AUSTIN, Texas -- Music is the heart of SXSW, and while most of us are spectators, some dream of the opportunity to take the big stage at the festival.

Nakia, a local musician, moved to Austin in 2002 kick-starting his career in the "Live Music Capital of the World." 

"It's exhausting it can be physically and mentally exhausting for you,"  he said.

This year marks Nakia's 16th year performing at SXSW.

"I was on Season 1 of The Voice. I was on Team CeeLo [Green] and I was a Top 8 Semi-Finalist,” said Nakia.

Nakia had been singing long before his debut on TV in 2011, but the show catapulted his career. He's now performing across Texas and the country.

"This seems to be this idea that being on a television show is a legitimate path to success and it's not always the case. It's very rarely the case actually," said Nakia.

Nakia created a panel at SXSW to inspire others, but also tell the dirty truth about reality TV. He discussed how his career changed after doing the show, along with other former contestants.

"The rude awakening was during the show when I just realized it was about good TV and not about maybe doing the right thing," said Cas Haley, who was runner up on America's Got Talent Season 2.

Each panelist was a finalist on the top TV signing reality shows. Despite their success, they offered warnings for aspiring singers. 

"Have a plan after you are done, be prepared because you are a character on a TV show," said Blake Lewis, runner up on American Idol Season 6.

Many of them had issues after the show ended and they were stuck in contracts, feeling like they couldn't pursue the music they wanted. Nakia said the panel wasn't meant to discourage, but give all the pros and cons to reality TV, so future contestants can make informed decisions.

"You have to constantly work, you really need the passion for the music you are putting out and your connection to your fans or you're going to burn out," he said.

Finalists on some of the most popular television shows said their biggest grievances were the contracts that each contestant had to sign.