Without much consideration I can think of American Idol, Australian Idol, Pop Idol, Popstars (hey – I was lucky enough to meet Bardot in a former life…!), America’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance…
All these shows revolve around the idea of watching people showcase their skills as an entertainer. But whose music is being performed? In the early episodes of Idol you might see the odd rare audition in which some brave soul performs something they have composed. But by the time anyone’s in the running to smell a Top 50 place the originals dream seems to go out the window, replaced by something already well digestible by the audience.
And this is where I believe we have a problem. As my friend said to me on the phone the other night, people would not tune in to music they are unfamiliar with. This is a concept which comes up time and time again. Think about the sickeningly high rotation of music on commercial radio. The similar sound between different tracks and different artists. The comfort level found in hearing something familiar is very well summed up in the brilliant documentary “Before The Music Dies” (strongly recommended to anyone this far through this post who hasn’t seen it).
In summary, people tend to listen to commercial radio because it’s easy, non-challenging and familiar. The moment the playlist strays into unfamiliar territory and away from the established normality, you risk losing listeners.
Hmmm… so what can we make of the popularity of Pandora, Last.fm, Reverb Nation, iTunes Genius, and all the many other hundreds of ways of discovering new music? Even in the last week or so we’ve seen the launch of iTunes 10 with Ping. Surely it can’t all be fueling a need to hear something familiar. Surely there is a desire to hear something fresh.
We have shows to watch people do nothing in a house all day, cook meals, try and find love, learn etiquette, run through ridiculous obstacle courses… Why in the world is there no TV showcase dedicated to finding and supporting original music? Give us something more than Rock Star INXS.