Musical Wheel of Fortune

Do you remember that series of Jeopardy episodes where that guy blew everyone, including Alex Trebek, out of the water? Wasn’t his name Ken Jennings?

What ever happened to him?

Do you remember where you were when American Idol launched? Those were exciting times. School hallways and water coolers across the nation were littered with the great Kelly v. Justin debate. Networks and development execs everywhere knew they had gold at their fingertips.

Those first few season of American Idol were mega-star machines — churning out hit singles, and frankly changing the face of the music industry. It was the era of Napster, giving way to iTunes. It was the evolution of album to single. Yes, those were golden times.

And then, the gold-diggers got a bit greedy.

Suddenly, every network was adopting some type of arts-competition show — from Fox to ABC to NBC to even Oxygen.

None of this is news.

To be fair, competition-style shows, game shows and the like, have been successful for decades. They’re a great way to get viewers engaged, and with the advent of social media integration, they’re a great tool for advertising and ratings boosters.

My question, though, is simple.

What is happening with the cadre of competition-style reality shows? Are we actually turning out music/dance/acting/outdoors-superstars? Or are we simply spending anywhere from 16 – 40 hours entertaining ourselves?

I would vote the latter.

I’m a huge fan of music. Always have been. It’s in my blood, really. So, naturally when there’s a new music competition-style show out, I’m in…for a little while.

American Idol had me for maybe the first three seasons, and then I realized that I didn’t care about the winners of the show. I just liked the elimination process and the songs.

When The Voice premiered, I was tuned in immediately. Interesting concept, engaging use of social media, and wow – these “nobodies” could really sing.

…and then their albums dropped to absolutely horrifically disappointing numbers.

It wasn’t until I watched this season (Season 3) of The Sing-Off that I realized music-style competition shows have become the Wheel of Fortune of our day and age.

Yes, these competitors are all wildly talented. Yes, this show is a vehicle for careers…but it is no longer the ultimate Kelly Clarkson-launching career catapult.

In fact, I couldn’t really tell you who won last year’s season of The Sing-Off. Nor, did I really care when Committed (that’s who won) appeared on this season, performing their new single. Sure, it was nice to see those sweet guys again…it was great to hear them sing, even. However, it was of no consequence to me that they had landed a recording contract, $200,000 and a few other prizes. Nope. I had moved on.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I have moved on — on to the next competition-style show, on to the next whatever…I just hope that artists begin to recognize that these shows are leaning towards being no more helpful than winning The Price is Right. Moreover, I hope the industries that support these artists begin to see that the need for a new vehicle has emerged. It’s time to look past TV ratings.

Sure, you got a little tube time. Yes, the audience engaged with you (you now have 10,000 Twitter fans!). But when the show is over, it’s not likely they’re going to really stay as engaged as the show would lead you to believe. When the confetti settles, well…

We have to start figuring out ways to recover from the flash-in-a-pan syndrome that pervades our television sets every evening…Otherwise, I guess the warning to artists (likely newly-crowned Sing-Off champions, Pentatonix) would be…

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