The Idols Factor

Every year at around about this time, those of us who are musicians get swept up in the frenzy that is SA Idols. Many of you will also have felt the addictive effects of American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor and all our local versions of the “rags to riches” shortcut to fame. To me, the most  disturbing undercurrent of all these shows is the over-riding desire of the contestants to become a celebrity rather than merely a musician or a performer. These programmes promise easy fame and fortune. They make only passing mention of the hard-slog behind the scenes. The daily vocal training, the bone-grinding exhausting dance classes, the endless rehearsing and sitting around waiting for the techies to do their job – and in many cases having to do it yourself. No one tells you of the long hours spent traveling to and from gigs, carrying your 20kg speakers up three flights of stairs, and the night after night strain of performing live until your fingers ache and your voice goes hoarse.

Everyone who enters this competition needs to be prepared to compete. The competition is fierce and the programme is designed to create tension and stress. For everyone who enters  Idols there are hundreds of talented individuals who would never put themselves through a tortuous process which ultimately tests resilience and nerve. You have to be prepared for rejection and nothing really prepares you for rejection. Perhaps you can bounce back from the disappointment of not making it – you tell yourself only 25 people were picked out of thousands that tried out so that’s fine. But it does cut deeper than you think!  You really need to develop a thick hide in this business and for Idols it has to be 10 times as thick!

To those students who still believe that winning Idols is a ticket to the big time I ask them and their parents to think about what that life entails. Do you really want to be on stage every night when the rest of the world has got its feet up? Just from my own experience, until 4 years ago I have spent virtually every Friday night on stage since I was 16. That includes birthdays, holidays, when I was pregnant, when my children were little, every New Year’s Eve and believe me the material rewards were not great! With regard to the industry though  I would be classed as a successful musician – having always had work and now, in recent years being able to work on my own terms.

If you still want to be famous it means huge personal sacrifice. It means burning ambition and a will to do whatever is necessary to get ahead. I cannot emphasise how much discipline and hard work is required. You will also need to have your own material, your own band – that is if you don’t play an instrument yourself – and a clear sense of what your act is. If you can’t perform for at least 2 hours you don’t have a product and as a result you won’t get a gig! A nice voice and a pretty outfit will only get you as far as the Idols audition.

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