Musos claim TV shows are ‘exploitative’

REALITY singing shows may strike a chord with audiences, but for local musos the “exploitative” programs are way off-key. 

NON-REALITY: Tamworth musicians Blake Saban and Sally-Anne Whitten claim reality shows like X Factor mislead and exploit young performers. Photo: Barry Smith 280714BSG01

NON-REALITY: Tamworth musicians Blake Saban and Sally-Anne Whitten claim reality shows like X Factor mislead and exploit young performers. Photo: Barry Smith 280714BSG01

Tamworth artists know shows like X Factor and The Voice fuel a myth of instant success in the music industry, whereas the reality is a “hard slog”.

Country singer Sally-Anne Whitten speaks from experience, having made it to the final 100 contestants of Australian Idol. 

“I’m dead against those shows,” Ms Whitten said. 

“It’s got nothing to do with finding the next big talent or nurturing artists.

“It’s about getting ratings for their network, building back stories – it’s exploiting people, really, it’s awful.”

Already having faced her fair share of “drunks in pubs”, Ms Whitten had developed a thick skin but said she feared for musicians just starting out.

“They were really trying to break people, they’d get you to cry on camera.”

Musician Blake Saban said the shows revealed major record labels were trying to profit from a “quick-fix culture”. 

He witnessed friends participate in singing shows and watched as their profile rapidly flourished, then wilted.

“They thought it was the next step up for them, but it was quite a few steps back,” Mr Saban said. 

“If anything it hurt their careers.”

But Toyota Star Maker co-ordinator Cheryl Byrnes said she was “all for” shows that put local talent on the map. 

“In the country music industry, we need our talent quests,” Ms Byrnes said. 

She said X Factor had contacted her earlier this year to sniff out quality country stars on the rise. 

“I think it’s a great option for people who want to be seen.”

She said although the shows didn’t suit every performer, they were an undeniable boost to a budding career as they helped artists build confidence, attract fans and connect with listeners in their loungerooms. 

Country singer Allison Forbes said reality song contests created an unrealistic expectation about being a professional musician.  She said participants had everything handed to them on the shows, but could end up “blinded by stardom”, signed to a “dodgy contract” and surrendering their creative control. 

She said music was about stirring emotions in listeners and ultimately it didn’t matter if the artist had been artificially catapulted to fame. 

“If their music is making someone happy, that’s all you can ask for.”

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