Has the music industry in the UK been harmed by the negative effects of TV talent shows like The X Factor?
The X Factor is a British TV programme which works as a singing talent competition. Members of the public face weeks of auditions before the winner is finally decided by a public vote. Since it began in 2004, the show has been the subject of increasing criticism and controversy, mostly in reference to its negative effects on the quality and reputation of the British music industry.
Many see The X Factor as a money-making machine, instead of a search for real talent. In other words, they believe that the show’s producers strive for financial gain, through high TV ratings and expensive voting calls. These people claim that most of what we see on The X Factor is staged for entertainment value and lacks originality. Instead, it forces contestants to conform to stereotypes to appeal to a mass audience. A few previous contestants have admitted that they had limited freedom over their song choices or image whilst on the show. There has also been speculation over miming and voice manipulation, suggesting that the show’s main focus is not musical talent. If we include the increase of “novelty acts”, we can see why people say the show has lost its integrity.
The X Factor also has a hold over the UK charts. This issue is brought up every year with the announcement of the UK Christmas number one single, which usually goes to the recent X Factor winner. In past years campaigns have been launched to try stopping this rising tradition by encouraging people to buy different (and often unlikely) songs. A similar debate is that the show overshadows new artists who are trying to break through based on real singing and song-writing ability. Many established artists and musicians have spoken out against the show because of this result. Similar complaints include the false impression given to young hopefuls that anyone can become a “popstar” and that it happens overnight, which does not reflect reality.
Although many continue to defend the show as a source of entertainment, it seems that this year the public have finally grown tired of the same recycled content, and TV ratings have dropped dramatically. Perhaps it has become clear that the show rarely produces important or lasting musicians, and that winners and runners-up generally have a limited shelf-life. Maybe it’s this decline in public support which has led to the rise of so-called “publicity stunts” by both contestants and judges. Many people seem to audition for the show to seek fame and fortune, rather than a platform for their musical talents. In this year’s series in particular, The X Factor has gained most of its media publicity from the contestants’ often scandalous off-screen behaviour, as well as from reported backstage arguments between members of the judging panel.
Countries from Colombia to Romania have begun to adopt the popular TV talent show, meaning that the issue now also applies to music industries across the world. Perhaps we must accept that this is the future of music…?
Do you have a similar programme (a TV pop singing competition) where you live? Do you think this type of programme is good or bad for music?