I was expecting larger crowds than American Idol. (Because instead of just singers, there were 5X as many act types.)
Actually, it was much smaller. (Maybe not everyone heard that Simon Cowell would be judging. Or maybe they did hear and got scared off....)
I waited in line for registration, talked to a strange cowboy singer, and a teenaged opera soprano. (Over 90% of the acts are music acts. So maybe the return of Simon had something to do with that.)
You go in with a group of 15-ish acts. 90% of the acts are singers, there might be a comic or a magician. Dancers go to a separate room. So do keyboardists.
When you arrive, you fill out a sheet describing yourself, your act, etc. I think they read that sheet and assign a comedy judge to the group if one member is a comedian, or a magic judge if a group member is a magician.
You watch the other auditions in your group. Many sang. Maybe 25% played guitar and sang. One guy just played guitar. I also think they build up to interesting "human interest" acts towards the end.
I think my group got a judge with a background in magic. I waved my right hand to distract over 95% of the audience, and he was part of the magic elite that automatically looked to my left hand.
My feeling is the judges want you to succeed, but they won't make it easy for you. He did try to "break my act" (or at least hint on my second question that he wouldn't be a pushover) and when I "succeeded" - he tried very hard not to laugh.
My script had 45 seconds of talking, 45 seconds of singing. I improvised an extra 10 seconds of talking (because a previous act provided an irresistable opportunity.) The judge awkward-silence-not-laughing was an extra 20seconds. (My time sense is distorted during a performance, it felt like I was waiting for 2 minutes for him to stop looking down pretending to write on his paper.) I also waited maybe 10 seconds to see if he would "take the bait" for a joke. (He didn't.)
My recommendation is to plan your act so it can be edited down to 90seconds in the show. If you go a bit long, they won't penalize you. But if you were planning to get 5 minutes - you probably will not get that. They do give you an opportunity to show what you can do.
I never know what happens during my performances. I do not think of my next note or lyric, I focus on connecting with the audience.
I felt that connection with the judge during my 45 second talk time. He looked where I wanted, and he tried-hard-not-to-laugh at the punchline.
I don't think my judge was as good at judging music as he was at magic. (I think it's easier to impress live magic judges with your singing. If the magic judge is impressed, they play your video audition for the pure-singing judges. If your live judge is a music expert, they've heard so many singers it's harder to impress them to show the other pure-singing judges your video audition.) But at the end of my song, I sensed he felt that I was "good enough" with my singing. (Of course, when they played my tape for the pure-singing judges, they might have said "Too much emotion and not enough technique!" But hey, I had a judge-in-the-room who was connecting with my emotion-not-technique, so that's why my performance delivered.
For American Idol in Birmingham, I had a group of possibly the best music judges ever. (I think they supplement their standard experts with local experts, and local Birmingham experts must be phenomenal, because the talent there is that good.) I felt the judges noting on their mental clipboards how every measure or two I was auditioning a new technique/idea. That was probably my best technical performance, and my best performance not because my technique was the best, but because I gave the judges what they wanted. There was also a mix of "technique" judges and "emotional" judges, and so my performance delivered both aspects to connect with my entire audience.
For "You're the One that we want" in Chicago, I had good judges, but they didn't note all the techniques I was auditioning. My performance might have been identical, but the connection/success wasn't as good as Birmingham. (It was definitely good enough that I should have gotten to the next round though :)
At the end of my San Jose singing, the judge was impressed. (He didn't say it aloud, but I my Darkwinner-sense told me so.)
So why didn't I advance? It might have been that my performance was (literally) too American Idol for AGT. (I sang my old go-to-for-auditions-song "grapevine" - which always served me well in previous auditions.) It was a "safer" choice, but maybe not what they did not want to replicate Idol for Simon's first season back. (Or maybe they just don't want safe choices - which is why for the next season, I decided to do opera-blues-with-irregular-time-signatures-of-modern-music.)
I auditioned in San Jose as a mix of silly and serious.
I did not get rich and famous.
I will try again for Season 2017.
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