Will Young, brought in 1.8 million sales with his debut single, and Cowell was able to cleverly manage to gain a share of the royalties. Cowell also sold his half-share in S Records to BMG for $42 million, making Cowell an instant multi-millionaire.
In 2001, detecting a worldwide trend of a growing appreciation for classical music, Cowell embarked on a project to assemble a multinational quartet of young, attractive male singers who would perform classical and other lyrical music. Cowell conducted a 2-year worldwide search ultimately to find David Miller (USA), Carlos Marín (Spain), Urs Bühler (Switzerland) and Sébastien Izambard (France). They have achieved 26 #1 chart positions internationally, sold over 13 million albums, and received over 100 gold and platinum awards around the world.
In December 2003, Cowell's catchphrase was turned into the title of his new book, I Don't Mean to Be Rude, But...
He shares about his life, experiences working his way up the music industry and about being on the Idol shows. Cowell also began producing shows right and left under Syco, his production company. Although not all his shows did well, e.g., Cupid
, others had a fairly large audience, including X-Factor, Americas Got Talent, Celebrity Duets
and American Inventor
Cowell has one sister (Lindsay Elizabeth), a younger brother (Nicholas), three half-brothers (John, Michael, Tony) and one half-sister (June). While he hasnt married yet, he was known to have dated singer Sinitta, an artist with his record company, and is now dating television presenter Terri Seymour, with whom he shares homes in London and Los Angeles.
The Business of Being Simon Cowell:
Currently, Cowell has signed on for five more seasons of American Idol
making about $36 million a year from the show alone. Including everything else, Forbes
predicts his total pay is about $43 million. For being the man America loves to hate, we do pay him awfully well.
In a BusinessWeek interview, he said that to be a successful entrepreneur you have to: "Work hard, be patient, and be a sponge while learning your business. Learn how to take criticism. Follow your gut instincts and don't compromise."
He considers himself a entrepreneur rather than a music man: "I've always treated the music business as a business. Whether I'm making TV shows or signing artists, you have to do it by the head and not the heart -- and I run my businesses that way."
Wise words from the man who started in the music business as a mail clerk.