Do you know how to give a great audition? Whether it’s for a label, American Idol, a musical or a touring sideman gig, you have to give someone an amazing experience--—plain and simple. Recently, I sat with the top names in the entertainment industry and auditioned artists for a big project I am developing. It was amazing to see the talented artists who came through the door, yet they did not get called back. Yes, they were talented but they did not leave a lasting impression on us. Of course there were those who left an impression, but they didn’t fit what we were looking for. Then there were those who had the look and the talent and yet didn’t deliver in a manner that made us call them back.
While the following tips are primarily for singers, musicians looking for a sideman gig should also take note.
By Jonathan George
1. Song choice, song choice, song choice!!!! I can’t express this enough! If you’re a singer, pick something that shows your voice, but make sure it is within your ability. If you don’t believe me, just watch an episode of American Idol. It’s not rocket science, but it can be a challenge. You want to find something that shows the “sweet spots” of your voice. Make sure you’re not reaching too hard. It is never attractive to watch someone looking like they’re in pain. Find a song that doesn’t have “musical pauses.” You want something that moves, even if it’s a ballad. Pick the best 16 bars, which is usually the chorus or bridge into the chorus and only sing that much. Let the song show your personality. Always be prepared with song choice two and three.
2. Be real. You are being watched at all times. In the parking lot, when you are in the lobby, when you enter and when you leave the room. Bring your personality. That doesn’t mean being over the top and awkward. Just be charming and REAL. If you were to walk into a party, how would you react to the people around you? If you are not able to look people in the eye and be warm and inviting, then you need to get in some people-skill classes. Think about it––what draws you to someone when you first meet? Try to embody those same qualities that draw you to people. Remember, a smile brightens the entire room. There is never a reason to go shake hands––a smile and a “Hello, how are you” works fine. Maybe you can think of something else that fits your personality. Just remember to be warm and genuine, and you will be fine!
3. Don’t stare! Who are you supposed to look at when auditioning? I have been on both sides of the auditioning table, and it can be weird for both parties. Think of it as a conversation––it will take the awkwardness out of things. Eye contact is great, but a stare-down is just plain unnatural. On the other hand, it is weird, at least for me, when someone sings to the wall above me. I just want you to be comfortable so that I, in turn, am comfortable. Also, remember that you are performing! How would you perform for a thousand people? Deliver in that manner.
4. Leave us wanting more! As a golden rule: less is more. Keep it simple. Sing the best 16 bars. After the first few lyrics out of your mouth, I can tell if you are what I’m looking for. Put yourself on the other side of the table––can you imagine listening to 100 people sing? You definitely don’t want to hear them sing a full song. It is unnecessary, and it leaves too much room for mistakes. Personally, if I want to hear more, I will bring you back or I will ask you to sing something else. That is why you need to always have several choices ready to go.
One of my dear friends, who is a major director for concert tours, says to herself all the time, “Keep it simple stupid!” If you will live by this rule, you will be better off. Of course, there are always those situations where people do crazy things to get noticed. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t need a gimmick to get my attention, but there are some that get into that kind of thing. Do research on who’s auditioning you––the internet is your best friend.
5. Look great! You need to always be properly groomed and look amazing, H to T (head to toe). If you assume that the people auditioning you will not notice the smallest details, you’re sadly mistaken. Vincent Herbert (Lady Gaga, JoJo) likes to see manicured feet and hands. He will notice if you walk in with half-painted toe-nails or dirt under your finger nails. You don’t want to gross him out before you even start your label meeting! I cannot express enough how important grooming is. Also, wear something that is flattering on you and shows your personality.
6. Know exactly what and who you are auditioning for. If it is a label meeting, come in as an artist. If it is for a High School Musical tour, dress young and hip. Do your research! If you are not good with fashion, have someone whose style you admire help you pick out an outfit. Never forget that your image and presentation carry a huge weight and speak so much about you.
7. Enjoy yourself! Don’t allow the cut-throat competition aspect of the audition process to stress you out. Remember to always be yourself and genuinely enjoy what you do!
miniBIO: Jonathan George, the founder of JG Entertainment, is an artist development coach with over 25 years of experience as a performer, songwriter and artist consultant. He is the Grand Champion on Ed McMahon’s Next Big Star, and has been a mentor to artists such as the Pussycat Dolls, artists on American Idol, Canadian Idol, America’s Got Talent, Dance Wars and many more. Contact him via jonathangeorge.biz.