July 22, 2013

Tell Me Your Wish...Er...Questions. (소원을 말해봐...아...대답): Commonly Asked Questions

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Live Auditions
Q:  What is the best way to contact [SM] if you want to audition but cannot make it to a live audition?
A:  Email!
Explanation:  You don't have to worry about sending in a USB or CD/DVD that will get broken in the mail.  Email auditions are much more reliable than the everysing auditions in terms of getting a reply. It's also free!  If you send it through snail mail, you have to pay for postage.

Q:  Do I have to dance?
A:  If you want to be seriously considered as an idol, yes.
Explanation:  The dance portion is optional, but all idols must be able to dance.  Even the more vocally focused hopefuls on K-Pop Star are sometimes asked to dance.  Unless you are the world's next Aretha Franklin, you should dance.

Q:  I am just auditioning for Singing.  Do I need to include a dancing clip?
A:  You are not required to, but it is in your best interest.  SM isn't know for its abundance of soloists, and even their soloists can dance!  Zhang Liyin was a former candidate for SNSD (so she was trained in dancing as well as singing), Kangta was a former member of H.O.T., and BoA, of course, is known as a dancing machine.

Q:  I am just auditioning for Acting (or Modeling, or VJing).  Do I need to include a dancing and/or singing clip?
A:  No.  You just need a clip of your talent.

Q:  Should I accompany myself with a guitar/piano/violin/etc.?
A:  No.  They don't have pianos available at either location.  Also with the amount of waiting and how little time the judges give you, it's not worth it to bring an instrument along.

Q:  Can I dance and sing at the same time?
A:  No.

Q:  What can I do so I'm not as stiff as a tree?
A:  Well, they ask you to focus on the camera and not the judge.  Ham it up!  Work the camera with your charisma and gestures that emphasize the lyrics of the song you're singing.

Q:  How long does it take for them to respond?
A:  SM says they will hand out results within a month.  However, this is only if you hold any interest for them.  I auditioned on May 11, 2013 and I still haven't gotten an email.  After one and a half months, you can safely assume you did not pass and can begin practicing again.

Q:  I applied for Globals/Youth Star twice (third, etc.) and I'm scared that I'll be banned.
A:  Unless they check closely, you should be okay.  However, I would refrain from sending SM any sort of audition email for the audition for that year (for example, if you send two emails for the 2012 Globals, don't try for the Globals until 2013).

Q:  I don't speak Korean.  What will I do at auditions?
A:  Unless you speak basic Korean, I suggest auditioning in LA unless Seoul is considerably closer to where you live.  There will someone who speaks English (almost) all the time at the LA auditions, but there is only a translator present for the application process at the Seoul auditions.

Q:  Do I have to email first before going to a live audition or is it walk-in?
A:  Depends on your audition.  Seoul Weekly Auditions and LA and Japan Monthly Auditions are walk-in only.  Do not send an email for these auditions.  However, Global and Youth Star Auditions require an email application first.

Q:  Do I have to / Can I bring my own CD for dancing?
A:  No.  SM's website explicitly states that you are not to bring your own CD.  Whether you are auditioning for Dancing or just freestyling after Singing, SM will select the music.

Q:  What should I put in the "Korean Name" box?
A:  If you have a legal Korean name (or Chinese name, etc.) please write it down.  However, if the Korean name you go by is merely a nickname acquired by friends or your Korean teacher or Korean friends, please leave the box blank.

Q:  Is it a good sign that the judge asked me to sing longer?  Is it a good sign that the judge asked me to sing another song?
A:  The longer you are allowed to sing, the better sign it is.

Online / Email Auditions
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:  Do they check their emails?
A:  Yes.  I can say with 100% certainly they actually check their emails.  Chill if it hasn't been more than a month.  If it's been more than a month, assume you didn't make it and start practicing again.

Q:  Do you recommend email or online everysing?
A:  I would recommend email or online at smtown.com/link/audition, but everysing is fine too.

Q:  Should the video be sung acapella?
A:  It's not required, but recommended.
Explanation:  While SM doesn't forbid instrumental accompaniment, I recommend acappella.  It's much more difficult to sing acapella, but that makes you that much more appealing to them.

Q:  How long should my dance and/or singing clip should be?
A:  Keep your clips to 30-90 seconds long per talent (like 30-90 second for dancing and another 30-90 seconds for singing).  Remember, the longer your clip is, the more likely the person reviewing your audition is to skip through the clip or skip over the clip.

Q:  What does it mean by "Area of Application"?
A:  It means what category you are auditioning for.
Explanation:  If you're going to be a singer, your "Area of Application" is Singer.  If you're going to be a dancer, it's Dancer, etc.

Q:  What does "Place of Residence" mean?
A:  It means where you live in this precise moment.  They don't care where you lived ten years ago, one year ago, or yesterday.  Where do you live now?  (Also make sure to include the full area, from city to state/providence, to country.  EX:  Berlin, Germany or Austin, TX, USA.)  You should not include your entire address.

Q:  Should I accompany myself with a guitar/piano/violin/etc.?
A:  It depends how good you are with your instrument.  If you're around Super Junior-M's Henry's level of good and can play without mistakes, go for it.  However, if you aren't that good and can't play without error or multiple takes, I wouldn't recommend it.

Q:  What does it mean by "Experience"?
A:  Experience is any experience you have in your "Area of Application".  I wouldn't put down your school plays or church choirs, but definitely include any awards you've received.  It's perfectly okay if you don't have any experience in your field.

Q:  What is a profile shot?
A:  A profile shot is a shot from the side of your face.  It is usually from the neck on up.

Q:  How should I looks in my photos?
A:  You should look like yourself, but don't looks sloppy (like no ripped T-shirts, dirty clothes, etc.).  However, make there is nothing in your face like fingers or hair.  Don't wear make-up, no jewelry (except earrings), and no silly expressions (like winking, etc.) or ulzzang shots (a steep shot of your face that makes your eyes appear larger and your chin narrower).

Q:  What kind of pictures should I include?
A:  They want a profile shot and a shot of the front of your head (aka, your face).  They should be of good quality (so no cell phone photos) but not professionally taken (so usually no senior photos or year book photos).  Also, they will disregard any application in which the photo as been altered with Photoshop or any other programs.

Q:  Do I need to sing if I am applying as a Dancer?
A:  No.

Q:  Is there any limit to how many times I can audition online or via email?
A:  No, but I suggest waiting at least 3-6 months in between each failed attempt and with much improvement.  You don't want to be marked as spam!

Q:  I sent an email and I made a mistake.  Should I resubmit?
A:  Please make sure you take the time to make sure the email is 100% correct before sending it.  You're expecting SM to take the time to fairly evaluate your audition so you should make sure you take the time to correctly submit it.  (Would you resubmit a job application wrong because you put down the wrong email address?)  I would suggest waiting the normal 3-6 months before reauditioning.

Q:  How long does it take them to respond?
A:  I would wait 2-6 weeks, longer if there is Global or Youth Star Auditions.  After that time period, you can assume you did not pass and can start practicing again.  Audition in 3-6 months after much improvement.

Q:  Do you need to write an introduction?
A:  In the email itself, no.  The information you provide is introduction enough.  (The judges want to be unbiased and don't care about your motivation for auditioning).  In the music clip, a simple "Hi, my name is ____.  I will be singing ___".

Q:  Should I put my contact info or my parents' contact info in the "Contact Information" section?
A:  Ideally, you should put down your own contact information.  However, if you are restricted to who you can call on your phone or if you rarely use your phone, put down your parents' information (Make sure you ask for permission before providing their number!).

Q:  Is the Career section on the online audition the same as the Experience section on the email audition?
A:  Yes.

Q:  SM's website says it prefers AOL or AIM for emails.  Is it okay if I use Yahoo!, Gmail, hotmail, etc.?
A:  My sister and I both used gmail.  They would prefer AOL or AIM if you have it, but don't go make a new account just for this. :)

Q:  What kind of emails would I receive if I receive one at all?
A:  For emails, you can receive on of two if you are deemed to "qualify" by their staff.
1 - generic email thanking you for your audition and asking you to stop by Globals or Youth Star Auditions.  This means that while they are interested in you, they want to see you live before re-considering you.
2 - a more personalized email from the audition staff asking for either a) more information such as more clips or more personal information about yourself or b) asking when they could expect you in LA or Seoul (this is NOT considered "passing" as this will be on your own time and on your own dime.  If you cannot make it within a reasonable amount of time - a few months - they will lose interest and move onto another hopeful).

Auditioning in General
Q:  Can I audition with a (dance or singing) cover of an SM artist?
A:  With how little time you have with both the online/email audition and the live audition, it's not practical.  Also, anyone who works for SM has seen and heard these songs and dances to death (seriously, they play the MVs on a non-stop loop in any SM building and the music is always pumped through the speakers).  You will also be inevitably be compared to the original artist, whom the judge has probably met.  You don't want them to think "Taeyeon/Kyuhyun, etc. did this better..."  For songs, you'll have to completely remake them (like Amber and Luna's acoustic remix of "NU ABO") or not do them at all.
If you want to use the music in the background as you freestyle, that's okay.

Q:  Would I be able to cover JYJ or Han Geng for my audition?
A:  I wouldn't recommend it.  Both relations may have ended in "mutual agreements", but you have no way of knowing the real feelings about either group within the company.

Q:  Can I cover a K-Pop artist's dance?
A:  For dancing auditions, I would highly recommend not covering a dance.  First it makes you look more like a K-Pop fan than a serious audition and it is something a lot of people do on YouTube.  Choreographing your own stuff or freestyling shows much more talent.

Q:  I live in a place that isn't close to Korea (I don't have a lot of money).  Will SM pay for my ticket to South Korea?
A:  No.  I have heard rumors that SM will sometimes pay for tickets for those they truly believe in, but unless you have BoA-level talent, don't count on it.  You are going to be paying out of pocket until you sign the trainee contract.
Even in the simplest terms, it would so not be cost effective to pay $300-$2000 a plane ticket (depending on where you're from), plus another ticket for hopefuls who are minors so they can be accompanied by an adult, for a group of people who won't turn back a profit (aka, become a trainee, stay being a trainee, and debut successfully).
If you cannot make it to a live audition when asked personally, they will merely move onto the next hopeful who can make to the live auditions.

Q:  Does singing in Korean help my chances?
A:  Yes and no.
Yes:  If you're not a fluent Korean speaker (or aren't Korean), it does help.  Super Junior-M's ZhouMi's audition went better because he sang in fluent-sounding Korean.
No:  If you're a fluent Korean speaker (or are Korean) it doesn't help.  They already expect you to be able to sing fluently in Korean, so they're looking at your English skills or your singing skills in another critical language such as Mandarin Chinese or Japanese.
Also, if you attempt to sing in Korean and you terribly butcher the language, it might not help you and you'd be better off singing in your native tongue.

Q:  Is it required to go to a live audition?
A:  If you ever want to be a trainee, you will have to eventually.

Q:  Do you have to pay for training?
A:  No.
Explanation:  SM pays for 100% of the expenses for becoming an idol.

Q:  Does SM pay us to train?
A:  NO.
Explanation:  You do receive an allowance of about $20 USD a week, but you are not paid anything until your groups starts making a profit.
Being a trainee is like going to a boarding school on a scholarship.  You're "payment" during training is the privilege of being an SM trainee and the wealth you earn from knowledge.

Q:  I'm not Korean.  Will I be bullied?
A:  Training is just like high school.  While bullying is not okay, it does occur.  Tao and Kris have been rumored to have been bullied.  You'll probably have the hardest time when you're learning Korean - you aren't able to communicate or understand properly with those around you.
If you are bullied, tell an authority figure you trust (manager, teacher, etc.) immediately.

Q:  My country has a test I need for school.  Will I be able to put off training to study for and take the test?
A:  Probably not.  If you become a trainee (unless you're in middle school or younger), you will be transferred to a Korean high school (most likely Kent International where SNSD's Tiffany and Jessica, CSJH's Stephanie, and f(x)'s Krystal and Amber attended).  If you're entering training, you should be expected to continue all the way up to becoming an idol, so the test won't matter.  You'll graduate from a Korean school and that's where you'll receive your diploma.  Then you'll use that diploma to enter a college in Korea or elsewhere.
However, if the test means a lot to you, I suggest not auditioning until after you complete the test.

The Other Stuff
Q:  I am not Korean.  Can I audition?
A:  Yes.  SM accepts any applicant regardless of race, age, and gender.

Q:  I am not Korean.  Will that affect my chances?
A:  That's hard.  They are a Korean company marketing towards a Korean audience, and much like an American company marketing towards an American audiences would use mainly whites and blacks, a Korean company would use mainly Koreans and Chinese.  It will be more difficult, but not impossible.  They are working towards the future, so the options for non-Koreans in K-Pop are opening up more frequently in Korea.  Try out now and be the groundbreaking star of tomorrow. :)

Q:  I am not Korean and/or Asian, but I look Asian.  Does this help my chances?
A:  No, not really.  They're most interested in your talent.  If you have no talent, don't audition.

Q:  I have acne and/or rough skin.  Is that okay?
A:  Yes.  Once again, talent out-weighs looks in the end.  Both pre-debut photos and seeing them live show that Super Junior's Kyuhyun, SHINee's Key, and EXO's Lay all have either bad acne or some deep acne pitting.

Q:  I don't speak Korean.  Will SM still accept me?
A:  Super Junior's Han Geng, f(x)'s Amber and Victoria, and EXO's Kris, Lay, and Tao all didn't speak Korean when SM chose them.

Q:  Does it matter if my vocal range is higher or lower than most?
A:  No.

Q:  Do they care about weight?
A:  Yes and no.
Explanation:  Yes, because they are a business and their aim is to make the most money.  The easiest way to sell a product quickly is to present in an appealing manner - your physical appearance.  No, because talent comes first.  Park JiMin was not skinny when she won K-Pop Star, though she did slim down after her debut.
However, bottom line is that if you have talent, don't worry about how much you weigh.

Q:  Do they care about height?
A:  Probably not.  If you're worried, just know that the shortest members in SM are Hyohyeon and BoA for females (both clocking in at 160 cm or 5'3") and Xiumin for males (clocking in at 173 cm or 5'8.1").  I know Sunny is even shorter at 5'1", but she's Lee Soo-man's niece so I'm excluding her from the "average".
Also, don't worry if you feel taller than most people.  Tall is good!

Q:  Does it matter how old I am?
A:  SM accepts all applications regardless of race, age, and gender.
However, SM is very telling about who they choose for idols.  Their Youth Star Auditions were limited to those between the ages of 10 and 21 (international age).  Because keep in mind, their expecting to train you for about 2 years before being able to debut you.  Also, those who are not fluent in Korean will require about 1-3 extra years of training just to become roughly fluent in Korean.
The entertainment business tends to prefer younger females (10-16) because of the perception of youth and older males (14-21) because of voice chances due to puberty.

Q:  I'm worried.  My last name / first name doesn't sound Korean (or Asian).
A:  That doesn't matter.  If executives are worried about that, they can merely give you a stage name.

Q:  I can speak _(languages)_ fluently.  I can speak _(languages)_, but not fluently.  Is this even worth mentioning?
A:  Depends on how fluent you are.  If you anything less than conversationally fluent in a language, it isn't worth mentioning until further into the audition process like the private audition.
So how do you gauge your 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.  (EX:  Your first language).
Competent:  I can understand and comprehend the language in most situations.  (EX:  Your Second language.)
Knowledgable:  I can understand and comprehend the language in common situation and conversations.  (EX:  The level most established non-Korean idols are at (though some are heading towards the Competent level, like Amber, ZhouMi, Henry, Luhan, Lay, Fei, and Jia).
Progressing:  I an usually understand and comprehend the language in common situation and conversations.  (EX:  The level some new non-Korean idols are at, like Tao and Kris.)
Survival:  I can sometimes understand and comprehend the language in common situations 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.

Unless you have a phenomenal teacher or an intensive class or are really good at acquiring languages, most people leave 4 years of a high school language at the Poor level.  Also, most people leave college somewhere in the range of Survival to Knowledgable.

For example, I am Fluent in English, Progressing in Korean, Surviving in Modern Standard Chinese (Mandarin), Poor in German, and Shitty in French and Japanese.
I would probably only mention my English, Korean, and Chinese in my initial interview.  Anything below Survival (my German, French, and Japanese) I wouldn't mention until I was in the last round of auditions.

Q:  What considers a talent?  What qualifies as a talent in language?
A:  A talent would be something that makes you stand out among other people.  However, it should be something that you keep up with.  I may be able to do ballet and tap, but the last time I took lessons was in elementary school.  I would not put that down as a talent.  Talents would include martial arts, gymnastics, ballet, etc.
A more subjective talent like art, music, etc. should be backed by an award.  Now you can say "I'm good at art" but what makes you think that?  As proven by Weekly Idol, EXO's Kris thinks he's a great artist, but his work shows that it's nothing spectacular.  However, CHI-CHI's Shine would someone considered to be talented at art.
Now for language.  I would only put down language as a talent if you can quickly acquire a language in a short amount of time and have proof (such as a level of proficiency in that language).  Being bilingual from a young age doesn't count as a talent in language unless you acquired a third, fourth, fifth, etc. language at a later age to a comprehensive level.  (For example, I have a friend who was brought up speaking English and French.  However, in her early and late teens she learned Spanish and Korean to above a conversationally fluent level and is currently almost conversationally fluent in Japanese.  This would easily count as a talent in language.)

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