With singers this good …why doesn’t The Voice have a star yet?

Reality series is a TV sugar rush, but the transition to post-show career still evades many.

The Voice is turning up some knockout talent this year.

Passionate singers, soaring notes and diverse backstories, from singing cricketers to trans teens and air crash survivors… there’s been something for everybody.

But trying to name previous season winners -or anybody who has lasting chart success- is tricky.

More than 3 million Australians watched Karise Eden win the inaugural season in 2012 and her “My Journey” album peaked at #1 on the Australian music charts earning double Platinum. Her last album in 2018 just cracked the Top 40 at #37.

Season Two’s Harrison Craig also peaked at #1 with “More Than A Dream.” Anja Nissen made it to #11 when her album was finally released followed by Ellie Drennan #14, Alfie Arcuri #5 and Judah Kelly #3. 2018’s looper Sam Perry is yet to release an album.

Despite initial chart success in a fickle business, commercial popularity is quick as the turn of a big red chair -not just in Australia but seemingly worldwide.

This contrasts to former talent shows Australian Idol and The X Factor creating industry stars in Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll, Jessica Mauboy, Anthony Callea, Casey Donovan, Rob Mills, Courtney Act, Matt Corby, Axel Whitehead, Stan Walker, Dami Im, Samantha Jade, Johnny Ruffo (note: not all are working in recording).

“The issue may not be one under Nine’s control”

TV exposure has led to club and corporate work for some Voice acts. Yet 8 seasons in, its coaches still talk about finding the next big artist, not just for Australia but for the world.

In its defence the issue may not be one under Nine’s control with artists but with Artist & Repertoire development at Universal Music (both Idol & X Factor were aligned with Sony Music).

Cameron Adams, national music writer for the Herald Sun, tells TV Tonight, “There’s almost an international Voice curse – the show has never discovered one major global star the way the Idol franchise have Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert and Carrie Underwood and X Factor have One Direction and Little Mix. People are more familiar with the musicians who have signed on to be Voice coaches around the world (from Kylie to Miley) than anyone The Voice programs around the world have discovered.

“It’s almost like it focuses on making the best TV show each year”

“It’s almost like it focuses on making the best TV show each year (no crime there) and they figure there’ll be more singers next year, whereas The X Factor in particular had Simon Cowell who came from a record industry background and really wanted to see the people from the show in the charts, not just on TV.

The X Factor was very good at bringing previous contestants back each season to perform – it’s good for perception that the show can launch a career if viewers see that you’ve been invited back in a guest slot just like Jason DeRulo or whatever other pop star is promoting their new record on the show is. Whereas The Voice seem to be more interested in keeping that guest performance slot for a Katy Perry or similar superstar international guest rather than giving it to their own talent.

“You very rarely hear The Voice talk about previous artists from earlier seasons”

“You very rarely hear The Voice talk about previous artists from earlier seasons, arguably because there’s not much to talk about. Some of the ‘All Stars’ they have brought back this year haven’t really gone on to do that much unfortunately – they’re not all that recognisable – so tellingly they’ve had to find people from other reality shows who have more famous faces.”

Adams acknowledges the mentorship from The Voice coaches but suspects locally-based coaches offer more support long term.

“If you’re on Kelly Rowland’s team you surely don’t think you’re going to be hanging with Beyonce? If you’re smart you do all the brain-picking while the TV show is on air.”

Neil Griffiths Head Of Online News & Content at themusic.com.au agrees The Voice is focussed on creating TV entertainment, accompanied by a follow-up single.

“If you look at last year’s winner, Sam Perry, he was billed as the next big thing and ‘the series’ most controversial entrant ever’ and that was driven all the way through to him winning the the whole thing,” he said. “But you don’t have to look very far to see that Sam has been grinding since at least 2013 and what they billed as ‘controversial’ is actually just Sam being a loop artist, which Sam has even said in the past he is not the pioneer of.

“It possibly hurt his career by being on the show”

The Voice does not do that for its artists which is why they struggle immensely post-season. While Sam, through his years of music industry grind, may have stood a better chance than any of the previous winners, it possibly hurt his career by being on the show; not mainstream enough for radio but now too mainstream for the club or indie scenes because he appeared on a network singing competition.”

“The song choices for the winners have been chin-scratchers”

Adams agrees Universal needs to improve the transition of artist from the exposure of a national TV platform to a long term career,

“Sony have a great track record for translating Idol and X Factor to sales, but they also had a record label linked to Simon Cowell. It’s a reality show cliche, but the song choices for the winners have been chin-scratchers,” he said.

“People no longer watch these grand finals and buying the song instantly. It’s more about getting a song that will get on radio and transition the winner to a viable artist once the show is over and that’s been a problem for The Voice that hopefully they can overcome this year – all it takes is the right artist paired with the right song.”

Nine & Universal Music did not respond to enquiries.

The Voice airs 7pm Sunday and 7:30pm Monday – Tuesday on Nine.

41 Responses

  1. Here’s a thought- throw the winners (and runners-up for that matter) from all previous series into a show called “Australian Supervoice”. Bring in all of the previous judges to fight it out for their team and watch the ratings rocket. This gives everyone a chance to sell themselves again to the Australian public. Oh, and for good measure let them be special guests on Australian Ninja Warrior and Masterchef (whoops, wrong channel).

  2. I saw this explanation a while back. For me it explains a lot why most winners of all singing competitions (Idol, X Factor and the Voice) don’t succeed and runner-ups or even earlier eliminated contestants are more often successful though. youtu.be/x-E4wWhJx40

  3. In the age of Netflix, there isn’t a large enough TV audience to kickstart a music career in this country. There is no money it. Also, the show is so karaoke. A few years ago, they tried to encourage original artists but no longer. Ironically the world’s newest superstar would have probably been told by Delta to come back in a few years when she learned a few more show-off licks and sang more mainstream songs. That format isn’t designed to reveal someone’s unique star-making talents and the world doesn’t need another 3rd rate Adele or Ed Sheerhan.

    1. That could be the case now but it still ignores how The Voice has failed to launch household names even back in 2012 before Netflix was around while other shows did it regularly.

  4. I would say the only one with current pop culture success would be Vera Blue! Fka Celia Pavey!
    Mind you more success going under Vera Blue
    Her debut Celia pavey album peaked at #14

    She featured on Illy #2 song ‘Papercuts’ And her song hold peaked at #5
    Her last album peaked at #7 and ’Regular touch’ was #17 on triple J hottest 100 2017
    She’s a regular at music festivals and triple J. The young indi Aussie music scene doesn’t get enough credit with artist like Illy, Tash sultana, Tones & I, Ruby field etc..

  5. There are contestants on the Voice? Could of fooled me!!!! This show is all about Delta and the judges. Look at the promos, how often do you see the contestants? Its not a talent show but publicity for 4 fading ex pop stars!

  6. People need to remember its a jungle out there in music land. How many good singers around the world are pounding the pavements striving for that one elusive ‘hit’. Extremely hard to become a Beyoncé, Katy Perry or Justin Beiber. What upsets me most about The Voice is that the judges tell these people to come on their team because they will make them a star, won’t let them down, stick by them, Then the next round they give them a song to sing that doesn’t suit their voice at all and out the door they go. They can’t all win. Must be heartbreaking.

    1. Precisely. Look at the many upcoming very talented Australian artists that were nominated at the last ARIA awards. Even the winners struggle to continue a career, and every year there are more emerging and a limited number of venues to perform at.

  7. To highlight even more how The Voice fails i’d throw in AGT’s Justice Crew (you’d have to argue one of Australia’s most successful “boy bands”), Timomatic who had some good chart success with well known songs, Bonnie Anderson & Jai Waetford who both sing and have/had decent roles on Neighbours, magician Cosentino and Idol’s Rikki-Lee to that group you mentioned David.

  8. I don’t think we’re given enough time to get to know the contestants as artists and performers. Basically we don’t get to hear them sing enough. We get the big backstories but not much else. When the show finishes people lose interest. We’re not looking fwd to what they bring us next. As others have said, the format is lacking.

    1. Yes they are given very few opportunities to sing, as compared with Australian Idol and earlier singing contests. Doesn’t give the audience much of an opportunity for the audience to get invested in the contestants. There is actually very little music content on the show, considering it’s running time.

  9. The focus is on the coaches and always has been. Plus the gimmick of turning the chair and not the artists on the show. It’s always about team Delta or Kelly etc. Pick me pick me.
    The other issue is the format itself. It culls so many artists so quickly. Some great artists have lost at the battles because the so called team has to cull them. Sure they’ve had saves etc but so many don’t get saved and get lost in the system of the show. Idol and X Factor had at least 7 live shows and gave the artists a chance to thrive and people got to know them. On this show that just doesn’t happen. It’s so cut throat. People just don’t connect and once it’s over that’s it. That’s my take on why it doesn’t happen.

  10. The deal they have to sign with Nine and Shine works against them. They’re actively encouraged not to do anything for a year after the show so they’re in a weak position when they try to restart their career.

    The other thing that works against them is that Delta and Guy actually have their own careers and they’ll actively use the show to promote themselves and their latest recordings which has undercut the contestants’ singles at least twice in the past.

    1. Bingo! It feels like the judges are on their own little stage dancing and even singing over the person on stage (the home viewer hears that at least) and lapping up their own airtime. Then the carry on of pushing the button or not like they’re the biggest hero’s on Earth is so cringy too. Especially Delta. I know it’s all for the cameras but there you have a show running for years with basically nobody gaining any sort of relevance except the judges.

      1. That’s why I have to record it. I can skip all those bits when the judges talk about what music means and how George/Guy/Delta/Kelly is their biggest competition blah blah blah. Also skip past Delta “dancing”. That used to be funny now it’s just sad.

  11. Outside of the actual show (Voice/Idol/X), there is no established long running programme on network TV or subscription in Australia (and hasn’t been for quite a while) that can even feature a spot performance such as the tonight shows in the US & UK that finish the show with a musical act. Added to that a lack of mainstream Australian airplay on popular commercial radio (even with very loose quotas) and it’s no wonder the public never see or hear of these artists again – apart, as someone has pointed out – the Carols (or Telethon) circuits.

  12. My parents and I were talking about this very same thing when we saw Karise Eden live a few months ago. My folks believe she’s every bit as good as a Janis Joplin or Amy Winehouse, and deserves that profile. Her new album is brilliant. Yet she played to a half-full RSL auditorium. I feel like local commercial radio has a lot to answer for. Triple J and alternative community radio stations really push a lot of new Aussie talent, but commercial radio is much more reluctant to play new mainstream Aussie releases. They’d rather play established international stars. So if people only go to radio as their music source, they aren’t even aware that these musicians are still releasing material.

    1. Commercial Radio has never really been the innovator though, it has generally been the follower, outside of the old days of AM radio with the 3XY and it’s Sydney and Adelaide affiliates with their own Music Survey’s (and later EON FM before it became Triple M). The late 70’s and early 80’s buzz of Australian music was generally lead by Countdown, Sounds, Nightmoves and to some extent Rock Around The World (thanks Basia). That all no longer exists and it is really difficult as you say outside of community radio to get a push and airplay now as there is really no follow-up shows for the artists to be seen on (bar YouTube and discovering them yourself).

      1. I agree with you Johnny1P5. I’d really love to see more new music on TV. The Loop occasionally has live Aussie acts, but it’s buried on a multichannel. The Set focused on alternative stuff but was also quality, yet buried at 10 pm on the ABC. People are happy to watch music at prime time if the ratings for music-focused reality like The Voice are any indication, so why don’t we have any?

        1. Yep without that follow on program to showcase afterwards you’re gone for public attention so it would be great to see something again. Unfortunately the last bastion in RocKwiz is no more apart from SBS repeating it like it is Letter and Numbers, which even then lent on the more alternative side that tied into the community radio scene more.

          What’s funny is that now you will here say Hunters And Collectors, Midnight Oil and a few others on the commercial greatest hits stations, yet back in the hey day they really only got played on the community ones and what was then Double J before it became Triple J. That is outside of late in their careers with songs like Holy Grail and Beds Are Burning, however without those stations playing them they may have never grown like they did and now be considered classic rock.

    2. Yes I think she is the one who could have had a huge career. I think she might have taken herself out of the spotlight for a while, which is a career killer when you’re not established. I’m not sure about that though. From memory she had quite a difficult background and mightn’t have been equipped for fame at the time.

  13. Really good read David!! They really should bring back contestants who are trying to release new music.

    Ive always said as well you need time to connect with the finalists. Get rid of the knock our rounds and show the viewer extra finals episodes. Dont get rid of multiple people at once and only have 4-5 episodes of finals. Idol and x factor was good because it had double that or more in finals for people to actually connect and get behind the singers. It all ends to quickly on the voice.

    1. Great comments I agree entirely. It’s about the viewer connection and investing in a singer’s journey. I still have vivid memory of Guy winning Idol more than 15 years ago.

  14. Excellent article. Always thought it was quite simply because it has always been about the judges rather than the acts in every iteration of the show, but a very valid point The Voice has been first and foremost about making TV and expanding the franchise rather than finding an successful act.

  15. I think the format is to blame because the live portion of the season is only short whereas Idol had at least 10 or more weeks of live shows where the audience gets to know the artists & is invested in the winner by the end.
    Instead of voting off 4 people each week maybe they could look at on 2 per week going thus extending the season & the audience engagement

    1. Maxxdude nailed it… every article that asks why the Voice produces no stars glosses over this point.

      The long run of live shows where the audience gets to fall in love with their winner, vote each week and see an arc of growth is what creates viable artists out of these shows. As Idol and X Factor have gotten shorter live show runs due to format changes recently in the US and UK, less recording stars have been created on these shows also.

      Unfortunately weeks and weeks of live shows are the most expensive part of production, and won’t be seen in this country probably ever again.

    2. You’re 100% correct IMO. The format is the problem. Even when they get to the final episode there is usually still about 5 contestants competing which is too many. By the end of an Idol or X Factor season, you truly felt you knew the singer and had watched them perform individually about a dozen times, therefore creating a fan base for them. At this stage though, I don’t think The Voice producers are that worried about creating actual stars when the show still rates.

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