The Voice Audition: A Walkthrough

July 21, 2015

large.b1Ku3pXTRPTdR8gRqMpkLkRM93WNqIyjRhtI4k3pHfkOver this past weekend, I went through the New York City stop of the auditions for the NBC singing show The Voice.  After going through this audition several times already for several seasons, I can honestly give you a step by step breakdown on what you’ll go through when you audition at the Jacob Javits Center, in New York City, which will save you a lot of trouble, if you decide to try, and some emotional healing, if you don’t get chosen.  Some of these you can apply to all other locations as well.

Please note that this audition is conducted very differently than American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and the previously cancelled X-Factor.  Here’s the list of things you’ll need to know.

  • No family members or friends are allowed to be at the audition, for the exception of ONE guardian, if the auditioner is under the age of 18.
    • This is not American Idol callbacks where you see everyone jumping with their family once they get their ticket.  The first audition is only the 1st round.  There will be five or more before the auditioner gets the nod to go to LA, and even in that round, no family.  Also, knowing this, don’t tell your extended family to go 500 miles to the 1st round audition when they won’t be allowed to go in.  Save them the time and air fare.
  • The first round audition is a cappella only.  No exceptions.
    • I’ve seen producers threaten to throw out auditioners that try to plead and/or manipulate the producer to allow them to play their instruments for the audition.  They have 20,000+ people to get through in a weekend and can’t stop and wait for someone to get their instrument tuned and ready to go, even if the musician is already prepped.
  • Don’t get dolled up, they won’t be looking at you.
    • Seriously, I’ve seen women stand in line for the 4 hours (yes, 4 hours) it takes to go through the entire audition process, just to realize upon auditioning, the producer will be focused on a laptop computer screen as they sing.
    • They also won’t take you seriously if you come in a costume.
    • There are no video cameras at this stage of the audition process, but prepare your look for the second day callbacks when you WILL be on camera.
    • At one audition, I saw a woman with no makeup, an ugly sweater, faded jeans, in a pair of tennis shoes get a ticket to the callbacks.  Your tight clothes and obvious lack of underwear will not heighten your chances.
  • In round 1, you will only get a chance to sing 1 verse and 1 chorus, so make it count.
    • Don’t start at the beginning of a song, if the best part of the song doesn’t come until the end.  Start at the middle, if need be, and showcase your talent.
  • This is not a dance audition, so don’t dance.
    • It won’t win you points and it will negatively affect your breathing, which in turn will negatively impact your singing.
  • Have four songs at the ready, and make sure at least two of them have been released within the last year.
    • It’s happened where a producer will request you sing a second song at an audition, if they were not familiar with the first one.  If that’s the case, make sure you have four at the ready.
    • Also, if you make it through the first round, the Wednesday callback requires you to do two songs, with musical accompaniment, and it’s required that they’d be released within the last 2 years.  Remakes don’t count.
  • From the moment you step on to the line, until you leave the audition will be approximately four hours (give or take a half hour – if the auditions had already begun), three and a half of those hours will be spend waiting, with the last half divided between moving on the line, getting your paperwork and bag checked, and sitting in the audition room to sing.
    • So wear comfortable shoes, bring a bottle of water to keep hydrated, bring something to read or a handheld video game console to kill the time, a spare battery charger for your phone and/or gaming device, and wear something comfortable and presentable.  Again, they won’t be looking at you.
  • Do not bring any utility knives or lighters with you.  There’s no smoking in the premises, even if you’re waiting on line outside.
    • Note: If after you’ve checked in you want to go outside for a quick smoke, by leaving that waiting room, you waive the right to audition and will not be allowed back in.
  •  You cannot go to the audition without registering first, so head to the show’s website to register online.
    • There you will be given the details of where, when, and what time your audition will be (yes, there are time slots), and you will need to bring your completed registration form, plus a government issued photo ID (state ID card, drivers license, passport, etc.) before you are allowed to enter the building.
  • If you have a 7AM call time, DO NOT CAMP OUT AT THE VENUE THE NIGHT BEFORE!!!
    • It won’t improve your chances.  It may get you to the front of the line, but as mentioned, if the line is already moving by the time you arrive, it will take you approximately four hours to complete.  It’s not worth an overnight stay on solid concrete in a pup tent.
  • If possible, avoid the 7AM call time.  They never start on time, and if you do decide to go for the 7AM, arrive at 7:45AM or 8AM.
    • They will have several thousands of people with that same call time and it will most likely not start moving until approximately 8AM anyway.  (personal experience, never get there by 7AM)
  • People are going to start singing in the waiting area and try to get you to sing too.  It’s nerves.  Don’t do it.  A lot of times other singers will do this to intimidate the competition, and others will do it because they’re nervous, and the last group will try to get you to sing so you’ll blow your vocal chords before you audition.  Save your voice.


Here’s the quick rundown of the entire process.

  1. Arrive on line outside of the venue so you can be processed to wait inside the venue. (1hr)
  2. Show your registration paperwork with your state issued ID.  Be ushered inside once you are the confirmed auditioner.
  3. Head to the 2nd area to go through security inside the building.  They will check your purse and someone will scan you with a metal detector.
  4. Head to the 3rd area, where you will be placed into different lines to have your paperwork checked-in, scanned, and you sorted.  You will also be given a wrist band to confirm whether you are an auditioner, a minor, or a guardian of an underage auditioner. (10-20 min)
  5. You are send to the seating area where you will be placed in one of the 100 seat blocks. During this time, you’ll be allowed a bathroom break and be given the option to purchase bottles of $1 water for $5.  (2 hrs)
  6. Head to the 4th area, where you will be divided into groups of 10 auditioners and sent to the back of the building, through the office corridors to the meeting rooms (if there’s a small convention going on) or the smaller event rooms (if there’s no convention happening).
  7. Head to area 5, the hall prior to the audition room.  Here you will be lead to the room you will be singing in and the wrist band given to you during your check-in will be cut off.  Your paperwork will be taken by the production assistant and then you wait for the group already inside auditioning to finish before you are lead inside.
  8. Head to area 6: the audition room.  Once the last group leaves and the production assistant inside (who will judge your fate) has gone through everyone’s paperwork, your group will be lead inside and asked to take a seat.  Guardians will be asked to sit separately from their children.
    1. We are greeted by the production assistant who points out the marker in the middle of the room and we are told when our names are called, to walk over to that marker and state the song title we are going to sing and the artist, and are only allowed to sing one verse and one chorus, and if she/he raises their hand, to wrap it up.
    2. The production assistant will either call out a name at random from the filled our forms, or in order – their choice.
    3. Everyone proceeds one at a time to audition.
    4. Once done, the production assistant will call out names of those who will be going to the Wednesday call backs or will be asked to sing a second song before choosing.
    5. Everyone else is kindly dismissed.

End time, 3 hours, 40 minutes.

The Voice S8 Coach Art Horz AdamA few things you should know about who they choose:

  • Some of the best singers you will possibly ever hear in these auditions will NOT be chosen.
    • This may include you, so don’t be offended.
  • All auditions, in every television show isn’t always about talent.
    • All production assistants are told in advance that they are looking for a specific type of performer/vocalist/sound/look by the show runners.  This information is not openly available to the public, nor will it ever be.
  • If rumors be true, half of the production staff are told to say “no” to all their groups, leaving you with a gamble when you go in.
  • At the end of every location, production needs to widdle their chosen group to a magic number, meaning if out of 20,000 auditioners, if 1,000 make it to the callbacks, they will still have to continue to cut that number until they are given the acceptable number, which I presume to be 100-125 per location, but that number is an educated guess.

In my experience, I have heard far too many talented, rare, extraordinary voices get passed up.  One from this recent audition drove down from Rhode Island with her mother and was a trained opera singer and award winner.  Another one was a previously signed recording artist up from Boston, and another was a very talented choir singer from Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, none of us were called.

Post script: two of my fellow auditioners, and the mother of another auditioner came up to me after we were all released, all voicing their stunned disbelief that I was not one of the three auditioners that should have received a callback from our group.  I expressed that it no longer phased me, but graciously thanked them for their approval.

At some point you have to remember, this is television, and producers are going to believe what they believe the television audience wants, and if that means bypassing some serious talent, that’s what they’re going to do, even if it goes against the grain of what their show is supposed to stand for: the voice, and nothing more.

Sincerely,

The New York Comic Con Super Week Live Band Karaoke Champion, 2014
The New York State Women’s Karaoke Champion, for the World Karaoke Championships, 2011
Internet Week New York’s, Tech Karaoke Live Band Challenge Champion, 2010
Best Female Vocals in Hip-Hop/R&B from Garageband.com (7 straight weeks), 2004
The Karaoke Show Champion (directed by Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner for Project 400, Jordan Roth Productions, and Second Generation), 2004