A friend of mine is on a goal to become famous & recently did a music video he's trying to get You Tube views for. This friend is also a newer attorney & a Renaissance person. Unless he gives me permission, I'm not revealing his name or linking to his video. That's not really the point of this.
A friend of his asked him his views about singers being on shows like "American Idol" or "The X Factor." Since I have some particularly strong views on that, I chose to write a short response & got inspired to write a rant.
Little thing about reality TV: you will not become a legitimate source by doing it. I mentioned working with that well known talent agent before who hated reality TV just as much as I do.
First though, I should distinguish certain types of "reality TV" shows.
1. Cameras following someone on their job (think Dog the Bounty Hunter): these I take no issue with if we're not watching contrived situations. If there's no script or manufactured drama, these are more like documentaries on TV. I've actually read both Dog the Bounty Hunter books & he mentioned that they weren't doing the show to become celebrities.
That is the right attitude to have about this industry in general. To me, these are reality shows NOT "reality" shows.
2. Contest shows (think The Bachelor): I could care less. I have too much going on in my own life.
3. Throw people into a situation (think The Real World, Survivor or Jersey Shore): same as #2.
4. Revenge tactics or confrontation (think Cheaters or Disaster Date): I wish I'd come up with some of these since I think they're brilliant. Assuming you're not getting actors to play the real people, we all like seeing people squirm especially if they deserved it in some way. No problem w/these kinds of shows & I view them in the same lens as #1 if you're using real people.
5. Shows offering instant fame (think American Idol): that's the topic of this rant.
Let me make some distinction between American Idol & Star Search since they are different:
* American Idol offers recording contracts as prizes. Star Search did not. Star Search ONLY gave you exposure, which obviously did not help every single contestant.
* American Idol allows for audience voting. None of that on Star Search. You were simply judged on your actual skill, NOT how you looked in a low cut dress, your hard luck story or superficial crap that has zero relevance to your talent like how many teenage girls scream over you.
This "audience voting" has also been widely accused of being rigged, aside from the fact that you are charged money to do it so it's all based on the votes of rich & stupid people. I think you'd have to be an idiot to waste your money to vote on shows like American Idol. I bet you also would have paid some 900 number for phone sex & thought the women on the other end looked like the ones in the commercials. These days, if you're paying for texts, you'd better count on the fact that you could be corresponding with someone of your gender & not know it. Same logic in my book.
* The Star Search producers didn't manufacture things or tell people to hide their sexual orientation. This has happened with American Idol.
* Now if you have actual knowledge that Star Search did do this sleazy stuff, tell me. I was never on it & don't claim to be an expert. I'm just basing this on what I've seen reported in the press & don't know of these kinds of things happening on Star Search.*
I NEVER had a problem with a show like Star Search. I'd probably consider trying out for something with that format.
However, you will never see me audition for American Idol. Yes, I might have talent & enough people have said I should but there are many reasons why I wouldn't. If you are smart, you won't either:
1. Selling your soul: If you get on one of these shows & get the prize, you're forced to be what the show wants you to be. To Hell with anything YOU want to do, any look YOU want or even the details of your life. If it's not "friendly" to their demographic, you'll be forced to silence yourself & essentially be a robot. They're a business, first & foremost.
Rights in your music? HA! Branching into new areas? Yeah, right. Being married or not prancing around like trash if you're female? Get real!
Can you blame some celebrities for saying "enough is enough" & rebelling? I can't & it's why I can have some sympathy.
2. No credibility: For an example of this, watch the second season of Extras. Great show but in that season, the lead character gets his own series. Problem is, it's not his vision & panders to the lowest common denominator. David Bowie even makes fun of him in a song.
Remember when I said being on reality TV doesn't make you credible? It doesn't. You will never be taken as seriously as people like David Bowie, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen or others who worked for years to get where they are & had the industry players come to them so they could be in control of their own careers. I, and others in the business, will always remember you as that person who won a reality TV contest & stepped over people who are more talented + willing to struggle for their art.
3. You're a whore: Simple as that. I view many reality TV shows as one step above doing porno. How many people have you seen successfully cross into the mainstream from adult film? Very few. You can say the same for people on "reality" TV. The people doing reality shows (the lack of quotation marks is on purpose) don't tend to make public spectacles of themselves in the name of getting famous.
So if you're looking for instant fame, you'll certainly get it by being on a "reality show" but that doesn't mean you'll get respect, integrity or any credibility. Those you have to work for & earn. It also doesn't mean you'll be happy with your art. That also requires work. Look at how many starving artists we've had. Some weren't even recognized or respected until they died.
If you're an indie person, some of the only things you have are your vision, your principles and your integrity. I don't think success/making $ from your work = being a sellout (calling someone a sellout for that reason means you're a hater) but if you're violating your principles or doing things you're uncomfortable with, then you've earned the label. For many I know, their principles aren't for sale. Mine certainly aren't.