“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice , then they think, ‘Oh, okay, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention centre and then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not fucking good enough.’ Can you imagine?”
“It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old fucking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll fucking start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a fucking computer or the Internet or The Voice or American Idol.”
That same month he took another swipe at singing contests in an interview with NME.
“I swear to God, if my daughter walked up onstage and sang her heart out and some fucking billionaire looked at her and said, ‘No, I’m sorry you’re not any good,’ I’d fucking throttle that person, I swear to God. Who the fuck are you to say what’s good or bad?”
Dave Grohl stole the words right out of my mouth. Growing up, all kids have their dreams. Some want to be pro athletes, others policemen, firefighters or astronauts. Not me. To quote one of my favourite movies, “ever since I could remember I always wanted to be a ganster [rock star.]” It’s sad to think that today, some kids’ perception of becoming a rock star is singing on national television, and “making it big” overnight. They don’t get it.
Sure, music is about connecting with your fans, but it’s also an experience, a journey you should share with your band mates, your friends. Like Grohl said, it’s about making noise, sucking at first, but growing, both as an artist and as a band. Shows like American Idol, X Factor, and The Voice are sending the wrong message to aspiring young artists and musicians. They’re saying if you have a great voice and sex appeal you can make it. But, what about all of the hard work? What about working your ass off everyday handing out flyers and free CDs and selling merch? What about playing free gigs three nights a week so you can grow your fan base?
They take young, often inexperienced artists and thrust them into international lime light and it’s all to make a buck. They’re robbing young artists of a journey, the experience of making it on their own. It’s like a trust fund baby who never worked a day in their life. Can you really appreciate something if your blood sweat and tears aren’t poured into it? And don’t try to convince me that being on a TV show is hard work, because it’s nothing compared to being in a band and coming up on your own.
I began playing guitar when I was nine years old. My dad played in a band in high school and college, and while I was growing up, they would still get together and jam in my basement. Sure they weren’t on a stage playing to thousands of people, but they were making music and they were having fun. I idolized them. It didn’t take me long to form a band of my own. Recruiting my brother and best friend, we followed in some our favourite bands’ footsteps and formed a punk trio. We didn’t necessarily know how to use our instruments, but boy we knew how to make noise. We would spend hours in my basement learning covers of our favourite Blink 182, Sum 41, and Green Day songs. Then one day we got our break. We were asked to open for my dad’s band at a 40th birthday party. Sure we were only playing one song, but we were twelve years old, playing on a stage at a bar in front of 50 plus people. To us, we had made it.
Shortly after, we began writing our own music, and after I got a digital recorder for my birthday, we recorded our first full length album when we were in eighth grade. When we went off to high school the band dissolved over time, but I continued to play and write music. Then when I went off to college and I joined a pop acoustic group. We played numerous local shows and one summer we toured the west coast. Then I got my second big break. We won a contest to play at the Lilith Fair, opening for The Dixie Chicks, Mary J. Blige, Sarah McLachlan, Ingrid Michelson, & Metric among other artists I grew up listening to. Overtime we quit playing live shows, but I will always have those experiences, that journey to look back on and appreciate.
There is no “easy button” in the music industry, and that’s exactly what TV shows like American Idol, X Factor and The Voice are coming off as to young artists. There are however stepping stones, and if you work hard, stick with it, and have fun you can make it big, without the approval of an overpaid often under qualified judge.