August 27, 2012

Basic Audition Q&A

[UPDATED:  July 3, 2013]

Here are some commonly asked questions that I've seen around the discussions boards regarding SM Entertainment auditions (in person, online, e-mail).
For more answers:

Q:  I'm ____ (not Korean).  Can I audition?  What are my chances?
A:  Yes.  SM's website states that they accept any applicant regardless of gender, race, or age.
However, also keep in mind that you are auditioning for a Korean company whose target audience is Koreans.  Marketability comes into play here.  The more talent you have, the less looks matter.
If you are auditioning based on your talent and desire, go for it.  You never know, especially with the globalization of K-Pop thanks to PSY.  However, if you're auditioning based on looks and mediocre or no talent, you have an extremely small chance.

Q:  I'm ___ inches/centimeters tall.  Is this okay?
A:  Yes.  This doesn't usually matter, but if it matters that much to you, Koreans seem to be about 5' 3" on average (women).  Taller is better, but height won't matter if you have talent.
Source:  Personal experience standing next to random people in Seoul.

Q:  If I am asked to Korea, will they pay for my plane ticket?
A:  No.  I feel that this is a way of testing how badly you want to be a Korean idol.  Are you willing to put down $3000 to visit Korea for the chance you might join the industry and follow your dreams?
(UPDATE:  I have been seeing from certain sources that they might pay for a plane ticket if they have truck loads of faith in your talent.  I can see this is you're the next BoA, but DON'T COUNT ON IT.  Unless you know you're talented enough to make BoA look like a beginning dance student and have an impressive resume, assume my original answer.)
Source:  soompi

Q:  What's the best way to contact them if I can't make it to the live auditions?
A:  Email.  everysing is more for contests as SM likes to keep any potential trainees hidden from the public.

Q:  I'm not skinny.  Do they care? / Will they consider me?
Yes.  Keep in mind that your level of talent will determine how much they take your physical appearance into consideration.  If you're fantastic, they'll probably think it's worth the time and money to get you into "idol-shape".

Q:  Do I have to dance?
Eventually, yes.  SM is a dancing company - they focus on dancing.
Weekly and Monthly Auditions will require you to dance at the audition while Global will not.  Even soloists will have to be able to dance (or, the exception, play an instrument like TRAX or J-Min).  BoA and even Zhang Liyin (she was considered for Girls' Generation) dance.
[UPDATE - With the new format of Weekly and Monthly Auditions, you areno longer required to dance on your initial audition.  However, do expect to be tested on your rhythm ability later on if you make it through that audition.]

Q:  Does SM pay you to be a trainee?
No.  Think of it like going to boarding school on a scholarship or as an internship.  They are paying FOR your training and accommodations  so why would they pay you?  They do give you a weekly allowance of about $20.

Q:  My country doesn't have live auditions.  Will they see my online audition?  (Or:  I don't live close to the life auditions.  Will they see my online audition?)
A:  Yes, but I strongly encourage saving up to attend a live audition.  They do see online auditions, but you are usually directed to a live Audition in the end.

Q:  I heard SM Entertainment is 80% looks and 20% talent.  Is this true?
A:  Yes and no.  This is the entertainment industry and you are going to be the product that the company sells.  In this industry, looks matter.
However, charisma and stage presence is also extremely important and I believe this ties into the "looks" assertion.

Q:  I'm __ years old.  Am I too young/old?
A:  Maybe?  SM Entertainment's Youth Star Auditions were open to those born between 1992 to 2003  (as of Aug 2012).  That would mean they would accept those between the ages of 9 to 20.  If you're older than 20, than they loose interest in you because they think you're "too old" to train and debut.
Technically though they accept anyone of any age.
Source:  soompi

Q:  I want to be a singer but my parents don't approve/won't allow it.  Help!
A:  If you're younger than 16, sorry, but you're stuck.  If you're 16 or older, you may be able to strike a deal with them.  Being a singer is a shaky future at best.  Promising to stay on an academic course while they let you pursue your dreams might move them.  Also, completing an online audition might help your case.  SM's response could help you gauge how much you want to push the issue.
Source:  엘라동생의 struggle to get her parents to take her to the Youth Star Auditions.  She eventually got to go!

Q:  I got an e-mail back!  Do they want me?? / It's been ___ (amount of time), when will I get a reply?
A:  No e-mail after roughly 45 days means they aren't interested.  No, your audition didn't get lost and they aren't hanging onto it secretly because you're so good.  Just accept you didn't make the cut, improve, and try again.
SM's website even states that only those who qualify will be notified.  No e-mail = no qualification.
      An e-mail directing you to a Global Audition or Weekly Audition means they're interested and are interested in seeing you improve.
      An e-mail asking for more information, talent clips, etc. means they are VERY interested in you.
      An e-mail asking to arrange for a meeting with an SM Entertainment representative means they are seriously interested in you.
It's highly improbable that you would be selected from an online audition alone.  I've never heard of it, but anything's possible.
Source:  Personal Experience
Source:  Yahoo! Answers

Q:  How long does it take for them to reply to emails?  AND:  Do they check their email?
A:  Yes, SM checks their email.  If they are interested in you, they will try and get back to you within 2-4 weeks (longer if Youth Star or Global Auditions are going on).  However, like I said before, SM's website even states that only those who qualify will be notified.  No e-mail = no qualification.  [I'm not trying to be harsh, but this is what the company says.]
I would suggest waiting at least a month for a reply.  If a month passes without a response, assume you did not pass.

Q:  Can audition with both email and online?
A:  Please only audition with one medium at a time.  If you do email auditions, you should not do online auditions unless it's been about 3-6 months since you last send SM an audition (or visited a live audition) and you show significant improvement from your last audition.  A ton of duplicate auditions or low-quality auditions are just wasting your time and SM's.

Q:  How frequently can I audition?
A:  As frequently as you would like.  I would suggest waiting 3-6 months and vocal/dance lessons (and lots of practice!) before auditioning again.  Sending auditions too frequently might get you onto SM's spam list.

Q:  What's a good audition song?
A:  A good audition song is one that showcases your vocal ability.  If you're an alto or tenner, don't sing "The Phantom of the Opera."  If you can't rap, don't do B.A.P.'s "No Mercy."  Make sure you can sing the song multiple times with the same consistency.  If you can't always hit the high notes in IU's "좋은 날 (Good Day)," don't audition with it.
If you have good pronunciation, I strongly suggest singing in Korean.  You are, after all, auditioning for a company that will have you singing in Korean.  But definitely sing something you are comfortable singing.
Also, avoid singing anything from SM Entertainment unless you think you can sing it better than the original singer.  The judges from SM Entertainment are probably very knowledgable about the songs from their company, especially the well-known ones, and very sick of them.
Lastly, and most importantly, do NOT default to "America the Beautiful" or "The Star Spangled Banner."  Duh.  This is a Korean company.

Q:  How many audition songs should I prepare?
A:  At least three.  If you apply via e-mail, I suggest doing 2-3 30-60 second clips of the songs' climax. For a live audition, I'd know at least three songs of varying genres and tempos with at least one being in Korean.

Warning:  Know that if you send in anything to SM, it becomes their property.  They can and (usually) will put it up on their YouTube (or on everysing) if you do not pass the audition.  There is no way to remove the videos.  You can try to email SM and ask them to remove the video, but SM rarely if ever complies.  Please TRIPLE check your video before submitting it.  If you think you'll want to take it down DON'T SEND IT.

Q:  I don't speak Korean.  Will they teach me??
A:  Yes!  f(x)'s Amber and Victoria, EXO-M's Kris, Lay, and Tao, and Super Junior-M's Henry and ZhouMi didn't know any Korean when they auditioned.

Q:  I can speak _____ (languages) fluently.  But I know a little bit of ____ (language) like greetings, the basics, etc.  Does this help me?
A:  Only later, once they are seriously considering the possibility of signing you on as a trainee.  If you are anything short of fluent, be VERY honest about your level of fluency.  I gauge myself on a self-made scale of Fluent, Competent, Knowledgable, Progressing, Survival, Poor, and Shitty.

Fluent:  I can understand and comprehend the language fully.
Competent:  I can understand and comprehend the language in most situations.
Knowledgable:  I can understand and comprehend the language in common situations and conversations.
Progressing:  I can usually understand and comprehend the language in common situations and conversations.
Survival:  I can sometimes understand and comprehend the language in common situation and conversations.
Poor:  I can understand basic phrases, greetings, words and simple sentence structures.  I don't understand or comprehend most situations.
Shitty:  I can understand basic greetings and words.  I don't understand or comprehend the language.

Example:  I am Fluent in English, Progressing in Korean, Surviving Modern Standard Chinese (Mandarin), Poor in German, and Shitty in French and Japanese.
I think that most people leave the 4 years of high school Spanish, French, and German at the Poor to Progressing level (unless you had a phenomenal teacher or an intensive class...) and most people leave college at the Survival to Competent Level.

Q:  Can I audition with a group?
A:  No.  According to their website, SM no longer allows group auditions.

There will be more to come!

For more answers:
Update:  Oct. 20th, 2014
[1] Updated with more current information.