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Features |  27 Nov 2008 12:38 |  By AnitaIyer

The reality behind music talent shows

MUMBAI: The ripple that started in 2005 has become a flood now, and shows no sign of abating. Year after year, television channels churn out 'talent hunt' winners, singers who are often supposed to look as good as they sing. Does the ephemeral share of the spotlight come with any lasting returns for these offspring of TV talent searches?

Kailash Kher, part of the jury of Indian Idol 4 opines, Reality shows are a great platform for new singers to showcase their talent and meet the right people in the music fraternity without being misled. We didn't have any reality shows in our time and had to struggle, but now even singers from the country's interiors can make it big through these shows....

Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2005 winner Debojit Saha came to Mumbai in 2002 and had been struggling till he got the platform three years later. I have seen the initial struggle when I left my government job and came to Mumbai along with my wife. We had to skip meals because we could not afford it and so have been through all this, I value a platform like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa....

Debojit was one of the earliest contestants from the country's North-east to participate and win a TV reality show. His winning the contest encouraged other participants like Indian Idol 3 winner Prashant Tamang, runner up Amit Paul, Zee Little Champs runner up Anamika Choudary and others from the NE region to participate.

Indian Idol's first season runner up Amit Sana however believes, The talent culture is going away." Sana believes that not all the talent hunt shows are really spotting good talent but are mainly interested in running money making businesses.

Tied with contracts

The most tempting part of these shows is indubitably the contracts offered by the channels extending over a year or two. A music reality show participant on basis of anonymity says, The contracts are signed when the participants reach the Top 15 or Top 10 phase when they have no choice. As their staying in the show mainly depends on the voting system, the amateur singers sign on without a second thought....

Within the contract period, the singers are bound to perform live shows and go on tours for the stipulated period and have to seek permission from the channel is case they need to work outside the contract, like Indian Idol season 1 winner Abhijeet Sawant asked Sony Entertainemnt television to relieve him from his contract, enabling him to participate on Star Plus' two shows, �Jo jeeta wohi superstar' and �Nach Baliye'.

However, singer Anushka Manchandana, herself a 'reality show' winner insists, These two years of contract are of prime importance for reality show winners as the channel takes care of marketing and branding them. The artists can make contacts with prominent names in the music industry which would have been impossible otherwise. It is also a great learning experience....

Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2008 runner up Raja Hasan seconds, These contracts are signed including the terms and conditions of the singers as well.... Debojit insists, There is a lot of pressure on the artists as they are bound in contracts and the channel expects them to do several shows. The drawback is that after being in the limelight during the show, it is a prime time to exploit the exposure but we cannot work outside the contract....

It might be a good platform for new singers, but channels often push these artists with many performances. I won the show two years ago and am still in a 10 month contract and they are squeezing me beyond my capacity,... complains another singer.

Indian Idol 2 first runner up Karunya choose not to sign the two year contract although most of the participants did. I had some different plans and the channel agreed with it. But I believe signing contracts does not necessarily restrict the artist. Rather it gives him the right exposure, puts him in the right spot, helps in making contacts and the channel is involved in promoting him,... he says in hindsight.

Easy money for channels, artists

The probable reason for channels investing heavily in these shows by roping in renowned music directors as part of the jury, is the high returns involved. Once the contracts are signed, the channels claim as much as 50 per cent of the total income earned by the artists, say sources.

Due to a surfeit of reality shows in the television space today, new winners are not paid highly either, say observers. This phenomenon, according to people in the industry is because the supply is more than the demand, contrary to the situation some years ago when there were only a few singer participants and the 'reality' bubble had just started.

Indian Idol season 2 winner Sandeep Acharya says, When I signed the contract, the profit sharing ratio between me and the channel was 80:20. I guess even today if I sign the contract, the same ratio would be carried forward....

Beginners make about Rs 25,000-30,000 per show for singing for a few hours. Depending on their fan following and popularity, the participants make around Rs 1,00,000 and Rs 3,00,000 per show, which comes to around Rs two to three million a month if they opt for international tours.

However, says another artiste, The channels pocket a substantial amount of the money, leaving the artiste with very little money after the taxes are deducated."

According to a channel spokesperson, We are here for business and won't invest in managing an artiste for peanuts either. We give them the much required platform and fame and this is the least they can do for us. After the contract, it is upto the artists to straighten their careers by meeting up with composers....

Paving paths for many

Music reality shows are instrumental in getting the participants the much needed exposure and provides several career opportunities. Everyone participating in reality show is a winner in his own right, may it be Rahul Saxena, who failed to make it to the top six but was offered a song by Farah Khan in Om Shanti Om or Amit Tandon, who got noticed by Balaji Telefilms and has not become a regular actor in the production house's serials. There have been some who have cut their solo albums like Rahul Vaidya, Prajakta Shukre, Sandeep Acharya Anuj Sharma, Debojit, etc. Sandeep Acharya has launched two albums in the past two years with Sony BMG and is ready to launch its third album next year. I was in a two year contract with Sony BMG and we launched two albums and if I launch my third album with Sony again, I will have to enter into a one year contract with them....

Amit Tandon launched an album with Tips while Amit Sana and and Karunya opted for Times Music. Sana says, My first album, Chal diye was launched by Sony BMG and the second �Yaadein' by Times Music. There were too many projects and artists lined up with Sony BMG, so I moved on to another music label....

But are labels open to launching albums of these participants? Sana replies, The fame of reality show contestants is too short-lived and we are tied up with the channel in that period. After the contract is over, getting the album approved by another music label necessarily means the music has to be commercially appealing and you should still have a recall in the minds of the audience.... However, industry insiders say that if the contestant is a winner of a particular channel show, the other channels are hesitant to play the music on their channels and promote it. This limits the number of channels an artist can promote his album on.

Opting not the sign the contract, Karunya had launched his album in 2007 with Times Music and has done important work in the Telugu industry, singing for 50 movies and having won three awards till now. After being a part of Indian Idol, he also got the opportunity to host two music talent shows down south.

There are some singers who have proved themselves in the Bollywood scene like Anushka Manchanda who was launched by musical duo Vishal-Shekhar in Golmaal returns and is now loaded with Bollywood projects like Alladin, Victory, Dulha mil gaya, Rama the saviour etc. Indian Idol 3 participant Monali Thakkur has rendered numbers like �Zara Zara' and others like Kalpana, Himani Kapoor, Rahul Vaidya, Neha Bhasin etc. has sung for a few films.

This year saw many reality winners and participants making a comeback on the television screen with shows like Ek se badkar ek, Jo jeeta wohi superstar, and the most recent Jalwa 1 2 ka 4 on 9X. Apparently, Debojit made appearance on non-musical Big Boss season 2.

Sandeep Acharya comments, Making a comeback on the television space helps to better connect with your audiences. I was offered other shows like Big Boss, Jo jeeta wohi Superstar as well but I waited and finally opted for Jalwa 4 2 ka 1 on 9X....

Fight to be at the top

Indian Idol-2 second runner up Anuj Sharma is disappointed that the channel never got back to him after he won the pageant. Although the channels usually sign contracts with the top 10 contestants, I was never called by the channel again. Many times, I saw even the fourth or fifth contestants conducting live shows or appearing on TV but it was strange that being in the top three, I was forgotten....

All the experienced reality participants agree that reality shows are just the first step and it is a long way before they make it big. As they say, you can take the horse to the river but can't make it drink water. Anushka adds, It is a great opportunity for these singers and it is upto these participants how they exploit it to their advantage and stand out from the reality clutter....

Karunya advises, When you are a part of the reality show, you sing covers and not originals so you re not a singer in your own right. Also, contestants should remember that fame that comes fast goes away fast too....

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