The X Factor Experience: A Study of the Participants' Experiences of the Cultural Production of the Danish X Factor Programme

Ea-Zeline Rose Emelia Nielsen & Rasmus Møller Nielsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The past decade, the creative industries have been growing, and the continuing increasing numbers of hopefuls who want to make a living in their chosen field of performance, has made the competition fierce for a creative career. What follows, is harsh working conditions which is unseen in other more ‘traditional’ sectors, and while there are many desirable features and especially psychological rewards to be gained, what characterises work in this sector is high uncertainty, low payment, short contracts, and generally ‘no one is better than their last piece’. The desire to pursue a creative career is expressed in many ways, but one of the greatest examples, is the global phenomenon of X Factor that has shown to hold the power to radically change the lives of hopefuls from one day to another. The aim of this study is to examine the participants that have signed up to the Danish version of the X Factor programme and how these participants subjectively experienced the work dynamics of the creative industries.
This study found that the participants had three internal motives for entering X Factor, these can be seen as a need for 1) an experience out of the ordinary; 2) approval and 3) exposure. These would be complemented by external influences from both 1) social ties and 2) the production team. This study revealed several findings that all give insight to some of the complexities behind creative work and television production. Consistent with recent research on work subjectivity in the creative industries, the working environment of X Factor brought highly ambivalent work experiences. Selfdevelopment and creative freedom was highly valued throughout the course of the programme and many of the participants found X Factor to provide the right circumstances for self-actualising their potential. However, this came with a shadow cost, and the participants were willing to self-exploit and self-inflict high amounts of pressure in order to be able to practice their beloved art form in front of the country, where tensions, anxieties and pressure became part of everyday life during their participation. An analysis of the participants’ final moments of the programme revealed how participants cope with being eliminated from X Factor. Consistent with recent research three strategies were found: 1) venting emotions; 2) minimizing the significance and 3) focusing on future opportunities. Furthermore, this study found three accounting strategies, that the participants used to justify their elimination post X Factor: 1) blaming the format; 2) emphasising on the tough working conditions, and 3) focus on development. Self-improvement seemed to be an important factor for coping with failure and to continue believing in future success.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages125
SupervisorsAna Alacovska