Why Talent Shows Have Energised The Music Scene

x factor panel Ah, talent shows, a mainstay of Saturday night television that continues to flourish and entertain millions with every passing year. While once a light hearted and harmless medium of escapism, the talent show genre has evolved into a multi-million dollar industry that boosts the careers of contestants, but judges alike. While many turn their nose's up at a so called diluted or easy way of achieving fame, talent shows have undeniably energised the music scene - it just depends whether you see that as a good thing, or a horrendous thing. It is undisputed that the music industry for the better party of a decade has been in decline. Changing consumer habits have seen the music scene attempt to catch up, but at the end of the day the love and desire for music still remains. Lets begin with the shows themselves. From X Factor, to Idol, to Got Talent and The Voice - amateur singing and talent shows are amongst the most popular in the world. Similarly, immediate sales and popularity of contestants rocket those involved pretty much over night into the A-list. For the 2010 finale of the X Factor UK, a staggering 19 million national viewers tuned in to see Dannii Minogue take Matt Cardle to victory. That was nearly half of the viewing audience in the country for that time slot, crushing any other competition on air that night. What I'm trying to get across is, there is no such publicity, exposure or bigger vehicle to sell music, than appearing as a guest performer on a talent show. Matt went on to sell nearly a million copies of his winning single, that was an immediate christmas number 1. Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 8.19.23 PM While some may argue that talent shows exploit fragile and potentially unstable delusions, talent shows are clearly unearthing people we want to watch, buy into and ultimately fan girl over. I don't care how many times people bang on about how it should be about vocal talent only and the only true music is organic self production - because that just isn't the way the industry is anymore. Just look at the figures: Since a peak in at the turn of the millenium, global revenue from music sales as dropped from around $28 billion USD to $16 billion last year. In the same time frame, CD sales have dipped 50% which have seen more and more music lovers opt for illegal downloads. In even more recent years, providers like Vevo and Spotify have revolutionised the way music is consumed and listen too. Why buy a CD when you can just make a playlist on Vevo on a iPhone and plug that into some speakers? All it is costing you is data. Some of the biggest sellers in the world today come from talent shows, or are at least associated with talent show brands. Unless you are Christina Aguilera - call it a career, girl. In 2012 One Direction sold over 8 million albums in the USA and topped the iTunes chart in over 60 countries with their last single. That just doesn't happen anymore. Yes, yes 8 million album sales in historical terms is pretty low, heck even the Spice Girls sold 25 million copies of one album. But how many of you have actually legally bought an album in the last 5 years? Hmm, yep...that's what I thought. One Direction suit up for the launch of new Nokia fans handsets, for more information visit facebook.com/nokia.uk It isn't just the contestants that have amazing success. Back in the old days, talent show judging panels were filled with music executives and record producers. They certainly weren't high profile or even really famous. Peter Waterman and Simon Cowell were on Pop Idol, but before there ascension into ITV primetime, they were largely behind the scenes. Then artists discovered that being on TV two hours a week is actually a good way to boost their profile and their careers too. Paula Abdul saw it first, way back in 2002 when she joined American Idol. As proven by Cheryl Cole, it is possible to use a talent show to construct a bullet proof public rapport and mad crazy solo career. Around the world, this is becoming more and more apparent. Victoria Beckham is by far the most popular Spice Girl globally, but thanks to a stint on X Factor Australia, Mel B has emerged as a close second. She scored a new judging spot on America's Got Talent and solo deals with Jenny Craig as well as a hosting job on Dancing With The Stars, all of which sprouted from a high profile gig on a talent show. Not only that, the shows get people interested in music again. Look at how many 15, 16 year old kids auditioned for American Idol this year and got all nostalgic about growing up watching the show since they were 5 and 6, dreaming one day to be the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. These shows put music, musicality and artistry back into the mainstream masses. The whole Noughties generation have grown up knowing that one day, if they pursue a passion hard enough, they too could be up on that stage in front of millions. Talent shows have been responsible for making youth live and love music again by allowing mainstream tunes into their homes every week. Now these may just be boosting individual careers, but look at the bigger picture. Cheryl Cole has sold 1 million copies of "Fight For This Love", adding her to a small and elusive group of singers. She sold 150,000 copies of "Call My Name" in its first week, which made it the fastest selling single in 2012, before it was beaten by 1D...another talent show success story.


X Factor 2012 may have been a ratings disappointment, but James Arthur managed to shift 1,300,000 of his single "Impossible". This already makes it one of the biggest selling singles...ever. But what about talent shows boosting artists' music that aren't actually involved in the show? Lets turn our attention to a little Australian pop star, Bella Ferraro. She auditioned on last year's X Factor Australia and sang Birdy's cover of "Skinny Love". Largely unknown to the Australian audience, the song resonated with viewers. So much so in fact, that it turned the song into a national obsession. While in her native country, the UK, "Skinny Love" stalled at number 17 - Australians pushed the song straight to number 1. Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 11.11.55 AM Her album has since gone platinum and the single, 3x platinum. There is no way the fairly average song would have had such success without the influence of a talent show and the drama that it can create in cementing a song as a favourite. The song was featured on every commercial for the show and opened the door for Birdy to come and tour around the country. Australian's are genuinely in love with this girl, but she would have flown under the radar without the help of the X Factor. Similarly, the Voice of Australia saw an opportunity to make more money. At $1.69 per download, a studio version of the songs performed by finalists on the show could be purchased on iTunes, which would also count as two votes. Screen Shot 2013-03-02 at 1.25.12 PM In one week EVERY contestant had one of their songs in the Top 20 of the chart, some with multiple entries and some with tunes going to number 1. The Voice was crushing international and domestic competition with the winner Karise Eden getting a double platinum album, 4 gold singles and 1 platinum single. This was before she had even recorded any original material. To have any kind of platinum sales figures in todays market is a true accomplishment, except Adele...who just owns that sh*t up every year. The singers on The Voice have, unsurprisingly, really great vocals. But unfortunately their personalities and stage presence was largely lacking, which meant that without the boost of a hit show they likely wouldn't be very marketable. Just look at how many back up singers audition on the voice. Sadly, there is a reason they are standing behind the star. Take personal opinions out of the equation, but talent shows are actually good for the music scene. They reach a large audience and bolster annual music sales, give a platform for other artists to promote their music and captivate millions. Even those acts who whinge about talent shows make it into the press, which indirectly gives them kickstart in their careers. X Factor, The Voice and Got Talent will be around for a long time yet, so its probably a good idea to recognise their influence on the music scene!
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Sometime law student with a passion for writing & a love for British pop. English blood with Aussie upbringing. An avid Tweeter and you can find me @JonoGibson