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.
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.