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Take the indie road

Julian Gasparri discusses the consequences of appearing on televised singing competitions and why it's best to try making it on your own.

We’ve all seen a snippet of at least one televised talent competition. You know, those ones promising emerging singers fame and fortune if they win. But what seems to be greater than the dream to be a singer these days, is the dream to be on one of these singing shows.

Through past and present examples, appearing on shows such as The Voice, The X Factor and Idol doesn’t develop into a successful, long-term singing career.

Yes, the winner receives a contract with a record company, prize money and instant fame from viewers. But, do the negatives outweigh these positives?

When someone very new to the game is given a recording contract with a major record label, they’re suddenly dropped into the spotlight. In order to maintain success, they must maintain the heavy level of exposure that they received on the show.

This is very unlikely, as once the show’s over, the contestant’s are no longer featured on TV for their guaranteed weekly timeslot.

Commercial television shows have enormous budgets and followings, thus a contestant’s exposure and success will fall once they’re left to actually pursue a singing career.

These overnight superstars may be talented performers, but the music industry is a cut-throat business. If you can’t brand yourself and build your own loyal following you’ll never make it.  Building a career from the bottom up like this is what independent artists are forced to do.

Even if a high-budget record label picks up an singer whom they have seen from one of these shows, they can just as easily drop them, leaving them without any of these skills. I won’t name names, but we’ve seen it many times before.

There have been many artists who have rejected these commercial record labels to pursue their music independently. The runner-up of Australian Idol in 2007, Matt Corby, who has made his mark on Australia’s independent music scene, is just one of them.

So what are the benefits of being an indie artist?

Now is the best time to get involved in the independent music scene as it’s popularity is at it’s peak.

This is due to platforms such as Triple J, as well as community radio stations, which play independent music. Platforms such as Triple J Unearthed are used to expose unsigned artists, who are talented and have a passion for music.

This may offer less exposure than a televised music competition; however, unlike these shows, it is actually received by an artist’s target audience. Artists are guaranteed long-term success and recognition for their work from loyal music fans, rather than couch potatoes.

More than ever, now, artists are actually producing their own music. This demonstrates a true passion for creating music and a subsequent need to share it.

This is ideal in theory; however, funding one’s music career can be very difficult in practice.

Fortunately, crowd funding is a great alternative that many indie artists are using. Sites such as Pozible and Kickstarter  allow for their fans to contribute to the artist’s success, and thus, the music that they love.

Social media as well as media sharing sites such as YouTube have also made an impact in discovering talent, nullifying the importance of these commercial TV shows.

Today, everyone is on the web, and sharing content on demand can give an emerging artist the right amount of exposure to be picked up by a record company.

This essentially does the same thing as televised singing competitions but without the attachment of a show’s brand haunting you for the rest of your life.

Of the singers who have been successful from these programs, many have then then gone out of their way to relieve themselves from the brand of the show that has claimed them as their property.

The winner of Australian Idol back in in 2008, Wes Carr, is just one of them, as he has revamped himself under the pseudonym Buffalo Tales.

What people fail to forget is that these shows are indeed reality shows. Contestants are treated as characters, and are thus tools to offer the show ratings.

If you’re a musician and you want to share your gift and pursue it as a long-term career, don’t go on one of these shows. Continue to make your music yourself. Share it with people. They’ll share it with more people. You’ll be recognised and you can offer yourself a platform to begin your career.


Julian GasparriTHUMB


Julian Gasparri is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University, and is the current editor of upstart. You can follow him on Twitter: @JulianGasparri

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