Investigating TV Singing Competitions
We live in a world on instant gratification. A movie or a song is one mouse-click away, we can check our favorite sports scores on our mobile devices, and our latte is as simple as a drive-through ride.
As society has become more and more accustomed to the “here-now” way of living, we have gathered these similar mindsets towards success. We want that promotion within the first few months, to land that big sale in the first few tries, or—in our case—to get that recording contract within the first few years.
A great music industry example of this instantaneous success can be seen weekly across the globe on talent shows such as The Voice, American Idol, X-Factor, and many others. Not only have these shows become a fun way for the average television viewer to get involved in a musician’s career, but these shows have also become a new aspiration for up- and- coming artists across the globe.
But one has to wonder—in the nearly 15 years in which TV singing competitions have reigned supreme on our television sets—what are the effects of these competitions on artists? Do they create unrealistic goals? Are they even worth it for singers?
To explore this topic—, and along with providing our own insight—, iSing has consulted with two reality TV singing veterans, Lucia Evans and Tamara Beatty.
Lucia Evans was the 2006 winner of Ireland’s You’re A Star, andwho has moved on to have a varied solo and coaching career. Tamara Beatty is also a respected performer and coach who currently serves as a voice consultant on The Voice (US), and works extensively in the entertainment and education fields.
Aside from the obvious winning and exposure, what are a few things an aspiring singer can learn from being on a TV singing competition?
Lucia: I think, given the right mentorship and direction, performers can really get a sense of who they are as performers, where their market lies, and an idea of what they are as a brand and a business. In the current industry climate, you have to see yourself as a business and have a strong brand.
Tamara: If you have the right mind set, TV singing competitions—, like many other opportunities that stretch your limits and challenge you to expand your frame of thinking—, can be absolutely invaluable experiences.
They expose you to the pace and demands of the industry, the positive effects of surrounding yourself with professionals at the top of their game (musicians, voice coaches, producers etc..), and the importance of knowing yourself as a person, singer, and artist.
They give you the opportunity, resources, and motivation to grow and gain more clarity on your artistry and your direction.
What are the potential negatives of appearing in a TV singing competition?
Lucia: Participating in a TV singing competition can prove to be challenging if:
– You have difficulty receiving and sorting out feedback that is given to you.
In this environment you will receive enormous amounts of feedback and direction. Those who take this feedback personally or who become overwhelmed by it often do not have as fruitful of an experience as those who are able to take direction and run with it without affecting their self- esteem.
– Your voice has difficulty withstanding the demands of the competition.
Schedules are demanding and irregular on a TV show and in the industry in general. Like an athlete at a high level of competition, you will be pushed outside your comfort zone and ideally your voice will be able to keep up. For many artists, having a strong practice routine—, or way to keep their voice fit, so they are able to color outside the lines of ‘proper technique’,— is important.
– You’re expecting the TV show to be the way to your success.
Of course this is a major reason why many people go on TV singing shows—- and many people do benefit greatly from this exposure and launch their careers in this way. But the best outcomes of the TV show experience in my opinion are, the resources you have at your disposal to learn and grow as much as possible, the opportunity to work with the best in the industry, and above all is the amazing people you will meet.
Do you feel as if reality TV singing competitions give singers an unrealistic view of the industry and success?
Tamara: The industry sometimes seems like a mystery—- some people do get noticed quickly, others have to work and work and never get any recognition. So in this sense, a reality TV singing competition is giving people an opportunity to gain recognition quickly.
Mostly, I feel like TV and the music industry are what are actually different-— being popular on TV isn’t necessarily the same as being popular as a recording artist and touring musician.
But a reality competition is an excellent way for individuals to get the experiences of being on a big stage with an amazing band or group of experts and professionals surrounding them.
How do you define success in the music industry?
Tamara: Success to me means you’ve put the best version of yourself out there and have done so boldly and unapologetically.
Success in the industry means that you’ve done this and managed to get some recognition that allows you to further develop and enjoy life and music.
Lucia: I used to see it as fame, fortune, being in the public eye— – the usual misconceptions.
Now I believe that success in this industry is being able to do what you love and earn continuously.
Whether that be through regular gigs with a function band, writing successfully for other artists, or being a major headline performer touring the world… whatever it may be, as long as it’s morally sound, allows you to earn a good, stable income, and is what you love, it’s worth doing.
Here we see two similar themes that in a great way shape up the role of the singer in today’s industry. While we may be reaching for fame and glory right away, even if a contestant doesn’t receive the prize, they still are met with the great experience and training of performing in front of millions.
I also believe we can take loads away from Lucia’s statements regarding success in the industry. While we may perceive success as being solely in the limelight, a career in music is more like a journey, where each stride in your career—performing, coaching, recording—are all of equal importance and worth.
Another good thing to keep in mind while discussing reality TV competitions is our attraction towards the “The Cinderella Story”.
We all crave the rags-to-riches story about the aspiring singer who wins a recording contract and saves her house from going into foreclosure, or the singing barista who gets discovered during his morning shift at the coffee shop. And while we do occasionally have the singing TSA agent, or crooning groundskeeper, we often forget that some of these contestants already have had some pretty good industry success.
For instance, take The Voice’s (US) season 3 runner up, Jordan Pruitt who already had two albums under her belt, and a major tour with High School Musical: The Concert, by the time she auditioned on The Voice. Or season 2 finalists, Jesse Campbell who released albums with Capitol Records in the 90’s before making it to The Voice.
They say it takes ten years to become an overnight success, and these contestants are examples of why! Because it often takes years of putting in hard work, before you are finally given a chance to take that mainstream stage.
In no way am I trying to make the point that inexperienced singers shouldn’t even bother applying, but instead I am making the point that the industry can work in mysterious ways, and it truly is an entity with many paths. A, but as long as you are living passionately and doing what you love—you’re doing just fine.