Sunday, 26 April 2009

The ruthless truth behind the X-Factor

Times Journalist Caroline Scott digs behind the shimmering feel-good veneer of Britain's most popular entertainment programme - The X-Factor and it is not pleasant. If we are honest with ourselves we all know the entertainment industry is ruthless, and more so because it attracts a significant share of naive and delusional folk, which makes it almost brutally ruthless, and X-Factor it seems behind the scenes is no different.

Caroline's article What happens to The X Factor runners up? talks to runners up over the years and unveils a litany of duplicity, delusion and ultimately despite their best efforts a sad gradual decline into obscurity for most of those interviewed.

It is hard to get the full story on all who have gone through the X-Factor conveyor belt as a combination of restrictive contracts and the fear of being permanently black-listed by the industry leaves many contestants fearful of speaking out about their time on the show, but some do:

Steve Brookenstein (Winner 2004)

“Simon kept saying, ‘I know what I’m doing,’ by which he meant, ‘I know what sells.’ But it sounded like karaoke to me. I was offered £12,500 to go away quietly, and when I didn’t take it, life got very difficult. My website came down, there was a lot of negative publicity…”

Niki Evans (fourth, 2007)
"I kept trying to tell Leon [Jackson, winner, 2007], ‘Yes it’s great you’ve got a £150,000 advance and they’re sending cars to Manchester to come and get you, but what you don’t realise, sweetheart, is that you’re paying for them."

Andy Abrahams (runner-up, 2005)
“Well, actually, I wasn’t really a binman, I just helped a mate out for a couple of months” — had been playing pubs and clubs for years.

Ben Mills (third, 2006)
“Every time someone buys my album I get 0.2p. The manager got 20% of my advance and 20% of every gig I did, and the record company took another 12.5%. Still, all I’ve ever wanted is to make a living out of music, and I’m doing that, but there was a point when I certainly felt I’d lost control of my life.”

Sharon [Osbourne, then a judge] wanted me to stage a walkout one week to generate a huge tabloid story and get me votes. When I refused, she didn’t speak to me again. Simon always pre-warned me if he was going to spice up the show a bit by slagging me off, but I’ve never forgiven Ray [Quinn, second, 2006, now playing Danny in Grease in the West End] for crying during the semi. I offered him 50 quid not to, but he’d made up his mind. You could almost hear the old ladies at home reaching for their phones.”

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