Do TV Talent Shows Work?

May 15, 2018

Ever heard of Matt Terry? Well, neither have I. However, he won the X Factor in 2016. The common denominators in shows such as the X Factor are similar. The performers have heart-wrenching tales, the judges are funny, and there are some terrible performers that audition in front of thousands, maybe millions, of people. In the same way that you are unfamiliar with Terry, you have probably also not given the artists from said shows much thought after initially watching them. While shows like the X Factor are fairly popular, just how successful can they truly be for the artists participating?

The first aspect that contributes to the ineffectiveness of TV talent shows is the mentality of the people auditioning for the show. Many have admitted, when asked by the judges, that the only reason that they are there is to become famous. According to Reel Rundown, a blog run by one of the former producers in the industry, this often leads to a level of unpreparedness and a lack of actual talent that will not allow for long-term success.

Once someone makes it on the show though, there is a slew of other potential problems. For starters, TV talent shows have a lot of the same issues that are associated with regular reality shows. Reality shows are well-known for their ability to distort the truth either by using real footage that is taken out of context or by changing actual footage to suggest something. TV talent shows are no different. Reel Rundown mentions how many former members of these talent shows were unhappy with how they were portrayed on the show.

However, according to Voice Council Magazine, this same footage can also be used to their advantage. If their story is one that the nation will sympathize with, then they are more likely to be popular, whether or not they are one of the more talented members of the whole. Also, if the story of one contestant requires less sympathy, they are less likely to win for the same reason that the other contestant is more likely to win.

The reality show aspect of many of these shows determines how it is run as well. For instance, in order to increase viewership, producers encourage the judges to be harsh to the contestants or to quarrel with each other. This can affect the chance of a contestant advancing because the judges can be distracted or could decide to target said contestant. Reel Rundown noted how producers also purposefully cast voices or talent that is not up to par in order to get a few laughs from the audience or the judges themselves.

Due to the unique way that these shows are run, they are often not taken seriously by legitimate record companies. This lowers the artists’ chances of being successful because after their initial record deal expires (if they do win a record deal), they are less likely to be able to find a sufficient back-up. In addition, many of the viewers of the shows are unlikely to purchase music from the featured artists because of the lack of seriousness in the shows. Junior Alysha Littell, a past participant in The Voice, believes that these talent shows are not well-represented though and can be effective towards helping the artist, even if they do not receive a record deal. Littell said, “I believe that it [talent shows] does help them because they get insightful advice if they don’t make it far [in the show] or if they do make it far.”  

Another issue with the system has to do with the producers of the shows, according to Voice Council Magazine. Producers have a lot to say in what kind of songs the performers sing or what the performers do once they have made it past the initial round. They can change the song selection, choose the key, and change the arrangement all last second. With this power, they have the ability to either portray a performer in a good or bad light, depending on what they want. Littell said, “[They are] working with the artists, [they] favor some of the others and give them advantages by giving them good songs for that individuals voice and they don’t do that for some of the other contestants.”  

The final issue with these programs is that if an artist manages to land a record deal with the show, they have to adhere to the whims of the record company and/or the show. This could potentially stifle creativity and make the artist seem fake to the rest of the world, thus lessening their revenue.

TV talent shows can be funny, embarrassing, or otherwise emotion inflicting, all from the comfort and safety of your own couch. It can be even more of an emotional trial for the people who are going after their dreams. The actual effectiveness of the shows are debatable though, mainly due to the industry it is in, and the fact that ratings are predominate in the TV industry. This could cause some compromise in the shows because of what the audience wants, or what the producers think the audience wants. According to Reel Rundown and Voice Council Magazine, TV Talent Shows truly do not work to make anyone who participates in the show famous.

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