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Springboard or crisis? The experience of taking part in a talent show

For the first time worldwide, 59 former participants in various music talent shows were asked what they thought, in hindsight, of the experience of taking part in a talent show. The informants had participated in a format broadcast in Germany within the last twelve years and were now giving information about this in retrospect.  

Results: Around half of the respondents retrospectively view their experience of taking part in a talent show as more positive than negative; many have mixed feelings, and for some it was a decidedly negative experience.

  • For professionals who used the show as a springboard, taking part in a talent show was, on the whole, a very positive experience. Taking part in a talent show was also positive for newly discovered artists with musical training who gained insight into the world of media through the talent show – this often put them off pursuing this route further. Those who were presented positively at first but then negatively later on (contestants who did not live up to expectations) were much more ambivalent about their participation. For them, the public defamation was painful and extremely difficult, especially for their families. For some of the contestants who found the demands of the show – before and after production – were too much to cope with psychologically, the experience of taking part in a talent show became a lasting crisis.   
  • The results indicate that among those presented as incompetent “freaks” in the show there are three variants: There are those who were secretly complicit, cooperating with the media system in their own exaggerated stylisation. They had lots of fun filming the show, but they they did not expect the huge public sensation once the show was broadcast. Then there are those who are not aware of being put down; they re-interpret the humiliation and enjoy the public attention they have attracted. Once the show is broadcast, life becomes problematic for those who are shown up: they entered into the talent show naively, trusting greatly in their uniqueness as a human being. However, in contrast to the feedback they received when they were accepted onto the show, in the television programme they were exhibited as particularly incompetent. They have to live with malice in their social environment – sometimes even years after their participation in the talent show.

Talent shows are the most successful genre of the last decade. They need young, inexperienced people as “human material”. Some profit from their participation; others still bear the consequences years later. This shows the urgent need for public discourse around quality and media ethics, and raises new questions in relation to youth protection (state media authorities / KJM Kommission für Jugendmedienschutz [Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media]).

Press Release:
Springboard or crisis? The “talent show experience”