Next month marks the tenth anniversary of the greatest blight on Australia’s cultural landscape in decades. Born from the embers of the short lived Pop Idol, Australian Idol quickly grew into a monster that would become one the highest rating television programs in this country’s history. So what’s wrong with that you ask? Australian Idol generated massive profits for it’s creator, Simon Fuller and business partners, including Telstra of over $900,000 profit per episode. In 2006 the show generated over $14.3 million from the SMS voting system alone. On the flip side the artists themselves were often hung out to dry by the show being sent the bills for advertising and promotion of their finished products. And with Network Ten paying $13 million for each season you are left scratching your heads as to how a show of this calibre left all its artists with empty pockets?
Here is your answer.
Like all reality television programs Australian Idol banked on you and I, the national viewing audience to line their pockets. Each and every week we were taken on an emotional rollercoaster as our favourite artists, performers or as some call them, glorified karaoke singers plodded through atrocious cover versions of once beautiful songs. Like puppets on a string the Australian public lapped it up. Talk back radio shows would be flooded with angry viewers on Monday morning following the departure of a particular artist. In later season viewers would flood social media networks to describe how upset and distressed they were at the demise of their idol. Seriously? Distressed? Upset? Over a karaoke show?
An argument often put forward to me by some is that the show gave artists a chance to “break through” as one would say to forge a “successful recording career” and realise their dreams. A small handful of performers from Australian Idol have stuck it out. Series one winner Guy Sebastian is still releasing sub standard albums today that continue to amuse his teen audience and the “mum and dad” record buying public who will purchase any old horse shit that is force fed to them through the media. Jessica Mauboy and Ricki-Lee Coulter are two more fine examples of contestants that have forged a career selling rubbish pop songs to an adoring audience of drones. The reality is there has always been an audience for the drivel that we are sold. What is hard for one to comprehend is the volume of fans these shows now generate.
Now let’s take a look at the successful recording careers of Casey Donovan, Paulini, Rob Mills, Courtney Murphy, Hayley Jensen, Anthony Callea, Kate DeAraugo, Emily Williams, Lee Harding, Dan England, Dean Geyer, Natalie Gauci, Matt Corby, Wess Carr and Marty Worrall. Actually, they don’t have one. And I could go on listing more who gained recording contracts from their 15 minutes of Australian Idol fame. Used and abused by the networks and record labels many of them still plunder the RSL scene to cover the “debts” that they cost the labels in the first place. Hardly successful you would suggest? The only winners from Australian Idol were Simon Fuller, the judges and sponsors.
The counteract the absurdity of these “talent” shows you have the ability to be part of a fantastic live music scene in Brisbane.
Two weeks ago I was able to enjoy a performance from a local Brisbane band that runs by the name of “Drawn From Bees” at a local Valley venue, The Hideaway. It’s moments like these when you are experiencing beautiful craftsmanship by a band who formed for the right reasons that you realise just how lucky you are to be witnessing a gig like this. The only disappointing aspect of the show was that there were no more than 30 people in attendance to witness such a fine performance. Where were the people I ask? I could list many other examples over recent years where I have attended gigs only to find small numbers in the audience.
Every now and then you find those special gems in the Australian recording industry. Sarah Blasko for one. Here is a woman who has managed to work her way up from the bottom rung with little or no help. What got her to where she is now on the back of four top 10 selling albums is not only hard work but her natural talent to write gorgeous songs and write stunning musical scores to back up her sublime vocal deliveries.
At the other end of the scale I will be enjoy the pleasures of an up and coming Brisbane songstress who goes by the name of “Meredith” in the coming weeks. This is a girl with immense talent and songwriting skills. Her voice is a delicious mix of melodies and rhythm that leaves you fixated and craving more. It’s going to be a tough road ahead for Meredith in her fight against the karaoke singers from our television screens, a battle she most likely won’t win in this country but she will garner respect and a loyal fan base in the process. That is something money and television ratings cannot buy.
You see, music is not about finding the perfect pitch, selling millions of records or playing sold out shows to stadiums of 100,000 people. It is being true to yourself and expressing your artform through the music you write and perform. When you are next plonked in front of your plasma screen watching the early rounds of karaoke contestants battling away think of what you are missing. Friends, you are missing the fruits of a live music scene in Brisbane that you need to explore, savour and enjoy.
Australian Idol, Pop Idol, The X-Factor, The Voice and all the rest can go to hell. I’l take my genuine musicians and artists every day of the week thank you very much!