Indie Artists, Don't get fooled by this question...
While I so appreciate people connecting to my music or enjoying my voice, there is one phrase that I hear almost every day of my life. "Have you ever thought of going on the Voice? Or American Idol? Or America's Got Talent??" I don't want to slam these shows or seem like I'm above it (because I'm not), however, I'm not alone in my annoyance with this question. So instead of continuing to spout the same rhetoric when told this, or just smile and nod my way through it for the millionth time, I decided to break this down here.
1) These are REALITY shows first. Not a talent competition, a reality show. Many of these seemingly random selections are picked ahead of time, based on what's going to get viewers. Most of the people they reach out to, (that don't even partake in the cattle call auditions) already have established followings, have had successful careers in music, or be a specific type of person that will appeal to a specific demographic.
2) Talent has little to do with being successful in music. There are millions of talented people. These shows will often go after a sob story, a connection to a bigger artist, or another ratings-based decision. Not just even with The Voice, or American Idol, in the industry in general, if you don't have an established brand, tons of quality content, and fairly good music, you're already so far behind. I'm saying this to myself as well because God knows I don't have it all figured out, this is just what I've come to learn from successful artists ahead of me in their careers.
3) Even if you get to the top 15, 10, 5, etc. is in no way a guarantee to your success after the show. If you do get the privilege of being some of the last people standing, the exposure is awesome and can lead to a lot of great opportunities and youtube hits, however, the real struggle will come afterwards when you have to figure out how to utilize and sustain that exposure to help propel you to the next step. It's all too easy to have your 15 minutes of fame and then a year later, be looking around for that same support. I've heard stories about bands or individuals that weren't allowed to pursue their careers or put out new music for a year or two after the show, even if you don't win! That can be a big hinderance, especially if your band has been successful on their own first.
4) Winning the Voice or American Idol is not THE way to musical success. If you're really pursuing music in your own right, there are so many little successes and goals that are specific and unique to who you are or your band. A television show and/or exposure shouldn't make or break that. Even if it's a part of the journey, it will never be the end all, be all, to people that are committed to their music careers. Keep in mind, the main goal of the show is not to propel and encourage new talent, but for the label and network that's running the show to make money. Which has been a struggle for labels with the constantly changing and ambiguous music industry as it is now.
Now that I've descended off my high horse, I do have a handful of friends that have made it to various stages of one show or the other, and it has helped their career a bit for a short time. It didn't change the trajectory of their career, it didn't catapult them to fame, and it didn't validate them as an artist. A true artist doesn't need validation or approval, they just create. These shows aren't bad, they just are the only thing non-musicians know as far as what it looks like to be a singer/songwriter. I'm sure I've said equally as annoying things to dancers, chefs, or any other profession that has some sort of show. So consider this a PSA announcement...the next time you hear an artist you like and you want to say, "you know...have you ever thought about auditioning..." just say, "I really like or connected to your music, thanks for playing" instead. That will mean way more to whoever's playing because that means the world to me. And I'd have no problem hearing that every day! :)