What I do know, however, is what happened after my girlfriend decided she wanted to audition for the show: We traveled over 600 miles from our home in Michigan to the Season 7 auditions in Philadelphia, in an attempt to pursue a low-risk opportunity with a potential for high reward. In this article, I’ll be describing the play-by-play of our four-day adventure, while simultaneously revealing some details that were not explained on the Official American Idol Site.
American Idol splits the audition process into two parts. Part 1 is registration, and Part 2 is the actual audition. Our plan was as follows:
8/24/2007 (Fri) — Cassie’s last day of work at her summer job.
8/25/2007 (Sat) — Fly to Atlantic City. Drive to Philadelphia. Register.
8/26/2007 (Sun) — Relax at my parents’ place in NJ.
8/27/2007 (Mon) — Drive to Philadelphia again. Audition.
Saturday, August 25 2007 (Day of Registration)
3:30am — Alarm sounds from our bedside table
It’s a bit strange when you realize that no matter how early you get up, you’re already late. People who camped overnight are currently standing in line outside of the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. We’re planning on standing in line with them, but at the moment, we’re still in Michigan.
4:30am — Leave for the airport
We prepared everything the night before, but we still got tripped up a little. The pancakes we prepared reheated flawlessly, but we weren’t hungry — too early for breakfast. The directions we prepared were perfect, but we missed our exit twice — too early to follow them correctly. We brought everything that we needed from home, but we managed to leave things in the car when we unloaded at the airport — too early to get everything right.
7:00am — Flight departs from Detroit, MI
The airport staff was clearly used to being up early, as they were much more on the ball than we were. They steered our sleepwalking selves through the check-in, past security, and onto the plane. Someone had stolen my window seat, but I guess the joke was on him — we were in the very last row, where there’s solid wall where you’d expect the window to be.
8:30am — Arrival in Atlantic City, NJ
Since Cassie was able to sleep on the plane, she let me sleep in the car. While I slept, my mother drove us the length of the Atlantic City Expressway, across the Walt Whitman Bridge, and into Philadelphia.
10:00am — Standing in line at the Philadelphia venue
We were dropped off outside of the gate of the Wachovia Center, and hurried to the end of the line. Judging from the amount of trash that was present in the now-empty portions of the line, it was clear that there were thousands of people that spent the night there.
1:00pm — Registration complete
After standing in line for three hours in the sun, we finally entered the venue. Once inside the building, there were probably 20 different very short lines (4-5 people each) to choose from. It took barely 30 seconds for the event staff member to wait on us.
What to expect at Registration: The staff member glances at your two forms of ID, glances at your signed release form, hands you tickets for audition day, and attaches an American Idol band to your wrist. At our venue, those who were auditioning received a blue wristband, while guests received a white wristband. You’re also given a sheet of paper with the following information on it:
**WHEN YOU COME BACK FOR THE AUDITION DAY**
**IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR MONDAY AUGUST 27, 2007**
Now that you have your wristband & ticket, here’s what you need to know for the actual audition day.
LOCATION & TIME: If you have registered, Please come back between 5:00AM & 6:00AM. Be prepared to stay all day. If you have not registered, go to the “Registration Start Here” banner and register.
LINE UP: Start lining up at the “Front of The Line” banner and follow all American Idol Staff instructions. Most of all, be patient.
WHAT TO BRING: Your ticket & wristband intact. DO NOT remove your wristband! DO NOT GET IT WET. You can protect it by carefully covering it in plastic wrap (but not too tight). DO NOT LOSE your ticket. Bring two forms of I.D. If you have your release form, sign it and bring it with you. If you are under the age of 18, you will need to have your legal guardian with you. No children under the age of 5 years are allowed at the audition venues.
RELEASE FORMS: If you downloaded it from the americanidol.com website, sign it and bring it with you. We will have a LIMITED AMOUNT of release forms available. You will need a signed release form in order to audition for American Idol. No exceptions.
SONGS: Be prepared to sing TWO songs of your choice a capella (that means without music and without a microphone). Also, do not ask us what you should sing. That’s your choice.
CROWD SONG: We will also be singing songs as a group. It’s separate from your actual audition song.
ATTIRE: NO LOGOS. Example: NIKE, ABERCROMBIE, OLD NAVY, ROCA WEAR, SPORTS TEAMS, ETC.
ADDITIONAL: We will be doing a number of things in the early morning, inside and outside the stadium that will all be a part of the show. Crowd shots, crowd songs, etc. These are the things you have seen on the show. IT’S IMPORTANT THAT YOU PARTICIPATE. Our cameras are on you all the time, even when you may not realize it. If we ask you to react to the camera, react to the camera. Remember, we start looking for the next American Idol the minute you show up. Last but not least, it is important that you have fun…because we want to have fun too.
CROWD SONG(S): “I LOVE ROCK ‘N ROLL” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.
AUDITION DO’S AND DON’TS
What can I bring with me to the auditions?
The list below is not exhaustive and even if an item is listed below, the producers and security reserve the right to ask you to remove any such items from the venue. Any items you bring with you are your responsibility and all bags are subject to search:
- Bottled water
- Cell phones
- Digital or still cameras (no video cameras)
- Small bags / backpacks
- Small umbrellas (outdoor venues only)
What should I NOT bring with me to the auditions?
The list of prohibited items below is not exhaustive and even if an item is not listed below, the producers and security reserve the right to ask you to remove any such item from the venue. People in possession of prohibited items will be denied admission to the line and to the venue, and may be subject to immediate disqualification. All bags are subject to search.
- Air mattresses
- Alcoholic beverages
- Cans or bottles
- Chairs that do not fold
- Folding chairs
- Hair dryers
- Illegal drugs
- Lawn chairs or chaise lounges
- Luggage / suitcases
- Video cameras or camcorders of any kind
- Weapons of any kind (including pocket knives and all swords, forged or carved, from the middle ages)
- No children under the age of 5 years are allowed at the audition venues
Note: The above information (especially the crowd song) is likely to vary depending on the year and location of your American Idol audition.
With our wristbands attached and tickets in hand, I triumphantly said “That wasn’t so bad of a wait.” At the time, I didn’t realize I was setting myself up to eat those words on audition day.
Sunday, August 26 2007 (Day off)
The Registration process was available throughout the weekend, starting Saturday morning at approximately 8:00am. Since we were able to register for Monday’s auditions on the first day of registration, we had all of Sunday to kill some time in New Jersey. Though I will not give the full play-by-play of our day off, I feel compelled to share at least one photo.
Here I am with a comically large surfboard:
Monday, August 27 2007 (Day of Audition)
3:30am — Alarm sounds from our sofa-bedside table
Another long day begins.
4:30am — Leave for Philadelphia
Cassie needed time to straighten her hair, and I needed time to gather items to “be prepared to stay all day.” We brought a backpack containing books, sunscreen, our IDs, Cassie’s Release Form, and a small cooler bag. Inside the cooler bag were four bottles of water (two were frozen solid), two sandwiches, two apples, and some napkins. We carried our breakfast items separately, expecting to eat them either on the way or once we arrived.
6:00am — Standing in line
It cost $11 to park at the Wachovia Center. I’m happy to report that the parking arrangements were extremely organized, as it only took 20 minutes from the time we got in line on the exit ramp until we parked. By the time we reached the end the line, it had stretched to “Gate 7.” We entered Gate 7, sat down, ate muffins, and drank coffee. The American Idol camera crew was driving around on a little 4×4, creating a perpetual “wave” of people that stood up and cheered whenever the camera was passing by.
9:00am — Entered the building; All food items were confiscated
Once the sun had risen, the event staff was anxious to get people inside. Before each gate opened, an important-looking guy with a megaphone repeatedly announced: “Items not permitted in my building: No cans, no bottles, no food, no cameras with long lenses, no blankets, no chairs, no suitcases, no coolers, no mace. Have all bags ready to be searched at the door. If we catch you sneaking any of these items inside, you will be asked to leave. Dispose of these items before entering, or leave your belongings outside.”
I was aggravated because I wasn’t hungry enough to eat any of the food we had packed, and we had come too far to be turned away for bringing in food. It was clear they weren’t kidding either — people ahead of us were having their water and food removed from their bags and thrown away.
Consequently, we ended up throwing away all of the food in our cooler bag. We found out later the reason they do this is because they want you to pay the outrageous prices for food inside — $7 for a cup of gross fries we barely touched, $7 for five chicken fingers that weren’t much better, $5 for a Pepsi, and $4 for a bottle of water. It was a good strategy because by dinnertime, every concession stand had sold out of food.
9:15am — Located our seats to find people sitting in them
Let it be known that if someone tries to tell you that “they messed up the seating,” they are lying to you. These are line cutters, who will say whatever it takes to get ahead. Find an event staff member, explain that someone is in your seat, and they will be happy to kick them out for you.
9:30am — Filming begins
Once most of the seats in the venue were filled, they filmed dozens of different shots for the show. They had a camera mounted to an enormous arm down on the stadium floor that they used to get 360-degree shots of all 20,000 people present for the Philadelphia auditions.
We had to repeatedly say things on cue as a group, such as: “Sea-son sev-en starts in Phil-a-del-phi-a.” — “Wel-come to the cit-y of bro-ther-ly love.” — “Wel-come to Phil-a-del-phi-a.”
As if getting 20,000 people to say one line together wasn’t difficult enough, we then began to clap and sing together. We sang our group song — the chorus to “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” — over fifty times while the camera spun around and around.
You need to participate. If a producer sees you’re not standing, singing and clapping, he will take the opportunity to thoroughly embarrass you in front of the entire crowd. He will stop filming, single you out in front of everybody (who are already sick of having to sing over and over again), and have the event staff throw you out. Do yourself a favor and just participate.
Once our group song was finally finished, the next shot involved a mystery guest. The instructions were “We’re going to be shooting down this hallway. We need complete silence while this person walks up to the camera, delivers a line, and then we’re gonna pan out and get a complete 360 of everyone standing and cheering.”
The mystery guest was Ryan Seacrest. Apparently he’s the host of the show.
Now, getting 20,000 people to be completely silent while the host of American Idol is within shouting distance is easier said than done. What made it worse was the fact that — like every previous shot — we had to do this shot over and over again until the film crew was satisfied. Consequently, we repeatedly had to wait until every audience member cooperated for the shot.
It went something like: The producer says, “Silence please.” — 20,000 people shush one another for ten seconds. — The producer says, “Complete silence please.” — 10,000 people shush one another for another ten seconds. — The producer says, “Don’t do the shush thing.” — The audience finally achieves something that resembles silence. — The producer waits ten seconds to make sure the silence is being maintained. — Filming begins. — Ryan Seacrest walks down the hallway and delivers his line. — The producer throws his hands up, which is the audience’s cue to stand and cheer while the camera pans around. — The producer says, “Okay we’re gonna do it one more time.”
It went on like that for what seemed like forever. “One more time.” — “One more time.” — “Just one more time.” — “We’re gonna do it just one more time.” — “Just one last time.” — “One more time.” — “Just one more time.” — “One more time.” — Every time he said it, the entire audience groaned.
11:00am — Auditions begin
Five hours after we arrived at the venue, the auditions finally started. The process was quite efficient. With the filming now complete, the event staff removed the camera arm and rolled out gates and tables. There were fifteen tables total, separated by thin black curtains, with a different American Idol producer seated at each one.
Those who were auditioning were called up by section. The event staff asked everyone in the section to have their ticket in their left hand, and their signed release form in their right hand. Different staff people had different tasks. One would confirm your ticket indicated the section currently being auditioned. Another made sure you were wearing a blue wristband. Yet another confirmed your release form was turned to page two and was signed at the bottom. Another took your picture. Another handed you a card that indicated what gallery number your picture would appear in on the Official American Idol Site.
Once you were on the floor, you were lined up in groups of four. When your group reached the front of the line, you were directed to one of the fifteen tables. After the group ahead of you is finished, all four of you approach the table immediately. The producer points to the first person in the group, and that person steps forward to sing.
Auditions typically lasted 10-30 seconds. The moment the producer raises his or her hand in a stopping motion, it means a decision has been made. Whoever is singing must stop, step backward to rejoin the group, while the next person steps forward. Once all four in the group have completed their auditions, one of three things may happen:
Outcome #1 – You’re a “Non-Winner”
Unless the producer tells you otherwise, you do not proceed to the next round. Your wristband is cut by an event staff member, and you’re directed out of the venue. The producers will not explain why you didn’t make it, besides a very generic “Sorry, you’re not what we’re looking for.”
Outcome #2 – You’re a “Winner” who receives a “Golden Ticket”
If the producer believes you could make good television, you receive a yellow sheet of paper with their initials, signature, employee number, or something written on it. I don’t know what’s written on it, I’m only guessing it has something that indicates which producer admitted you to the next round. You’re directed to an event staff member who fills out paperwork with you, and you’re invited to come back to the same venue tomorrow.
Outcome #3 – You’re a “Maybe” who receives a “Green Sheet”
Occasionally, I saw that someone wasn’t immediately dismissed, but wasn’t immediately given a Golden Ticket. Instead, you’re given a green piece of paper, and you’re directed to a head producer who has no table — he walks around behind all of the tables. You’ll sing again for the head producer, and turn over your Green Sheet to him. He looks at it to see which producer gave it to you, and then goes to have a small discussion with that same producer. The head producer tells them whether or not to give you a Golden Ticket.
This took the majority of our day. We watched people audition for 8 hours.
7:00pm — Our section is called for auditions
The words “That wasn’t so bad of a wait” came to mind once the event staff finally called section 108, but I refrained from saying it to avoid being punched in the mouth by my less than patient girlfriend. I chose to say “Break a leg” instead. She made her way through the event staff assembly line and onto the floor.
7:15pm — Cassie sings “Blackbird” by the Beatles
Since those of us with white wristbands weren’t allowed onto the floor, I could only watch Cassie’s audition from a distance. I couldn’t hear her, but I was able to watch. Like everyone in her group, she received about 20 seconds to sing. Also like everyone in her group, her wristband was cut immediately after. With her head still high, she made her way to the exit designated for “Non-Winners.”
7:30pm — Leave the venue
We met again outside, hugged, kissed, and then proceeded to exchange profanities regarding the producer she auditioned for. Unfortunately for Cassie, she auditioned for a particular producer that we noticed was not giving out Golden Tickets to “normal” people. This producer accepted a female duo dressed up as Batgirl and Wonder Woman. He also accepted a drag queen. In other words, this producer seemed to be selecting people who would crash and burn on the blooper reel.
No one will stop you from camping outside of the venue overnight.
Although the Official American Idol Site indicates that “No one will be allowed to line up before 6:00am the first day of registration,” I’m practically certain this is said only to lessen the amount of people who actually will. Local press estimated that 7,000 people were present before the doors opened in Philadelphia on the first day of registration.
American Idol Event Staff has zero tolerance for Line Cutters.
The event staff couldn’t care less about you, even if you’re talented enough to be the next American Idol. If you try to cut in line, your wristband will be cut and security will escort you out of the building. We witnessed it twice.
You put in your time one day or the other.
We only invested three hours on registration day, while others who camped out overnight put in eight or more. On audition day, those who camped out probably left by noon, whereas we stayed until much later. In other words, you put in your time one day or the other — it’s arguable which is the better option.
The rules about the wristband are stupid.
They say not to remove your wristband. They say not to get your wristband wet. They say any attempt to tamper with the wristband will void your eligibility to reenter the venue on audition day. All of this talk is nonsense.
I wanted to go surfing, meaning I’d either have to take my wristband off, get it wet, or tamper with it. I chose the third option, and cut it off. I glued it back together later. The event staff glanced at my “voided” wristband and admitted me without incident. Furthermore, once inside the venue I noticed someone who had clearly taped his wristband back together. I think it’s safe to say the only true requirement regarding your wristband is not to lose it.
It’s not a talent show. It’s a TV show.
Cassie is hands down the best singer I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Every time I hear her sing, I fall in love with her. If she were to make it beyond all of the preliminary cuts and proceed to Hollywood, I imagine she could win the competition and be the next American Idol. Sadly, some producers simply aren’t looking for talented singers with stage presence — they’re looking for people that make entertaining television.
Regardless of this, Cassie’s reasoning was spot on: “I didn’t go into this with unrealistic expectations. I know that most of the people auditioning can sing well. I know that most people get sent home. Out of 20,000 some people, maybe 100 got accepted. My chance of advancing was obviously slim — but if I didn’t audition, I had no chance at all.”
That’s the entire reason for our impromptu trip. It was a low-risk opportunity with a potential for high reward. Though she didn’t make it, she tried, and if she tries again next year, we’ll know exactly what to expect. Hopefully, now you do too.
Update 9-9-2007: A few readers requested that I upload a video of Cassie singing. I have done so in another article — click here to see the video!
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