The Downfall of The X Factor: A Tragic Failure or the Result of a Modernising Music Industry?

Emily Cook

The X Factor was once a popular TV singing show that was watched by millions across the country however it was halted by Simon Cowell in 2019. Why did The X Factor get cut? Was it the result of a rapidly modernising music industry that could discover new talent through other mediums? Emily Cook discusses. 

A cosy winter Saturday night during the 2000’s-2010s would not be complete without The X Factor. Premiering in 2004, The X Factor went on to become one of the most well-known entertainment shows to date. With many different faces coming to mind when thinking about the judges and presenters of the program, the slight changes and shifts of the show never failed to draw in viewers. However, in 2019, Simon Cowell decided it was time to pull the plug and say goodbye to the show after 15 years of broadcast. 

Pop Idol set the premise for the development of The X Factor

Before The X Factor, Pop Idol was the Saturday night TV show that everyone was talking about. Created by Simon Fuller, with Simon Cowell as a judge, it aired from 2001-2002. Pop Idol set the premise for the development of The X Factor, offering its winner a £1 million record deal. The show developed many successful artists, including Will Young, Gareth Gates and Darius Danesh, with Young achieving the fastest selling debut single in history with his release of Evergreen in 2002. 

The ability this TV show had to create music stars was obvious. It established an exciting new way to succeed in the music industry and an entirely new format which had not previously been used, or at least to the best of its potential. This success pushed Cowell to want to produce his own show, one that was bigger and better than Pop Idol, leading him to announce The X Factor in 2004. The show followed a 4-stage format, beginning with the auditions, bootcamp (later the six-chair challenge from series 10), judges houses and the live shows, with contestants being divided into 4 groups: the girls, the boys, the over 25’s and the groups.  

By 2010, the show was at its height, averaging 14.13 million viewers

Series 1 gained an average of 7.40 million viewers across the series, proving its popularity with the British public. By 2010, the show was at its height, averaging 14.13 million viewers. From the first series, both winners and runners up of the programme gained highly successful music careers, making the dream of being a pop star feel that little more attainable for budding musicians. Some of the most famous musicians today were found through The X Factor, for example, One Direction, the runners up of series 7, Little Mix, the winners of series 8 and Leona Lewis, the winner of series 3. All three of these artists have gone on to sell millions of records, whilst holding career-spanning musical careers. Their success is endless, with One Direction going on to become one of the best-selling boy bands of all time, accumulating over 70 million sales. This confirms the positive influence and stronghold that The X Factor once held over the music industry.  

However, from 2012, viewing figures began to drop rather increasingly, with figures now being at 10 million. From series 10, as previously mentioned, bootcamp was removed from the show’s key formatting and replaced with the six-chair challenge. The previous format had been used for 10 years, and maybe Cowell thought that a new and exciting round would make a positive change to the viewing figures? Unfortunately, this new format did quite the opposite, with numbers dropping to under 8 million by 2015.  

The winners of the show were almost promised the number 1 Christmas spot up until 2015, when Louisa Johnson’s Forever Young managed to only hit 9th place in the charts, the lowest scoring winners single to date. From then until 2018, the remaining winners of the show only just about managed to stay in the top 5 of the charts, with the show’s final winner Dalton Harris peaking at number 4 in 2018. The combination of dropping viewing figures and the lack of Christmas number 1 singles makes you question whether The X Factor had just seen its time or if the modernising music industry outside of it was progressing too quickly for it to keep up? 

By the early 2010s, streaming platforms and social media had began to rise in popularity. The likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber had all been found through social media, most of the time being YouTube, proving that TV shows like The X Factor weren’t necessarily needed to find such stars anymore. By August 2012, Time reported that Spotify had hit 15 million active users, confirming that streaming platforms and this new modern way of the music industry was growing rapidly, and the buying of singles and records was deteriorating quickly.  

The combination of the drop in sales and popularity regarding social media attributed to the slow downfall of The X Factor. The show once stood as a sole opportunity to be a part of an untouchable dream, which made The X Factor an exciting watch and something viewers loved to keep going back to. However, the new modernisation of the music industry, the expansion in opportunities, and the new development of social media made this once inaccessible dream accessible, which contributed to the inevitable downfall of The X Factor.

Emily Cook

Featured image courtesy of Matthias Wagner via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In-article image 1 courtesy of @simoncowell via Instagram.com No changes were made to this image.

In-article images 1, 2 and 3 courtesy of @thexfactor via Instagram.com No changes were made to this image.

For more content including news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features, sport and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.

If you can’t get enough of Impact Music, follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates on our latest articles, and follow our Spotify to find playlists made by our very own writers.

EntertainmentMusicMusic Features

Leave a Reply