Letâ€™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 donâ€™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 â€œÂ£1 million recording dealâ€, recent information about the contract has surfaced that shows â€œthe victor may only receive Â£1 million after at least four albumsâ€ (note the â€˜mayâ€™ and â€˜at leastâ€™; weâ€™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 canâ€™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 â€œfour albumsâ€ odds gives total odds â€“ of entering the X-Factor, winning and becoming a millionaire because of it â€“ of about 1 in 220,000.
The chances of winning the lottery (with average jackpot winnings of Â£2,053,984) is 1 in 13,983,816. You would therefore need to buy Â£64 of tickets for a slightly better chance of winning the jackpot than becoming a millionaire through winning the X-Factor. Â£64 may seem like a lot, but probably doesnâ€™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, youâ€™d also get a much higher percentage of earnings, wouldnâ€™t be locked into a lengthy contract, and wouldnâ€™t suffer from the stigma of being a reality star winner. So youâ€™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.