Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was watch American Idol with my mom. It was also one of the only times she let me stay up past my bedtime. We loved the show, the energy, excitement and untapped talent. We picked favorites and rooted for them as they made their way to the top. If a singer I really liked won, then I would buy their CD as soon as it released. American Idol is currently in its 14th season and other singing competitions, like The Voice are dominating nighttime television. I don’t watch American Idol anymore and only watch the auditions for The Voice. I also haven’t bought any music developed by one of these artists since David Cook won American Idol in 2008. That’s why it took me by surprise when about two months ago, a friend told me that he was going to audition for The Voice. His backup plan was to join the army. As soon as he told me this, I wondered, why? Why audition for a one-in-a-million chance?
Televised singing competitions like American Idol and The Voice gather hundreds of thousands of hopefuls vying for a chance to become a superstar. The process of auditioning is long and tedious. You have to audition at least twice, once as the first audition and the second time as a callback, before you even make it to the taped auditions with the show’s respective celebrity judges. Doing this is also expensive. You have to travel to the city where auditions are being held and pay various expenses: hotel rooms, food and transportation.
If you make it onto the show, it’s a big time commitment. Many teens and young adults attempting to secure a spot have taken time off school or work to pursue this. A season of American Idol or The Voice runs between 13 and 18 weeks. These are several months that someone will not be in school or working. Some employers will allow their employee to take the time off and some schools allow students to defer a year. However, is it worth it? Most of the time, we don’t even hear anything from the winners after their season has ended. Ruben Studdard won the second season of American Idol in 2003, Lee Dewyze won in 2010, and Caleb Johnson won season 13. The Voice‘s Javier Colon won season one, Jermaine Paul won season two and Tessanne Chin won season five. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve never heard any of these names before and have no idea what genre of music they even sing. It isn’t rare to come across an unknown name in music; there are thousands of artists around the world. But if they come from such name brand shows, then I expect to have at least heard of their name. These shows are advertised so much on television, on the internet, even on the radio, I imagine their names would’ve been mentioned on numerous occasions. This leaves me believing that they can’t be too successful.
So even if someone auditions, makes it to the final and wins, there’s a good chance their career won’t take off as expected. Those who make it to the top 20, or even the top ten, aren’t guaranteed a record deal. They end up missing a lot of schooling and could possibly fall behind. Some of the kids auditioning are 15, 16 and 17-years-old. They’re not even in college yet and they’ve opted to put aside their education. In a world where education and post secondary schooling is basically a must, that’s a huge decision.
When my 17-year-old friend informed me of his plans, I was hesitant to say this was a good choice because of all the aforementioned reasons. However, after taking a step back and thinking about it in the grand scheme of life, I changed my mind. As a young adult, I’m in the mindset where everything I do today will ultimately affect my success in the future. But isn’t there that saying, “Great things take time”? While the process of auditioning for the show might be long, everything you gain from it would be well worth the wait and taking this year off to pursue another dream won’t really damage the future of your 30 or 40-year-old self. Because we’re so young, we need to realize that we do have the opportunity to take a chance, and if it doesn’t work out, we can still get on our feet and start again. If a career in the music industry is something my friend is really interested in, then I say try it.
Although there are some challenges with participating in a televised singing competition, this isn’t to say they have no worth. There’s much that someone can gain from being on the show. You’ll have extremely successful singers like Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton coaching you and training you to be the best performer possible. You’ll also be performing on a real stage with lights, cameras and a huge audience. That’s a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you will never get from textbooks and being a part of it is something to take with you for the rest of your life. It’s a chance to befriend incredible, talented people, learn more about yourself as an individual and artist and improve your leadership and communication skills.
Additionally, there’s still a possibility that the show will shoot you into super-stardom. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are two of the most well-known names in music. They’ve released numerous albums and won a number of awards. By being on the show, you’re also just getting your name out there. Even if you don’t win, producers and other musicians will most likely be paying attention to any new talent. They’ll see how a performer does and might give them a record deal. The Swon Brothers placed third in season four of The Voice and have recently signed with Mark Bright.
Overall, if I had to say whether I thought televised singing competitions were worth participating in, I would say yes. Just the experience of being on the show, working with other successful talented artists is an amazing opportunity that may never come around again. Just because someone doesn’t win, doesn’t mean that they can’t gain anything from the experience, even if that means taking a little bit of time off.