How to Plan for An American Idol Audition (Experience and Advice)

Since I wrote my scathing memoir about the “audition process” for Last Comic Standing, people have been pinging me to know if American Idol is any different. I auditioned in 2009 and wrote up the experience long before I started this blog, so I’ll repost that here in its entirety. Before I do though, I’ll write a quick blurb of advice since 2011 auditions start this morning in Nashville, TN. For the first time, contestants as young as 15 are being allowed in, so parents may be looking for advice on how to plan the day:

The difference between American Idol and Last Comic Standing, is that Last Comic Standing auditions are totally fake, wheras American Idol actually cares about fairness. They don’t care if you die of heat stroke, but they will give you a shot. It is almost worth going for the experience. I do believe that if a person can really, really, really impress a judge they can move on. The percentage of people that move on from the cattle call is less than 0.25%, and I’d have to think that most of those are ass-hat material. They really will give every single person in the stadium a chance to sing, and they will do it as efficiently as they can. That said, it is still an absolutely brutal process and will take up 4-16 hours of your day depending on how gullible you are and where your assigned seat is within the stadium.

Do you really have to show up at 5am to audition for American Idol? No. Rest assured that you do NOT need to show up at dawn, you do NOT need to be there before the stadium opens, and you do NOT need to learn the “group song.” Sleep in, rest up, wear sunscreen. The early call time only serves the purpose of letting cameras capture B-roll footage of a large crowd. Even if you are first in line, you can arrive at the stadium at 10am without missing your slot. That is when the auditions actually start. The later you sign up, the later you sing. So if you’re near the end, you can show up even later. That’s the most advice I can give an aspiring American Idol singer. Try to find out where your seat is in the stadium and how it relates to the “start” of the line, then plan accordingly. The AI staff won’t tell you when you’ll sing your 30 seconds because they want a full stadium for the crowd shots.

Feel free to leave any questions as comments, and I’ll be sure to answer them. Now without further ado, my original story from the summer of 2009:

Auditioning for American Idol
By Rhune Kincaid
2009-07-23

I woke up at four o’clock in the morning to drive to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California to audition for the 9th season American Idol. Then I sat in line for about three hours. Do you know why I had to wait that long? It was so they could get shots of people waiting to get in. Here is a secret about the part of a reality show where you see people lined up at Dawn O’Clock: Those people don’t want to be there. They don’t need to be there. They aren’t happy to be there, and they aren’t there because they are excited to get in early. They are there because they got tricked into thinking they needed to show up early.

Finally, we filled up a quarter of the stadium. It takes very little effort for people to trickle in and fill the entire Rose Bowl for a football game, but filling a quarter of it is rocket science for American Idol. An hour after the line started to move, I got to my seat and the usher demanded that I stop so she could help me find it. I stood there, annoyed, silent and slack jawed with a look on my face that said, “Do I look like the kind of person who needs help finding his seat in a football stadium?” The usher mistook my disbelief for something else and said, “You know how to count, right?” I don’t want to type what the look on my face said after that, but it wasn’t nice. Then I sat while everyone else sang together to turn a pop song into a sea chantey. Then there was some more rocket science involving an American flag, but I don’t know what was going on, because it wasn’t in my section. It was some nefarious business that involved way too many megaphones.

Then they told us the order we would be auditioning in, at which point, I realized there was no reason for me to be there any earlier than three o’clock in the afternoon. The paperwork had made it sound like showing up at dawn was mandatory, but around noon, the people sitting next to me showed up, plopped down and said, “Did we miss anything?” You only missed the sea chantey.

After about four more hours of blazing sun, I got to go down on the field and sing for some 20-year old judge in a tent. I warbled out thirty seconds of “Easy” by the Commodores and finally got to go home. I was pretty relieved about it. I didn’t really want to pass at that point, I just wanted to go home. Sleep deprivation, heat stroke and 11,000 of the most naive suckers you’ve ever sat next to in your life will do that to you. I’d say that you can count me out for future auditions, but I’m already disqualified due to my advanced age of twenty-nine.


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One Response to “How to Plan for An American Idol Audition (Experience and Advice)”


  • Comment from jeanne schipelliti

    Liked your article. I’m a parent coming from Manchester going to Houston audition. After Aug 26th audition can I book my flight home or is there more if my girl passes onto the next round? Does AI pay for airfare for other rounds?


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