NBC's passing on a Season 4 of "The Sing-Off" is sad news for the US a cappella community, and indeed the vocal music community worldwide, as the English version of the show has aired in over 20 countries. There is no doubt that we have more talent to showcase, and there are viewers a plenty interested in watching, provided we're not pitted against two of the biggest shows on television by America's last-place network.
We had twice the viewers when we aired around the holidays, making us NBC's third highest rated show in 2010, just after "Sunday Night Football" and "The Office". Hopefully the show will find a home elsewhere in the US. Only time will tell.
I feel it's appropriate at this time to give a peek backstage, into the show's inner workings. Imagine yourself just having arrived in Los Angeles, you've checked into the hotel, met many faces, had a long boring meeting with the legal department, and you're escorted into a large conference room where you see all of the other groups at once for the first time.
There might be a few familiar faces, and some eager smiles, but you're also a bit nervous as you eye the competition. What are your chances? Who is the group to beat.
Before you get a chance to muse for long, the doors close, and the only people in the room are singers and the music staff. And this is what I say:
"Look around the room. These fine people are not the competition. These people will soon become your lifelong friends, and a decade from now, when NBC and Sony are distant memories, you'll still be in contact with many people in this room. In fact, you may find yourselves singing in a group with them.
Your enemy is the remote control. The worst thing that could happen is for you to follow a group that has a bad performance, as no one will be watching you.
Moreover, as you'll soon learn if you haven't already, the a cappella community is one of the most warm, inviting, supportive communities on the planet.
Do not drink the kool-aid. Do not buy into the image and ethos of one group being better than the others. That's stupid. Art cannot be objectively judged.
Think of this show as a two-hour infomercial for a cappella. A concert. A variety show, showcasing some of the nation's best a cappella.
And each week we get to make another show, but alas we can't have as many groups on it. Who gets to stay? 3 people will choose, and you won't always agree with them, but so what?
You already won.
Every single person in this room already won! You get to be on national television. You're getting paid to have an unforgettable vacation where you'll be working with some of the best singers and coaches and arrangers and choreographers you'll ever meet. You will work hard, but you'll love every moment of it, and it will be over far too soon.
Make these fleeting days about sharing your music with each other and the world. Do not compete against each other, but rather compete against your own potential. Be great, because the a cappella community at home is counting on you. You will inspire them to be their best, and inspire many young people to sing, giving them the gift of a lifetime of song."
And that's that. People drop their guards, and from then on the hottub discussions and rooftop jams last into the wee hours of the morning.
Why do I mention this now? Perspective.
As many as ten million viewers watched the show across the US. Yes, only five million watched season three... but wait. Only? That's still FIVE MILLION PEOPLE.
Not to mention all of the viewers of the US Sing-Off across the globe.
And the versions we've mounted in France, the Netherlands, and now China...Ten million watched in the US, with a population of 200 million, and at its peak the Dutch show reached one out of every 8 people in the country. For 3 1/2 months, 1 million Chinese have watched 90 minutes of contemporary a cappella on Saturday nights. How many will want to see more of their local groups? And be inspired to sing?
Twenty years ago no one knew what contemporary a cappella was. As recently as five years ago we were an easy, geeky punchline in American sitcoms. Now Pentatonix just reached 100,000 likes on Facebook, and that's without a single radio hit.
We have long since known that a cappella is something special, but the media were not interested in showing us as we are. Now they have, and the floodgates have opened: new groups, new opportunities, Multiple books coming out this year, and the first feature film.
So, whereas a piece of me is sad that there might not be another domestic Sing-Off, a much larger piece is overjoyed. "The Sing-Off" has been the single most clear, effective, powerful platform, respectfully showing the world what contemporary a cappella is, and what it can be.
Because there's no going back. Our image is now clear. We took control of the meme. Because millions upon millions of people worldwide now love contemporary a cappella.
Because we already won.
[image: Sing-Off China billboard, taken by Pentatonix's Kevin Olusola]