Idol split hits sour note with fans

By Claire Trevett

One year and one album after being crowned New Zealand's first Idol, Ben Lummis and record company Sony BMG are to part ways.

Lummis' manager, Paul Ellis, said the decision was mutual. Lummis was signed to the label for one album after winning NZ Idol. Runner-up Michael Murphy was staying with Sony BMG.

Mr Ellis said Lummis' first single and album had sold well. "Sales success was not the issue. It was just a difference of opinions, which is often the case in the music industry ... Maybe Ben does not fit the landscape for Sony BMG now."

News of the split provoked a backlash from members of Idolblog.com, who said the record company had not supported Lummis. Unlike Michael Murphy, no website had been set up for him.

Sony BMG, which is contracted to sign the winner of NZ Idol and has first rights to sign any of the 10 finalists, would not comment on the fans' claims.

Blog founder Regan Cunliffe said the record company had seemed unenthusiastic about Lummis, but could not take all the blame. He said Lummis' Christianity may have been a factor.

"I don't think Ben's choice to spend the majority of his time preaching to the converted was a wise decision.

"The people of New Zealand gave him a title and he seems to have ignored them and focused on singing and speaking in churches."

Lummis' single, They Can't Take That Away, was the highest-selling New Zealand single last year and his album One Road had gone double platinum. His second single, I Love You Love Me, received a more muted reception.

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