Want to be a millionaire pop star? You’re better off buying £64 of lottery tickets than entering the X-Factor.

Let’s assume that if you had a few million pounds, you could probably buy yourself some hit songs from a songwriter, some studio and musician time, plenty of marketing, and almost certainly get yourself a pop career.

The question is; is it easier to get yourself into this position (a millionaire pop star) via pure luck (by entering the lottery) or by entering a competition like the X-Factor?

We don’t know how many people apply for the X-Factor, but based on 10,000 people at a single London audition, we could conservatively estimate 40,000.

Although the X-Factor markets itself on the winner receiving a “£1 million recording deal”, recent information about the contract has surfaced that shows “the victor may only receive £1 million after at least four albums” (note the ‘may’ and ‘at least’; we’ll ignore these for now and assume they will after four albums).

If we look at the number of albums released by winners of this type of show (X-Factor, Popstars, Pop Idol), we find that less than one in five winners (to date) have released four or more albums.

18% chance of releasing four albums

And we can’t even expect this to improve; plotting all the chart positions (for singles and albums) for all of these winners, over time, shows a distinct downward trend:


So, 1 in 40,000 application odds combined with 1 in 5.5 “four albums” odds gives total odds – of entering the X-Factor, winning and becoming a millionaire because of it – of about 1 in 220,000.

The chances of winning the lottery (with average jackpot winnings of £2,053,984) is 1 in 13,983,816. You would therefore need to buy £64 of tickets for a slightly better chance of winning the jackpot than becoming a millionaire through winning the X-Factor. £64 may seem like a lot, but probably doesn’t compare to the cost of travelling to/from the auditions, taking a day off work to spend a full day there (with food and drink), etc.

Of course, if you funded your own career, you’d also get a much higher percentage of earnings, wouldn’t be locked into a lengthy contract, and wouldn’t suffer from the stigma of being a reality star winner. So you’d probably even have a longer career than these winners, as plotted below (each bar represents a different winner from one of these reality shows). As a winner, you have a 55% chance of having a pop career of less than one year, and a 36% chance of less than six months.




3 responses to “Want to be a millionaire pop star? You’re better off buying £64 of lottery tickets than entering the X-Factor.”

  1. […] more here:  Want to be a millionaire pop star? You’re better off buying £64 of lottery tickets than entering … By admin | category: Lottery?, the lottery | tags: certainly-get, get-yourself, lottery […]

  2. As @malcolmcoles kindly pointed out on Twitter, the number of applications for the X-Factor has risen from 50,000 (Series 1) to 200,000 (Series 6) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_X_Factor_%28UK%29#Auditions

    Which means you actually only have to spend £13 on lottery tickets to have the same chance. Wouldn’t make such an interesting TV show, though, just watching people choosing numbers and then hoping to win money (though Deal Or No Deal seems to get away with it).

  3. Brilliant! This is exactly the kind of thing pie charts *should* be used for. And whatever happened to Leon Jackson, hmm? (Leona Lewis can bleed to death for all I care.) (Can I say that on air?)