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Inside Move: Accelerating from ‘Idol’

Nascent stars stuck in first gear with discs

It’s tough to replicate TV success on CD, as the precipitous second-week fall in sales of “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken‘s debut album “Measure of a Man” attests.

But J Records impresario Clive Davis is working to make a more lasting impression with “Idol 2” winner Ruben Studdard‘s debut disc, due out Dec. 9.

Aiken’s RCA album sold 224,000 copies for the week ending Oct. 26, a 64% drop from the previous week’s 613,000, according to SoundScan. It was the third highest debut of 2003, but also registered one of the largest percentage drops of any album this year.

Record execs agree the key to making the “Idol” stars successful is to create works that establish them as artists rather than create keepsakes from the TV show.

But that’s easier said than done.

Singles released in the summer from Aiken and “American Idol 2” winner Ruben Studdard, for example, were seen as show souvenirs. “Thankful,” from first-year winner Kelly Clarkson, has sold 1.6 million copies since its release April 15, but runner-up Justin Guarini never reached higher than No. 20 on the SoundScan album chart.Bringing Studdard’s album to completion has been arduous — the disc’s release date has been moved back twice — but it may have a better payoff.

“It’s not easy trying to meet expectations,” says Davis, who is exec producing the album. “He is a very proud young American black man and he wants a hip-hop element in his first album.

To that end, Studdard has been working with a number of producers, including Ja Rule and R. Kelly.

“It’s a tricky balance, trying to satisfy the ‘American Idol’ audience and satisfy himself artistically,” says Davis.

But the Dec. 9 slot is the last weekend of the year in which any records with significant sales potential hit stores. At that time of year, albums need to do 200,000 in sales to reach the top 10.

Studdard may well find his stiffest competition in labelmate Alicia Keys, whose sophomore disc hits stores Dec. 2.

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