Here comes contestant number one. He looks ok, seems somewhat reserved. He tells the panel a bit about himself and then reveals what song he will attempt…umm…to sing. After taking a deep breath, a discordant shrill shudders out his mouth, leaving you to wonder why he entered the contest in the first place. The judges might be speechless, but you aren’t. “You call that singing? I could sing better than that on my worst day.”

You’re in good company. Like countless other musicians who watch these auditions, the sentiment is often the same, but deep down, one question secretly persists: “Could I have a shot at something like this?” Mr. kill-your-ears obviously felt he did, why not you?

Don”t underestimate the power of a major singing competition. The media exposure alone has the potential to create tremendous opportunities for a talent that might otherwise, lie dormant. Many artists have seen their lives turn completely around through singing competitions. Chris Daughtry was working as a service advisor for a car dealership in Greensboro, NC when he auditioned for Idol’s fifth season. Daughtry went on to sell over 4 million copies of his debut album to date, an extraordinary feat in today’s music business. Seven years before Casey James auditioned for Idol, he almost lost his life in a motorcycle accident. His doctor told him at the time, that he’d never play guitar again. James reached the final three in season nine, with his guitar in hand. Hope can take you places.

Now, a new generation of singing competitions is hitting the airwaves, creating even more opportunities for music artists. One show we are pretty excited about is NBC’s “The Voice,” set to debut this spring. Produced by Survivor’s Mark Burnett and Big Brother’s John De Mol, NBC is positioning “The Voice” to be the singing competition of choice with American viewers. Here’s how it works… The judges are comprised of four celebrity artists who form teams of the singers they select through auditions, who they mentor throughout the competition. There are three phases of competition: the blind audition, the battle phase and the live performances. During the blind auditions, the contestants perform to the backs of the celebrity artists who judge each contestant solely on their vocal performance without the influence of image. If the celebrity artist likes what they hear, they press a button to choose, while their chair swings around to face the contestant. The best news about “The Voice?” There is no age ceiling (although you must be at least 18). In addition, contestants can represent any genre! Finally, there is hope for the middle-aged musician!

Singing competitions like “The Voice” help open the door for music artists. In addition to open auditions scheduled for January and February, “The Voice” will check out US based singers from TalentWatch.net, effectively extending their reach throughout the United States. Talentwatch has alliances with key players in the music and entertainment fields to help their artists get more exposure. It’s already being recognized as the site where undiscovered artists go to launch their career.

Hugh Hession is a music industry coach and mentor with over 20 years experience as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh is the owner of Making It In Music; dedicated to giving todays music artist the strategies and resources needed to advance their careers. You can contact him at hugh@makingitinmusic.net