About a month ago Matt Cardle announced that he had part ways with his label, you have our forgiveness if you missed that bit of news. Time to lose some cool points. I have a lot of time for Matt Cardle. I'm not his biggest fan, but when compared to a lot of X-Factor contestants I've got a bit of respect for the guy.
To see why, let's look at one of his fellow contestants from that year. One Direction were pretty much nabbed from their GCSE desks and dumped straight into arena tours, with all the perks that go with it. When watching their documentary recently (for research, I swear) I noticed that when their first single was released they had a helicopter fly them around the country so that they could appear on many of the major UK radio stations. Needless to say, this is a luxury that few artists get at such a stage in their career. That sort of a push can make a huge difference and even smaller artists on major labels usually can't compete with such a steamroller. I was reminded of a documentary about the unsigned Punk-Dance band Subsource that I'd seen a few months before. This one:
There is one part of this documentary where the band have travelled in their beaten up van to some dark corner of the country to play a show. They usually have a pretty healthy crowd, but on this occassion only about 7 people turned up. As usual, the band played and gave everything. But after the show it was pretty clear how demoralising it was. Yet years later the band are still going strong, not massive but still on the ride and enjoying it.
I'm not saying that the 1D boys don't deserve any success, but you do wonder how many of them would still be actively pursuing a career in music after years of cramped vans, half-empty rooms and disinterested crowds... if there's a crowd. I don't blame the 1D boys for taking their chances, who wouldn't rather play Wembley than some dive where they get drowned out by a Hen Party? But when you see people skipping this phase and going straight to the top it's frustrating to see hard-working and highly talented musicians getting much tougher breaks.
Rightly, most musicians are happy to do this to preserve their artistic freedom and integrity so I don't shed too many tears over this. However I couldn't help but feel a bit of happiness for Cardle, it's good to know that a guy can still get that big push after honing his craft with little reward for many years. As opposed to being picked straight out of stage school, drilled to be charistmatic without personality and being put on the conveyer belt. Or even given some forced makeover, ahem:
Now I know Matt Cardle probably had similar treatment to One Direction on his first (post X-Factor) single. But the fact is, before The X-Factor he spent years playing in pubs to chatty audiences, holding down a boring full-time job and playing in numerous unsuccessful bands. Okay, so the X-Factor thing is a bit naff, so is the hat. Even though you could label the reality TV route as easy/cheating, at least he put in a significant number of years as a struggling musical nobody before his whirlwind tryst with fame and success.
I'm not a fan of the reality format in any way, for reasons too numerous to list. If I could remove them from TV schedules to be replaced with gig coverage, band documentaries and professional wrestling then I would. I really would. However, they're here and I've learnt to live with that fact. It looks like Cardle's time in the big leagues has come and gone, relegated to pub quiz questions and 'where are they now' features in the minds of most people. But I think that if anyone deserved a bit of success from these shows, then it should be someone that's at least done a bit more of the grind than a few years of Brit School and "really really wanting this."
Andy is a Supajam writer who has been a small-fry at numerous Commerical, BBC and Student radio stations over the last 6 years. He is also a music promoter in the South-East of the UK. He has a website where he interviews musicians with only one question, and he is currently typing in third-person. You can tweet abuse at him if you fancy letting off some steam.