There’s a good chance the next American Idol could be sitting in their living room right now. They’ll probably be sitting there for a while, as the coronavirus pandemic has upended the long-running singing competition show’s usual search process — and its online alternative begins this week.
“Idol Across America,” the show’s virtual nationwide search for talent for its upcoming season, started on Aug. 10. Washington state residents wanting to audition can sign up for an Aug. 14 live virtual audition slot at abc.com/shows/american-idol/auditions.
The auditions are for the show’s 19th season, which is expected to air on ABC sometime in 2021.
Longtime “American Idol” producer Patrick Flynn said Washington typically has a solid turnout, but the move to digital auditions will hopefully bolster turnout from those in states that typically haven’t been included in the show.
“It’s not about getting a thousand people,” he said. “We need one person, but what we need is the people that want to try out and that this is their dream. We want to make sure that we have made ourselves as accessible as possible.”
While Wi-Fi accessibility is an issue for some, Flynn said the availability of the Zoom app across web and mobile devices helps to expand the auditions.
When talking with Zoom about how to best use the video conference service to develop their digital auditions, Flynn said he showed employees an old picture of the process in New Orleans: a big crowd sitting in arena stands, a line from the crowd extending to 10 tables that each had a contestant and a producer.
That’s what their Zoom strategy has been designed to re-create, with a large general waiting room that contestants join at the beginning of their hour slot and smaller breakout rooms for contestants to speak with and perform for producers.
Preparations for the upcoming season’s auditions started in June, after the conclusion of last year’s season, which saw singers being sent home from working with vocal coaches in Los Angeles in mid-March and the rest of the season recorded remotely.
Flynn said the biggest lesson learned from last season heading into the digital auditions was the importance of having the details together, be it fixing lighting or helping people adjust their audio quality over a video call and without having access to the actual equipment.
“Patience has never been more important doing these kinds of shows,” he said.