For millions of people around the world, making the finals of a TV talent contest represents the achievement of a lifetime ambition.
Getting the chance to sing, dance, tell jokes or perform a novelty act on live television is something most ordinary folk can only dream about.
And actually winning the competition? Well that takes things to a whole different level.The prospect of instant stardom awaits, with fame, money, adoration and a sell-out tour thrown in to the bargain.
Winning should mark the arrival of a new global megastar, but as history suggests, nothing can be taken for granted in the fame game.
Becoming 'the next big thing'Singer James Arthur recently saw off a host of talented acts to win UK's The X Factor, and with his debut single out now, a number one single an almost-certainty.
But once the hysteria dies down, and the next televised contest comes along, things may get an awful lot tougher for Britain's latest star.For every Leona Lewis there is a Leon Jackson… and a Joe McElderry… and a Steve Brookstein. Winners one and all, but can you remember any of their songs? Or even what they look like?
Today's hero, tomorrow's zero
It's the same story on American Idol - viewers vote in their millions during the live shows, but forget about their once-loved favorite within a matter of weeks.
Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have become megastars after winning the US show, but unfortunately the guys have fared less well.Indeed the first five male victors were dumped by their record labels within a few years.
This is the fickle nature of fame in a nutshell - the first place to look for the likes of Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen and David Cook is on the musical scrapheap.
But what about the ones who didn’t win?
With career longevity eluding many of the talent show winners, you'd assume that the runners-up have even less chance of making their mark in the industry.
But you'd be wrong. Take Susan Boyle for instance - the break-out star of Britain's Got Talent. She may have become a global celebrity, but a talent show winner she certainly isn't.The same goes for Saudi housewife Hissa Hilal, who gained worldwide fame for her performances on UAE's Million's Poet. First prize also eluded her grasp.
And what about One Direction, arguably the biggest boyband on the planet right now. It's hard to believe that, in 2010, the UK's teenage girls voted for Matt Cardle instead.
No formula for successIn most cases, it takes a lot more than raw talent to have a successful career as a performer.
Developing the right public image and cannily marketing your act are as important as artistry and endeavor, and however good you are, timing and good fortune always have a role to play.
Once the credits roll and the talent contest ends, things can easily go either way. The overnight sensation becomes a global star, or is quickly consigned to the annals of history.
The more rounded artists - those who create their own work - stand the best chance of success, with the 'jukebox' or 'karaoke' performers particularly vulnerable.Remember, there's always another new star ready to steal your limelight, media attention and fanbase.
Overnight fame or the long road to success?
Talent shows can offer instant celebrity, but for all too many great acts, this fame is fleeting.
Some thrive and go on to greater things, but many more are treated as a 'throwaway' commodity - with their chance of fame cruelly snatched away.But is it better to be a fallen idol than a never-was? Or should talented acts steer clear of the talent shows and seek an opportunity off their own back?