Have artists become the gladiators of today’s falling Roman Empire?

I couldn’t help noticing on my train ride into the city today 3 billboards advertising 3 completely different reality TV show music competitions. I then thought about how many music competition shows there really were out there. In the United States alone you have American Idol, X Factor, The Voice, Making the Band, Platinum Hit, Nashville Star, The Glee Project etc. I had to ask myself as a musician, looking over this seemingly endless list of shows in my head, whether I should be pleased or sickened by all of this. Given the state of the music industry as it is, it’s a very confusing time for musical artists and this onslaught of reality competition shows seems to be adding fuel to the fire. I have to say I am also getting sick of every middle aged member of my extensive family asking “If you’re trying to make it in the music industry, why haven’t you auditioned for American Idol?” It seems that everyday America believes that American Idol and the rest of these music competitions are the be all and end all for musicians. Have we really sunken so low that not only do musicians have to sell their souls to record labels, but now must bow down before television production companies and networks as well? I guess anyone who watched the Disney channel growing up should have seen that one coming…

So we have the TV networks that already make ridiculous amounts of money in revenue from advertisers exploiting talented (and at times embarrassingly not so talented) people for free to then ask viewers, who are already paying cable companies to watch these programs, to shell over more money to be able to text their vote and “be a part of the competition.” The producers then fill slots they have already mapped out beforehand (the arrogant one you’re meant to hate but keeps on moving through the competition, the one who has potential talent and a heart of gold you keep rooting for, etc.) to create a process that pulls at emotional strings and a gives the viewer a sense of involvement (why does this remind me of the American political process…). But what of the other talented artists that unfortunately don’t fill the slots the producers set forth? Just pawns in the moneymaking system I guess. They are then left to fend for themselves on the already cramped internet, hoping people will stumble upon their page in an ADD infused, instant gratification world. When did making a beautiful art form become a cutthroat, indecent, oppressive process and when did we buy into all this crap? I fear we’re heading into a dark age… Have artists become the gladiators of today’s falling Roman Empire? Have I become a curmudgeon?

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