Pros & Cons of TV Talent Shows

TV Talent Shows Pros and Cons

The X Factor Phenomena

Over the years the BBC, ITV and practically every other television company, radio station, talk show host and program controller, has recognised that talent shows and reality shows attract viewers and make money. The public want to see and hear something different… original… unusual… in fact the more outrageous, terrible or funny the performance, the better the ratings.

The Gong Show, Search for a Star, Stuarts Hall of Fame, Steps to the Stars, Opportunity Knocks, New Faces and more recently Pop Idol, Pop Rivals, Fame Academy, X Factor, Britains Got Talent and P. Diddy’s Starmaker have attracted all standards and styles of budding wannabe’s searching for the ever elusive break into the music industry. But what can you expect and are they really any good for your career?

Pro’s of TV Talent Shows

1. Experience – The chance to visit a television studio and experience first hand how programs are recorded.

2. Exposure – The opportunity to perform in front of a live tv audience, industry and celebrity judges and be seen by millions of people.

3. Contracts – Winners are not the only ones to be offered recording, publishing or management contracts! Pop Idol’s Rosie Ribbons, Fame Academy’s Sinead Quinn and fellow wannabe’s Malachi and Ainslie have all signed record contracts.

4. Media – The latest television talent shows contestants like Pop Idol, Fame Academy, American Idol and X Factor received tons of free publicity from newspapers, magazines and radio stations. Sadly this is a two edged sword – negative as well as positive stories should be expected.

5. Prizes – Range from the opportunity to perform live on the show to recording and management contracts.

6. Make Friends – meet like minded talented folk with similar aspirations

Con’s of TV Talent Shows

1. Queues – Television auditions are popular and you can expect to wait several hours or even all day before getting through the doors, let alone being seen!

2. Contestants – May be eliminated on looks whilst waiting in line – all that time waiting and no opportunity to audition!

3. Audition – Contestants are usually screened by the shows producer, a representative from the management company or other personel and may NOT be called back for an audition with the celebrity judges (who you may not see at all until the night of the show).

4. Cameras – The advent of ‘Reality TV’ means that the contestant must be prepared to be filmed during the whole process.

5. Performance – Be prepared for critisism! Celebrity judges like New Faces Tony Hatch, Pop Idol’s Simon Cowell and Pete Waterman held no punches when it came to their opinion of the artists performance.

6. Contracts – Contestants must sign a contract with the show which may tie them into a label or management company that has little or no interest in promoting them and may include terms which are detrimental to the performer i.e., minimum royalties, low or non existent performance fees and deductions from earnings even when no longer with the company.


Each program audition varies depending on the shows requirements and programming schedule. Auditions are often held in a small room where you may be required to sing one song only – without accompaniment in front of one or more people. You may be interviewed and/or filmed seperately and required to complete a contract providing permission for any and all clips to be used without payment or re-use royalties, plus agree not to discuss any aspect of the program without permission in the event your audition is successful.

Once your in the doors, the program staff are usually friendly and helpful. Unless stated in the application form, refreshments and overnight accommodation are only provided to successful finalists. Those who are selected to appear on the show are treated pretty well and extras can range from transportation to the show, refreshments on the night or overnight accommodation to a complete package of specialised training and full accommodation for the length of the program (or until your voted out!)

Winners may expect to win the advertised prize, however, these may not be as great as they seem! An offer of a recording contract does NOT indicate that the label or management company will pay for or promote you as an artist. Any advance is just that … an advance against future earnings. These funds may have to pay for studio and recording time, training or equipment and may be claimed back by the company if the artist fails to generate enough sales to cover the advance (YES REALLY!!!!!)

Save yourself a lot of stress by entering for the experience, it’s pointless assuming that you will get through even, if you have got a great voice/act. Of course you should do your best and aim to win, but no-one can anticipate what the programmers, judges or viewing public really want – if that isn’t you – be philasophical about it – after all, its only a competition – there will probably be another show in yet another format next year!


Television CAN be a great medium for singers and entertainers, however, with the exception of specifically designed amateur shows or appearances, they should be avoided by beginners to the biz and the faint-hearted! The competition is TOUGH, criticism BLUNT and as with any audition process or talent show – there are no guarantees that you will get through to the next round.

Be PREPARED! Make NO mistake – it is VERY rare for the finalists and eventual winner to be a complete amateur!!! Most finalists have had some form of training and/or experience in performing in front of a live audience (not just their friends and family!!) – in some cases the contestant/s have spent a lot of money and years training with professional teachers or have a family connection to the music business! The best advantage you can have at a talent show or competition is to be WELL REHEARSED and CONFIDENT that you can do your best on the day.

Although the majority of contestants fade swiftly back into obscurity, a small percentage have been successful like Victoria Wood, Lenny Henry, ShowWaddyWaddy, Lena Zaveroni, Freddie Star, Leona Lewis…….. some of whom had been doing the club, cabaret and/or talent show circuit for a while before appearing on a TV Talent Show. If you are a talented unsigned artist who is thick skinned, knows the score and are prepared to give it your best shot then this is a good opportunity to be seen and discovered.

How To Find Shows?

Most UK television companies broadcast details of forthcoming shows and competitions between programs or during commercial breaks. You can also find advertisments at their official websites or event listings like our Vocalist Gig Guide and the Gig Events Guide plus in the music magazines or national press. (See Related Links below).

Top Tips!!

Be Prepared!! Use your best songs and make sure you are well rehearsed before the audition date. Turn up early, drink plenty of water during the day and warm up your voice before you audition.

Be careful to read contracts and agreements closely before signing. Successful applicants may be required to commit themselves to the managment or recording company running the show for a minimum period, including the length of the show. You will not be able to accept any offers or sign to another label/manager until released from this contract.

If you get through the auditions, find out the broadcast date of the show on which you are to appear. Take out an advert in ‘The Stage’ or other music paper and inform A&R, Managers or Agents prior to your appearance date. This will help to maximise your booking potential and ensure that the people you are trying to attract can view the program if they wish.

Article by Tracey Howard-Baker

Also Read
American Idol by Bob Baker
Audition Advice
Example Contracts
Judging American Idol by Bob Baker

Related Books
The Secrets of “Stars in Their Eyes”
Written by presenter Matthew Kelly this book provides a fascinating insight into how the program works and is a must for budding contestants – it even tells you how to get on the show!!

Adam Lambert Second To None
On May 20, 2009 Ryan Seacrest announced on American Idol that Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert. Around the world the same question was asked. How did this happen? Every indicator pointed to an Adam Lambert win. It started to make sense when the Arkansas Gazette and then the New York Times broke a small part of the story; Kris had help from the American Idol corporate sponsor and text vote counter AT&T and from more then 38 million votes cast in Arkansas. As quickly as this story erupted, it fizzled out with denials from AT&T, FOX and American Idol. All three claimed that the vote was fair, accurate and independently verified by Telescope Inc. Not one news outlet challenged the denial, even while many doubted the fairness of this victory.

Check out our Audition Repertoire section, packed with audition standards in book, sheet music and backing track format for all ages and styles.

Related Articles and Sites

These are just a small example of the extensive links to online articles, opinions and tutorials written by industry professionals that we have available in the Marketing Articles section, which contains links to the page (when not a framed site) plus answers to pretty much everything a beginner, intermediate, advanced singer, musician or teacher needs to know about the basics of marketing, media and promotion! (All links below open in a new window).

American Idol
Official site for the American Pop Idol Television Talent Show.

Are TV talent shows the best way to find pop stars?
Article on BBC from October 2002 complete with feedback from CBBC viewers.

Are reality talent shows too cruel?
Is it time to stop reality TV talent shows? Do you think they will damage how people feel about themselves to much?

Your ticket to appearing on television shows. Search through tv shows, find a show in any country! Really neat site which not only finds the shows but also provides details of forthcoming episodes plus the facility to contact the producer and apply to appear directly from the site. cool!

The Big Big Talent Show
Hosted by Jonathan Ross and Garry Bushell on ITV in the late 90’s. Six acts were showcased each week and a friend, workmate or relative were invited to talk about them prior to their performance.

Don’t Give Up Your Day Job
Aired on BBC 2 and set in a studio bedsit, people sent in home videos of their talent to host Paul Brophy and whichever three celebrity judges were sitting on the sofa that week.

Eurovision Song Contest
European Television Talent Show first staged in Switzerland in 1956. 40+ years on and it’s still going strong, with songwriters, singers and bands competing, the annual competition commands an audience of 120m people worldwide.

Fame Academy
BBC section containing latest news, interviews and more on the Fame Academy show and it’s contestants including winner David Sneddon.

Fame Academy’s Sinead’s £1m record deal
Fame Academy runner-up Sinead Quinn has signed a £1 million record deal. It’s with Mercury Records, who are also be looking after winner David Sneddon and fellow wannabes Malachi and Ainslie.

Flop Music
Hear’Say and Steps have split up and the BBC’s Fame Academy is struggling to pull in the viewers.So is our love affair with manufactured pop over? Children’s Express finds out what their peers think of the music industry and whether the death of plastic pop means a future for real music. Sheffield Star – October 26 2002

Get Your Act Together
This BBC talent competition hosted by Ronan Keating, lead singer of Boyzone was aired in 1999.

Give Your Make A Break
People set up their talented friends for presenter John Leslie/Les Dennis to surprise them with the opportunity to sing in the studio.

Idols in Poland
Official site for the Polish Pop Idols program.

Karaoke Challenge
Challenge TV’s 1997 talent show had four sets of four people “singing” a quarter of a pop song judged by a panel of celebrities.

Micheal Barrymore’s My Kind of Music
This game/music show combined questions and performing ability from 3 couples plus the trademark Barrymore vox pops” filmed during the summer in shopping centres around the UK.

New Faces
Discovered the late Marti Caine who later returned to host the show plus a wealth of talent including Victoria Wood, Malandra Burrows, Showaddywaddy, Les Dennis, Lenny Henry, Jim Davidson and Roy Walker.

Opportunity Knocks
The first UK Television TV Talent Show hosted by Hughey Green, Bob Monkouse then Les Dawson.

P. Diddy’s Starmaker
American TV Reality / Talent Show on MTV, 4Music and Channel 4. The show is about 14 aspiring singer / songwriting artists vying for a chance to be on Bad Boy Record label. Watch online at 4OD Starmaker

Pop Idol & Pop Idol II
Site with information on ITV’s Pop Idol and Pop Idol II whose winner Will Young and runner up Gareth Gates are both recording, touring and releasing records.

Pop Idol Watch
Offers a guide to the ITV1 series ‘Pop Idol’. Read news reports about the contestants, browse reviews of their performances and play online games.

Pot of Gold
Hosted by Des O’Connor, The contestant who scored highest on the clapometer got a chance at proper stage time.

Sky Star Search
Sky Tv’s first attempt at producing a television talent show was aired in the late 80’s and hosted by Keith Chegwin who was joined by two celeb judges.

South African Idol
Official site for the South African Pop Idol program.

The Stage
UK weekly newspaper covering Arts, Performance and Theatre provides articles, interviews, news, job lisitings and classifieds.

Star Quality
Quiz about showbiz plus a talent show where the players moved around a board after throwing a dice. If they landed on an ‘Audition’ square, they would perform a musical/dramatic piece to the audience for 60 seconds.

Stars in Their Eyes
ITV’s singer impersonation show hosted by Matthew Kelly where five ‘soundalikes’ battle it out on stage. Did you spot our friend Steve Halliday performing in the special?

This is My Moment
Singing talent show on Granada TV in 2000 hosted by Ian Wright who each week introduced the five acts that were chosen from the many thousands who called a premium rate phone number to audition to go on the show. From the phone auditions, 60 were chosen to sing in front of the judges and from those, five are chosen to sing live on the show with viewers voting for the winner.

Top of the Pops
Online home of the longest running UK BBC Television Chart Show.

Want to be on TV? Take a look at the latest contestant calls here then browse the site to find info on shows old and new.

X Factor
ITV pages for the popular UK television talent show for singers produced by Simon Cowell which replaced the Pop Idol series.

X Factor – Belgium
Official site for the Belgium TV show.

El Factor X
Official site for the Columbian TV show.

X Factor – Czech Republic
Official site for the Czech Republic show.

X Factor – Denmark
Official site for the Denmark show.

X Factor – Finland
Official site for the Finland show.

X Factor – France
Official site for the French show.

X Factor – Greece
Official site for Cyprus, Greece version of the show.

X Factor – Iceland
Official site for Icelandic version of the show.

X Factor – Italy
Official site for Italian version of the show.

X Factor – Netherlands
Official site for the Dutch show.

Factor X – Spain
Official site for Spanish show.

X Factor Contract Misleads Contestants
A leaked version of the legal document shows that the victor may only receive £1 million after at least four albums. Instead, they will get an advance of £150,000 to pay their expenses for their first LP, reports The Mirror.

X Factor Is Cheap Exploitation
Performers’ union Equity has called on producers of The X Factor and other reality talent shows to pay contestants who appear in the latter stages of the programmes.

X Factor Updates
A personal blog reviewing X Factor shows, contestants and judges with photos and mp3’s.