Something I hear almost as often as “Can you play Wonderwall?” from my audience members is “You should go on the Voice” or “Australia’s Got Talent” or “Australian Idol” or “X-Factor” or whatever the latest factory idol nonsense is. It’s a hard one to take because ultimately it’s a compliment. They have enjoyed my show enough to think I would be successful on a television talent show. Yet when I hear it, it feels a little insulting. Mostly because I despise those shows but also because it means they kinda missed the point. Music has nothing to do with those ridiculous karaoke shows, so please don’t compare what I do to that. Every time I fumble through words of gratitude and try not to let my opinion on the matter get in the way of the compliment they were trying to pass me. On the odd occasion I do let it out and it is often met with a look of absolute confusion. So let me clarify.
By watching these shows you are not supporting upcoming artists, you are fattening the wallets of record executives and TV producers. The marketing of this crap has done a brilliant job in convincing people that supporting upcoming artists means exploiting their hopes and dreams. Even though there have been almost no careers built out of winning these competitions, people still believe this is how you “Make it” in the industry. It upsets me because the audience really does want to support their favorite contestant, they think by watching, they are. People want to support upcoming artists. The TV producers are sucking up that support and turning it in to cash for themselves and the record labels. They are effectively stealing from myself, the contestants and others that work and live off their art. That support belongs to us.
It’s a tough industry out there and it’s built on hopeful and often naive young hearts. There are professional con rackets that exploit the fact that artists would do almost anything to have the chance of realizing their dreams. The contestants, the people the audiences are there for, don’t get paid. Unless they win, but then they are locked into a contract they signed before anyone knew who they were. These contracts are not pretty and they can last years. Even if you don’t win you could still be at the mercy of the contract you signed when all you could see was potential and the bright lights of television ahead of you.
Think of all those poor souls that have entered in these competitions and not made it through. They have been told by millions that their art is not good enough. Then, if they choose to continue a music career, at their next show someone will be enjoying it enough to come up and tell them “You should go on The Voice”. Ouch. But even more so, think of the poor souls that do make it through. I imagine the whirlwind that would that follow would be fun for a bit. Until ticket sales turn into shopping mall appearances, then next season starts and you are spat back out into the real world, all used up and forever dragging around that ball and chain of “Wasn’t she/he on The Voice?”. Can you think of any past winners that have gone on to have a successful career besides Guy Sabastian? Can you even name any other past winners?
I know there will be a lot of people who read this and say “But I love those shows”. That’s fine, each to their own, but please understand they are powered by the fuel of crushed souls. You are not supporting upcoming artists. You are in fact contributing to their exploitation. I have had several friends enter these shows. Some that have even been quite successful. All of them though are certainly not in a better position in their musical careers for entering these deceitful contests. If you want to support upcoming artists, go out and see a gig, buy an album, buy a T-Shirt, share their stuff on social media, follow their progress. And please try your hardest to refrain from ever saying the words “You should go on The Voice”.
Update: This article seemed to ruffle a few feathers with a lot of people as you might notice in the comments. I’ve also received a few emails where people have been very angry with me. I’m not sure exactly why people feel the need to defend these horrid shows but for those of you that think I have no idea what I’m talking about I thought I’d include a few more references regarding
the actual outcome of these shows – http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/458469/millions-watched-the-voice-heres-how-many-bought-the-winners-single.htm
And the truth behind the dirty contracts – http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2012/mar/15/behind-music-voice-contracts