Last year, NBC gambled on a reality show about contemporary a cappella and it paid off: "The Sing-Off" was the highest rated new unscripted show on television last year.
So it's back, and auditions will be:
New York: May 22
Nashville: May 29
Chicago: May 31
Los Angeles: June 5
For more information, visit the web site: www.singoffcasting.com
There's some preliminary information there, and more will be posted as it's finalized.
To answer some obvious questions:
We're looking for 12 groups (up from 8 last year).
Looks like it'll be airing on NBC during prime time in November (a sweeps month - they're taking it very seriously!), but to accommodate college groups it'll tape in the summer, from late July to early September during which time it'll reduce to 3 finalists who will head home and return for a the live finale in December.
The website says groups should be 4-12, but don't let that keep you from coming. If you're interested and have fewer or more members, please audition, and if everyone loves you we'll figure it out.
That's all straightforward. But what are we REALLY looking for?
Be yourselves. I'm putting this first because it's central to your success. Unless you're brilliant actors all, it's not going to work for you to re-imagine your group and your personalities through some assumption of what we want. We want talent and we want variety. It's that simple. If you're young, be young. If you're old, be old. If you're overweight and one of your members is 7 feet tall and you usually yodel, then embrace being the big and tall men's yodelers. You have to be comfortable in your skin or else you'll never translate well on camera.
Know and show your style. The show is a popular music show, and every group will be singing popular music from the past 40 years, but they'll be singing it from their own stylistic perspective. Maxx Factor sang with a Sweet Adelines sensibility, and Voices of Lee kept their choral jazz sound. Make sure one of your songs is your very best song and it shows of the core of your style.
You're being asked to bring 3 songs, and 2 of them need to be well known pop/rock covers. Choose wisely. Pick songs that will allow you to show off your style and play up the benefits of that style. If you ring a lot of chords, pick a song that will allow you to do that: perhaps a ballad instead of a fast rock tune. The show will be presenting all of the groups with various challenges, and we need to know that you understand your sound and can make it work with current repertoire.
Feature your absolute best soloist(s). A cappella is often about equality and equanimity, but television is about ratings and stars. Do not be shy about picking your very best soloist to sing your audition songs, as a soloist is the focal point of your group, and there's no way you'll be chosen for the show without at least one stellar lead singer. I don't mean to sound crass when I say this - I'm a firm believer in every group spreading around the love and the solos during their shows - but when you have 90 seconds in front of 7 million people, you absolutely have to put your best foot forward.
Pull out all the stops. You have flashy outfits? Wear 'em. You do choreography? Bring da funk along with da noise. If you don't do choreography and wear street clothes, that's OK too. Above all, be yourselves. But if you do have a song with some flashy moves, get it ready, as the visual aspect of performance on television is important.
Weave in your specialties. If you've got a great vocal harmonica sound, or one of your members can do a standing backflip, by all means toss it in, provided it's not out of place. Give us all ya got.
Arrangers: you can be clever, but don't be too clever. People like a good melody, and they like harmony, and they like a clever quote or countermelody woven in. But they don't care about the carefully interwoven b9s and tritone substitutions as much as they care about a great performance and a great sound. Don't make things too technically challenging such that you can't move and you can't smile and you can't emote. Not worth it.
Know your story. Story? Well, yes, you have a story, or at least you will if you make it on the show. What makes you different, unique, interesting? What would people want to know about your group, your journey, your backgrounds? Reality television is about drama, and there's very little time to give the audience a long time to get to know you, so the "packages" for each group cut to the chase. Why should people root for your group? Think about it.
Say something. Know the message of your songs, and reflect that. If it's a happy, upbeat song, spread joy. If it's a heartfelt ballad, move us to tears. I'd far rather have an emotionally powerful yet imperfect group on the air than a group that's technically perfect but dull. We can work on tuning but we can't manufacture sincerity and a powerful emotional delivery. Don't lose the heart in a quest for precision.
If any of this doesn't make sense or you'd like to revisit the show, you can find episodes up on hulu.com or nbc.com free of charge. I don't say this because I want you to copy what the other groups have done. Far from it. I suggest you go back and look at the show to get a better understanding of what works on television, and what we'll be looking for to ensure season two tops season one.
Questions? Fire away. I have no secrets, and I want to help every single group be the best they can be so that we can have an amazing, world-class dozen groups to populate these hour-long infomercials for a cappella!