Sebastian, who’s in his second bid on the reality show – his first attempt in 2012’s debut season was dented by the earlier reality TV success of his older brother Guy: “In season one, I kind of feel like it was better TV if I didn’t do well,” he says of the viewer schadenfreude that tainted his experience – is aware the stakes are more skewed than usual.
“There’s that thing of, after a show finishes, contestants can drop off the face of the earth, and the way to not have that happen is to stay relevant by going out and playing shows,” he says. “But with that not being possible, the only real thing you can do is release music. It’s definitely stressful, but you’ve got to find other ways to stay out there.”
Fellow finalist Stellar Perry, 37, says Sunday’s finale – to be broadcast on Nine, the owner of this masthead – will be “bittersweet”.
“I keep thinking about after the show and how people [in previous seasons] would be able to go on tour and book gigs, and we won’t be able to do that. It’s very frustrating that we won’t be able to capitalise on the live performance aspect of things,” she says.
Perry – the oldest competitor in Sunday’s finale, and sporting a chip over countless knockbacks in 20-odd years of attempting to break into the music industry –remains optimistic.
“Definitely we’re at a disadvantage when you put us up against previous years and the opportunities those people had, but I also think it’s one of those things where necessity is the mother of invention,” she says.
“When you’re coming through something like The Voice with such a huge platform, if you can think outside the box you can still make the most of the opportunity. We just have to be inventive coming off the show.”
John O’Donnell, managing director of EMI Australia – the record label obliged to sign the show’s winner – says he doesn’t see the contestants’ post-finale journey being too complicated by the coronavirus disruptions.
“Generally what happens is the winner goes into two or three days of promotion right on the back of winning. It will happen like that again this year, except they’ll be Zooming into various programs [rather than appearing in-person],” he says.
“You could go looking around for some tiny gigs but that’s not really an option, and yet we’re not particularly worried about that,” he adds. “I’d rather we take our time with the artist and get it right, and that’s pretty much how we always operate.”
While the live music sector is suffering, “recorded music has never been healthier”, says O’Donnell.
“We’re not seeing any decline in our business, so overall things are good. Obviously the live scene is very different – and all of our artists play live so I feel for them – but in the recorded music space we need to just jump in and be positive and on the front foot.”
The likelihood of developing a star in the disjointed music industry of the COVID-era, when it couldn’t even manage it across eight seasons of normal circumstances, appears improbable. O’Donnell is aware of such criticisms.
“We all know there’s some stigma around that, but when I look at this year’s finalists all I can see are positives,” he says. “It’s a particularly rich crop, with the ability to work both short-term and long-term… I haven’t felt this strongly about the finalists in, maybe ever.”
O’Donnell singles out 18-year-old finalist Siala Robson – a magnetic, if intensely raw, performer who’s brought a unique edge to this year’s season – as an “obvious” talent.
“I look at Siala and go, ‘That’s an original artist.’ She’s already written a lot of stuff, I’ve heard a bunch of that stuff and it’s really strong, so you can see a path forward for her that’s reasonably obvious,” says O’Donnell.
“With the other three I think we’ll need to get inside their heads a bit more to see what kind of music they really want to make and what could resonate with the public. But they’re all exciting options.”
As a final wrinkle, the COVID disruptions mean for the first time in the show’s history there’ll be no live final, with Sunday’s finale shot ahead of time with four different possible endings depending on viewers’ votes.
If not ideal it’s a near-miracle the season was completed at all, says the show’s executive producer, ITV’s Chloe Baker.
“It’s been challenging but thinking about everything we’ve had to go through in terms of Kelly Rowland and Boy George being remote, social distancing and all that stuff, it really feels like we’ve made history. There’ll never be another season of The Voice like this,” says Baker.
“The positive part about the [pre-taped] finale is the contestants get to sit at home and share it with their loved ones, whereas, because of COVID, if they had been in the studio they would’ve had to socially-distance from everyone – even as the pyro’s going off and the glitter cannons and you’re being told you’ve won The Voice.”
The Voice finale airs on Nine, the owner of this masthead, on Sunday at 7pm.
Robert Moran is a culture reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age