Talent shows have been around forever. From Opportunity Knocks and New Faces to BGT and X Factor. Never as important as now, do performers need to go in with their eyes wide open.

Comedian Simon Brodkin did an ‘Expose’ of BGT on his TV Show on Channel 4. It is fun but there is a lot of information and there are a lot of lessons in these few minutes. If you take anything from this (aside from the fact that it is good fun) then let it be that shows like BGT, X Factor and other talent shows are designed purely with the audience in mind. Entertainment for a TV audience.

Most Talent Shows are not designed for the good of the performer, they do not exist to be help the performers or even to be kind to them. It is cheap TV because the vast majority of performers give themselves to the judges for very little. In the YouTube clip listen when Brodkin describes the amount of people coming out of the Audition room in Manchester.

“You are outside this room and they send you in and sometimes ten seconds later, sometimes two or three minutes later people come out and literally every single person coming out of that room was devastated. Because I didn’t, and I promise you, I did not see one person who went into my audition room who came out with a ‘Yes’.”

We have witnessed it in our studios. We put a lot of energy into perfecting our song only for the nerves to overwhelm us on the day or an illness takes hold or some other excuse for not performing perfectly. We have put everything into getting to that final. We have surrendered all of our power to the judges and to the audience. This is an unhealthy approach to anything.

One way we do this is by choosing songs purely with the motivation of ‘impressing’ the judges and/or your audience. This is not the state of mind to be going on stage (or into an audition for that matter).

We must learn to retain control of our performance. To own it. To be responsible for it. It is not something that the Judges should control or your audience to be responsible for.

So should I steer clear of Talent Shows?

No! Absolutely not. Take part in as many Talent Shows you can or want to. But only ON YOUR TERMS!

Talent Shows can be great! They offer a stage. A sound system, lighting and more importantly an audience. For a performer starting out, this is gold dust. Use these events to build your experience, improve your performance and if you ‘Win’, great! If you don’t make sure you take something home with you from that experience. Get somebody to video your performance and analyse it later.

If you get advice from the judges do not take it too emotionally – good, bad or indifferent. Listen to what they say, but remember judges are only individuals. Humans who have their own opinion, experience and bias. We have all seen the Talent Show where one of the performers was streets ahead of another only for the other to make it into the next round. Never presume to think what a judge might like. You will never know so don’t waste energy focussing on it.

True Story: In the immediate aftermath of the final of a talent show I had taken part in (a long time ago) my father who had spent some time in the entertainment industry, was told by one of the judges who he had known down the years “Why didn’t you tell me beforehand?” basically insinuating a kind of nepotism, an inner circle that might very well move you up the rankings based on who you know.

So What Should I Do?

You must learn to trust what you do, believe in it. If it’s not ‘good enough’?… fine, identify WHY it isn’t and put in measures to make it better. Practice. Learn how to ‘Own The Song’ and your job then becomes much easier.

On stage, focus on your song. Perform it the way you learned and practiced it. Be methodical about it especially when you start off. Find the dynamics in the piece and use them. Get the opinion of a professional if you need to. Remember that Talent Shows are only staging posts along the way. They are not the end, they are merely a means to the end. And by the way, it is ok to be disappointed if you don’t progress, but make sure you temper your disappointment.

There will always be opportunities to perform and there are a vast array and multiple paths to getting to your goal than the silver bullet of a Talent Show.

You are not in competition with anybody.
You are not in competition with anybody.

Look, singing is a long term objective. Singing is not a sport. There will always be other Talent Shows. There will always be opportunities to perform and there are a vast array and multiple paths to getting to your end goal that are safer and more in your control than the percieved silver bullet a Talent Show offers which can be brutal, literally down to the whim of one person and demeaning in some cases.

The extent to which to take this “rejection” and “failure” is all down to your philosophy and the strength of the state of mind. By all means care about it, by all means do your best, but for your own emotional wellbeing it is ALWAYS better to enter into these contracts with the cards still in your hand. Put Talent Shows into their correct perspective. Do not relinquish your ownership or your power to anybody.

Talent Shows are not the be all and end all. You should never invest your dreams in them. If there is one message I would like you to take away with you it is, by all means take part in Talent Shows but only on your terms. This way offers more freedom to enjoy the experience and the room to learn and grow.

Go in with your eyes open kids!

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Croí Laighean Development Centre, Easton Rd, Easton, Leixlip, Co. Kildare, W23 X9RP