One of my guilty pleasures is watching American Idol. I like it, not even necessarily because of the music, but because of the competition of it all.
I love watching people compete for something they care about so much. It's the same reason I like the Olympics, and the playoffs of pretty much any sport. Watching people compete is something that really gets me going.
What's fascinating though is that the world we live in today is actually the complete opposite of the one in which American Idol thrives. And you can understand the power of the internet and the way it works by simply looking at it as the antithesis of American Idol.
Idol is all about getting through the gatekeepers, just to get a chance to reach your audience. First you audition in a city with tens of thousands of other people. If you make the gatekeepers happy in that round, then you get to go to Hollywood to try and get through the gatekeepers again.
Then, if you get through those rounds, you're given a chance to perform directly in front of your audience, but not without the gatekeepers first having the opportunity to influence what they think about you with their commentary.
Then, as you progress through the rounds, you actually have to start doing things that are going to displease your original fans, the ones who got you this far, because you need to start appealing to a wider audience.
Stay too unique, don't get enough mass appeal, and you're gone.
What kills me is that every single person that made it through their first audition, and likely a lot of people that didn't, could probably make a living by singing if they were willing to spend a lot of time, energy and work building an audience on their own.
Yet they willingly give the gatekeepers full authority over whether they're going to be "successful." And in the end, even if they do win, they are sort of owned for a while by a record company. Maybe great. Maybe not.
There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be "American Idol" of course, but only if the people that are competing look at it as one of the many things they're doing to build their audience.
I don't know, but I would suspect a large majority of people that get booted from the show end up feeling like they have to give up. As if they've missed their one big chance and now they have to alter their dreams.
Instead, each of us has the opportunity to bypass all the gatekeepers and go directly to our would be fans. Of course, there's no pre-built mass audience. There's no machine interrupting the people we want to reach in hopes they'll pay attention. There's no overnight success. No-one, let's repeat this a few more times, NO ONE, becomes an overnight success on the internet.
Instead, in the Anti-Idol world, things need to be curated, cared for, refined, and built slowly over time. But the result of those efforts, if one is able to persist, is a solid foundation upon which an entire career can be built.
I hope the people that audition for American Idol know this. Because as easy as it is to make fun of the show, there are real people, with real talent, with real dreams that are trying to do something with their lives when they audition for the show.
And that should be celebrated. Because putting ourselves out there, taking a risk, and having the guts to share our creations is exactly what we need to do.
But we don't live in a world of gate-keepers. Not anymore. Not unless we choose to.