Simon Cowell is doing the interview rounds today for the American version of "The X Factor," which begins auditions this week by rolling out a never-before-used feature: an audition booth.
The booths, coming to several metro areas around the country in the coming days — including Oak Park Mall on April 15 — will allow contestants who can't make it to one of the live audition sites to try out for the show. They'll sing up to 90 seconds of a song of their choosing, a cappella, and the high-definition video will be saved and reviewed by producers for "X Factor," which arrives this fall on Fox.
I was able to pry a number of details from Cowell about the format of the new show, though that is clearly evolving. He explained why he added a second host to the U.S. version and why he'd like to see contestants performing at the "judges' houses," as they do in the UK version.
And Cowell used Lady Gaga as an example of the kind of talent that "Idol" might have missed and "X Factor" might have picked up on.
That and more in our Q-and-A, which follows. And then read on for more information about how you can audition.
Describe to me this audition booth so I can imagine it in front of me. What does it look like and what does it do?
It’s like magic. You walk in and you’re transformed into a pop star as you walk out. It was shown to me last year. They sent me a DVD presentation and I was just blown away by this thing.
In terms of dimensions I think it’s about 8 to 10 feet square, so it’s quite big. And the technology it has in there, it gives you the chance to record your voice ... It’s just a really, really good audition tape process.
If you’ve never been in a recording studio before they’ve got people there who will help you. It just is very cool. It’s a great chance if you can’t make any of the audition cities, a chance to send your audition tape in and you know it’s going to be great quality.
How will this be different from the video upload auditions you accepted in Series 7 of the UK X Factor?
Very different. A lot of those were done as you would normally see on YouTube — bedroom type auditions, where the sound mix isn’t great. There’s nothing in the background. This can sort of transform you into a pop star, this machine.
How will this audition booth content be integrated into the show. Will it be part of the live audition show?
Yeah, I think so. I haven’t totally decided yet. I want to see what the footage looks like.
The most important reason for doing this is — and this is something we agreed with Pepsi from Day 1 — was how we manage to get as much of America to audition for the show. When you choose the (live audition) cities you’re restricted normally to about seven. So there are always parts of the country that feel a bit left out.
So when this idea was presented to us, we showed it to Fox, we showed it to Pepsi, and they loved it. And then we said to the company, “We’re on.” In fact, we’re trying to make more of them and get them into as many cities as possible to make sure cities like yours are represented in the show.
Do you look at the producer audition tapes before you step into the live auditions? (Cowell watches rehearsals of “Idol” contestants prior to the live shows.)
Never. Obviously the Susan Boyle clip (on “Britain’s Got Talent”) became a huge hit on YouTube. Loads of people asked me, “You must have seen her beforehand, you must have known what was going to happen.” The truth is I’d never met her before in my life. That’s the only way I can actually enjoy the audition is to not know what they’re going to say in advance. I like to be completely naive about it. It makes it more real and more fun for me.
What’s the difference between an auditioner who goes into a room and murders a song in front of four or five people and someone willing to do it in front of 3,000 people at an “X Factor” live audition?
I don’t think they know to be honest with you. That’s the intriguing thing. When you ask people to turn up people have different ideas of what is good. That’s why we always showed the auditions — to show people what I do in my real life. When you show auditions, they are a bizarre thing. But also fascinating.
With Lady Gaga I was thinking the other day, I saw this picture where she showed up somewhere with a lobster on her head. What would we have said three or four years ago if she had walked into “American Idol” dressed like that? I’m not sure that we would’ve totally understood that. Now you’ve got to be way, way, way more open-minded. You’ve got to embrace the madness and the creativity — we’ve got to be way more open-minded than we’ve been in the past. Because we’ve got to encourage people to come with their own ideas.
Simon, I count 33 versions of “The X Factor” in production in various parts of the world. In some countries it’s been very, very big. In other countries it doesn’t quite catch on. What is the X factor that makes “The X Factor” bigger in some places than in others and that you’re looking for in the American version?
I was having this discussion with someone last night, and I mentioned Apple as a really good example of quality. An Apple product in America, England, Germany, wherever, is identical. It has the same standard of excellence. And that’s the reality when you make a show in other territories. It has to be as good as the show it’s originated in.
Sometimes you get bad producers, you get stupid judges, you get terrible contestants. You have to change that. And we are trying. I actually call it the Apple test now. Slowly, I’m going to make that work across the world.
Is that what’s behind deciding to add a second host to the American “X Factor”?
Yeah ... It helps them argue back with us. When you’re one host standing in front of four judges I think it’s intimidating. And there are other parts of the format we’ve decided on that will require two hosts.
Which of the judges on the UK show does L.A. Reid remind you the most of?
No one. L.A. is someone I would’ve loved to work with in the UK, mainly because I have so much respect for him, he’s a lot of fun, he’s got a great personality — and I remember meeting him for the first time and the impact it had on my life. When you got the yes from him it really meant something. When you audition before him you’re going in front of someone who really has turned a lot of people into superstars and genuinely wants to do the same thing on the show.
A couple of housing questions. Are the judges going to rent houses and do some of the performances there? And will there be an “Xtra Factor” shot at the finalists’ house?
My guess is, I like the idea on the British show that we go all over the world because it’s interesting to see the judges in different locations, so I will be pushing for that. As for “The Xtra Factor,” we haven’t decided. I want to do it but I’m not sure if it’s going to be a TV show or whether there will be an online component. Both will work.
Is it fair to say that “X Factor” is a more produced show than “Idol,” and do you think the “X Factor” format has more worldwide potential than “Pop Idol” when all is said and done?
It’s a difficult show to make. We’ve just been talking about some of the components, the judges’ houses, the mentoring elements at the end . It’s why this show essentially replaced “Idol” in the UK. It’s got more depth, I guess; certainly it’s got more variety and less rules.
To be a judge on it, look, it’s a more fun show to be on, which is why I moved from “Idol” to “X Factor” in America. The feedback I had from people who watched it in America was probably the main reason I decided to put it on in the U.S.
You pray that people will like it but whatever you do, you die trying.
Here is the Fox press release announcing the audition booths .“THE X FACTOR” LAUNCHES FIRST-EVER AUDITION STUDIOS ACROSS AMERICA
Hopefuls Can Record and Submit Video Auditions at MyStudio Locations Nationwide
First Audition Studios Open Friday, April 8, in Honolulu and Phoenix; Followed by Studios in Nashville, Anchorage, Kansas City and Denver
Visit www.fox.com/theXfactor for the LatestTHE X FACTOR News and Information
THE X FACTOR, the highly anticipated singing competition series debuting this fall on FOX, extends its auditions further across the country with unprecedented and specially built high-definition recording studios opening Friday, April 8 in Honolulu, HI; and Phoenix, AZ. Additional studios will open in Nashville, TN, on Saturday, April 9; Anchorage, AK, on Tuesday, April 12; Kansas City, KS, on Friday, April 15; and Denver, CO, on Saturday, April 16. The audition studios will remain open until Saturday, April 30.
Throughout the month of April, anyone 12 years old or over – both solo artists and vocal groups – will have the opportunity to use the state-of-the-art studios to audio- and video-record their a cappella audition and state why they think they have what it takes to be a global superstar.
The unprecedented audition studios allow hopefuls the chance to audition for THE X FACTOR if they aren’t able to make it to the open auditions. THE X FACTOR is the first singing competition show to utilize these state-of-the-art recording studios, giving more people the chance to become a global superstar and win a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music.
The hopefuls who recorded in MyStudios that are selected by producers to move forward in the competition will advance to the next round of callbacks and will be offered the opportunity to continue their audition, in person, in Dallas or another audition city as determined by the producers..
“These studios were brought to my attention some months ago, and we think they are brilliant way to audition for those people who haven’t been able to make it to the cities,” said Simon Cowell. “MyStudio has kindly let us use these high-tech studios for THE X FACTOR auditions, which record studio-quality sound and video to make the audition tape, and I’m very excited for anyone who decides to use these to audition.”
Visit www.fox.com/theXfactor or call toll-free 855-345-5678 for eligibility requirements, the latest news on the audition studios and to sign up to receive audition information. All auditioners should go online to confirm eligibility and review THE X FACTOR / MyStudio Audition Video Submission Terms and Conditions.
THE X FACTOR MyStudio audition booths opening dates and locations are as follows:
Honolulu, HI... Friday, April 8.... Pearlridge Center Uptown............98-1005 Moanalua Rd.............Aiea, HI 96701 ............*Located near See’s Candies............Mon-Sat: 10:00 AM-9:00 PM............Sun: 10:00 AM-6:00 PM.....
Phoenix, AZ... Friday, April 8.... Arizona Mills............5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir.............Tempe, AZ 85282*Located near GameWorks............Mon-Sat: 10:00 AM-9:00 PM............Sun: 11:00 AM-6:00 PM
Nashville, TN.... Saturday, April 9...Coolsprings Galleria............1800 Galleria Blvd.............Franklin, TN 37067*Located near Dillard’s............Mon-Sat: 10:00 AM-9:00 PM............Sun: 12:00 PM-6:00 PM
Anchorage, AK... Tuesday, April 12.. Dimond Center............800 E. Dimond Blvd.............Anchorage, AK 99515*Located near Zumiez............Mon-Sat: 10:00 AM-9:00 PM............Sun: 11:00 AM-6:00 PM
Kansas City... Friday, April 15....Oak Park Mall............11149 W. 95th St.............Overland Park, KS 66214*Located near Macy’s............Mon-Sat: 10:00 AM-9:00 PM............Sun: 11:00 AM-6:00 PM
Denver, CO... Saturday, April 16.. Colorado Mills............14500 W. Colfax Ave.............Lakewood, CO 80401*Located near AMC Theatres............Mon-Sat: 10:00 AM-9:00 PM............Sun: 11:00 AM-6:00 PM
In a departure from other singing competition series, the first time a contestant auditions for THE X FACTOR judges, he/she will do so in front of an audience of thousands – raising the stakes and increasing the pressure to impress not only the judges, but also a potential legion of fans. This will be the ultimate test to prove they have the vocal ability, charisma and stage presence that it takes to become a global superstar and win an unprecedented $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music.
Antonio “L.A.” Reid, former Chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group and one of the most influential names in music today, will join Simon Cowell on the THE X FACTOR judging panel. Pepsi will serve as an official sponsor of THE X FACTOR. The comprehensive sponsorship includes an extensive, multi-platform off-air marketing partnership; weekly in-show integrations and placements; and an immersive content experience online.
THE X FACTOR is produced by Syco Television and FremantleMedia North America. Simon Cowell, Rob Wade and Siobhan Greene are executive producers for Syco Television. Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Richard Holloway and Andrew Llinares serve as executive producers for FremantleMedia North America.
About MyStudio® HD Recording StudiosThe award-winning MyStudio is the brain child of technology and entertainment entrepreneur Larry Ryckman. MyStudio is a self-contained, state-of-the-art, audio/video recording studio that offers true professional recording studio-quality audio and HD broadcast-quality video with an ease, economy and convenience never before available. MyStudio eliminates the high cost and technological and logistical barriers inherent in the creation of high-quality online video content thereby opening up a new world of opportunities for the creation of user-generated video content by amateurs and professionals alike.
MyStudio can be used to create videos for music, modeling, comedy, dating, job resumes, auditions, personal messages and greetings. A recording session for up to five minutes costs only $20. Using Hollywood-style green screen technology, MyStudio users can choose from over 1,000 HD virtual backgrounds for their videos or they can upload their own custom backgrounds. In addition, MyStudio offers thousands of licensed karaoke tracks from EMI Music Publishing and Universal Music Publishing and others thereby allowing consumers to legally create music videos for public viewing on-line. Within minutes of recording, videos are automatically uploaded to the MyStudio.net website, which offers free member profile pages and video sharing in a social networking environment. At MyStudio.net, members can enter contests, receive free DVDs of their videos, download MP3 audio files, access embed codes.
MyStudio, Inc., is owned and operated by Studio One Media, Inc. (“Studio One”) (OTC.BB:SOMD).
About “The X Factor”
Since its debut in 2004, “The X Factor” has remained the U.K.’s #1 program for the last seven years, peaking with an audience of 21 million with 65% audience share for its 2010 finale. The format swiftly broke similar records around the world, where local versions have consistently rated #1 in 15 territories, with a worldwide audience now well over 100 million. In Denmark, it has ranked #1 for the last four years, peaking with an 80% share of the audience. In Colombia, it has consistently ranked #1 with a 75% share of the audience. Additionally, “The X Factor” consistently delivers a 50% to 65% share of the viewing audiences in Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, France and Italy – with the highest percentage of these shares in A15-34. In some markets, “The X Factor” has increased the channel average demographic by up to 250%. The series has received numerous honors worldwide, including three BAFTA awards, numerous NTA awards and the coveted Rose d’Or. In the U.K., an unprecedented 1.5 million iTunes downloads were made from “The X Factor” contestant performances in 2010. Globally, more than 100 million records have been sold by artists launched through the series, including over 90 #1 singles and albums and 150 Top Ten records.
About Sony Music Entertainment
Sony Music Entertainment is a global recorded music company with a current roster that includes a broad array of both local artists and international superstars. The company boasts a vast catalog that comprises some of the most important recordings in history. It is home to premier record labels representing music from every genre, including American Recordings, Arista Nashville, Arista Records, Battery Records, Beach Street Records, BNA Records, Columbia Nashville, Columbia Records, Day 1, Epic Records, Essential Records, Flicker Records, J Records, Jive Records, LaFace Records, Legacy Recordings, MASTERWORKS, Polo Grounds, RCA Records, RCA Nashville, RCA Red Seal, RCA Victor, Reunion Records, Roc Nation, Sony Classical, Sony Music Latin, Star Time International, Verity Gospel Music Group, and Volcano Entertainment. Sony Music Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America.
About Syco/Simon Cowell
Syco, with offices in London and Los Angeles, is a global music, television and film production joint venture between Simon Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment. Syco Television owns and produces the BAFTA Award-winning “The X Factor,” which has topped the charts around the world. Syco Television is also the owner of the “Got Talent” television format. Versions of both “The X Factor” and “Got Talent” are co-produced by Syco, and are shown in more than 70 countries and have won multiple awards including national television awards and BAFTAs.
Syco is also the record label home for such diverse international recording stars as Leona Lewis and Il Divo. Cowell has worked with artists selling more than 200 million albums and delivering more than 180 No. 1 records. Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 launched the global singing career of Susan Boyle. Her debut Syco album sold over 8 million units in six weeks, making it the world’s biggest-selling album of 2009 and the fastest-selling album in history and a total of 20 million records to date.
In 2009, Cowell was named No. 1 in Hollywood Reporter’s Top 50 Most Powerful in Reality TV and Entertainment Weekly’s Top Entertainer of the Year. In 2010 Simon Cowell was awarded Variety International’s Humanitarian Award for his extensive charitable work, The Rose d’Or Golden Jubilee Award and BAFTA’s Special Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry and development of new talent. He also appeared on Time Magazine’s list of Most Influential People in the World and was awarded the International Emmy Founders Award.
About FremantleMedia North America
FremantleMedia North America (FMNA) is the U.S. production division of global media giant FremantleMedia. Based in Burbank, California, FMNA produces entertaining and innovative programs for network, cable, syndicated and online platforms, including the Emmy-nominated musical/reality phenomenon AMERICAN IDOL (FOX), “America’s Got Talent” (NBC), “What Chilli Wants” (VH1), “Hole In The Wall” (Cartoon Network), “Jump City: Seattle” (G4), “Let’s Make A Deal” (CBS), “Family Feud” (syn), “The Price Is Right” (CBS) and the much-anticipated THE X FACTOR for Fall 2011.