HomeBlogsMister Tim's blogThe Sing Off: Casting a Wide Net

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When moosebutter went into the audition room this past Saturday, auditioning for The Sing Off in Los Angeles, we were in with an Oregon college group, a smooth, old-school quartet of old African-American men, and a couple of groups called m*pact and Mosaic. 

Done!  You’ve got your show right there!  Talent, variety, personality… I’d watch it! 

Later in the day I auditioned with Wonder Voice.  We were in the room with a geriatric swing choir and Eclipse.

The House Jacks All-Stars (not their real name), current and former members of the House Jacks but who were not auditioning as the House Jacks, were checking out as we arrived.  There was a Polynesian a cappella group.  Several choirs.  Reigning LA Sweeps champs Evolution.  A group that looked like an all-Latino group.  College groups.  Hip-hop groups.  Scantily clad girl groups.

That was just half of the day in L.A.  It’s like the a cappella fan’s uber-fantasy.  From what I heard about the other cities, tons of the big groups showed up.  Tons of new, amateur, young, old, and different groups showed up.  The variety, the talent!

This show has an embarrassment of riches. 

See pictures HERE.

Now the discussion and speculation will begin.  As I was driving back from L.A., it dawned on me that to understand what’s happening now with the show, we have to think about them not AUDITIONING the show, but CASTING the show.

To illustrate: I’ve been on the casting end of stage productions, school musicals, and the like.  I hate casting for these shows.  Why?  Because I am limited by the roles in the script.  If I have four brilliant male actors who are perfect for the lead role in the play, I have to choose one.  They may be the four best actors, the four biggest talents that auditioned for the show, but I can only choose ONE.  And that may mean that one or more of the most talented actors DON’T EVEN GET IN THE SHOW.

The winnowing process is brutal, and sometimes totally unfair.  Four guys who would be great as the lead, but the actress who is the female love interest is 5’8”.  Sorry 5’6” guy who is a brilliant actor: it is completely not your fault, but you don’t get the role.  The lead female is going to be blonde: we want a blonde male lead to play opposite.  Sorry, dark-haired actors, you’re out.

When moosebutter auditioned for America’s Got Talent, our producer told us they take all the groups they like from the audition rounds and stick their pictures up on a big casting board, in categories.  All the jugglers here, the dance crews there, the singers over here….  They then start filling slots in the show.  Everyone in the group COULD be on the show, but they are going to pick depending on what other groups are on, what they are lacking, what they already have too much of, etc.

That’s what they’re doing with all of us groups that auditioned for The Sing Off.  Every group that they are considering has something to recommend them for the show, otherwise they wouldn’t be considering them.  The producers have dozens and dozens of groups that are perfect for each ROLE they are casting for the show.

I don’t think, like I’ve heard others suggest, that they have a pre-determined idea of who they want on the show.  I do think they are looking for general categories, but only because they want variety, and because they want to represent a lot of different kinds of music. 

Now that they are casting, they will edit the audition and interview videos, present those to the executive producers, who will decide which ones they are initially interested in.  They narrow down the field, then stick pictures of the groups up on a wall (in some fashion).  Then they cast the roles.  8 slots out of the hundreds of groups that auditioned.

They are going to divide the groups up into categories: r&b, ethnic, pop, jazz, male, female… I don’t know what categories they’ll choose, depends on who auditioned.  Then they’ll make decisions: we definitely want a group that represents the older generation.  Then they look at all the groups that fit that casting profile.  They choose an older group of jazz/swing singers: okay, we took care of the old part, and the jazz part, so that’s two categories.

At that point, it doesn’t matter only which group was best: it matters which one fits the role they are trying to cast.  If they pick an older group of jazz singers, and don’t feel like they have room for another jazz group, the talent of the other jazz groups becomes immaterial.  Talent doesn’t matter anymore (remember, everyone has talent).  What matters is casting.

They are not going to put on five college groups.  Even if the college groups were the best groups they saw, even if they saw five college groups that would be excellent on their show, they are not going to put on five.  There will be one, two if there’s a group that fits a unique profile.  An all-female group, and an all-male jewish group, for example… might both be college groups, but they fit different roles.

They are going to narrow groups down: THESE are the three urban/funky groups we’re considering.  One of them has a girl.  We are really low on females in the show.  The group with the girl gets on the show.  Not a slight on the other groups.  They are looking for who fits the show.

They are going to cast groups like they cast roles in a TV show.  They are going to cast variety, intrigue, personality.  This is NOT an insult to the talent of the groups.  Every group they are considering is talented.  It’s just that now, they have to make good TV.

Two groups, equal talent and appeal, and they just think one will look better on camera.  Decision made. 

Two groups, equal talent and appeal, one from the Atlanta audition and one from the Chicago audition.  We already have three from Atlanta, producers said we have to select from all four cities, so the Chicago group is on the show.  Decision made.  (these are hypothetical, by the way.  I know nothing about the specifics of how they are casting this show).

Then, their first-choice rock group decides they don’t like the contract and back out.  They were a mixed group, and the producers want more females on the show: now they have to fill a rock group slot AND a mixed group slot.  Their next choice rock group is all male, so they bump out their all-male jazz group and insert a mixed jazz group.  Nothing to do with talent, everything to do with casting.

So all of you pop/rock a cappella groups: don’t be offended if you don’t get on the show.  It’s not that they don’t like you.  There are going to be way, way more pop/rock groups to choose from than other kinds.  You are not competing for one of 8 slots: you are competing for one of 1 or 2 slots.  You might lose a slot because one of you is not tall enough, or too tall, or because the producer was having indigestion from the burrito at lunch and was in a bad mood when your audition video was playing.

You are talented, you did a great audition, be happy.  The producers have the unenviable job of choosing the groups that fit the show best.  Any one of you would be great on the show.  

The Sing Off auditions


Excellent post

Tim, this was a great dissection of what goes on behind the scenes. I hope everyone who is auditions reads this and understands the foibles and shennigans it takes to put on a "show". Funny (or sadistic) enough, my favorite part of the artistic process is casting (either as a director or auditionee).

[=#8040BF]http://www.rarb.org/people/thomas-king.html http://www.deltacappella.com CASA Dir. of Ambassador Program SoJam Producer & Concert Mgr Sing Producer CAL jd All Things A Cappella FOTS #1 ICCA Producer Emeritus "the


If your favorite part is casting, DEFINITELY sadistic.  ;-)

Couldn't agree more

I think you nailed this.  8 groups out of how many that passed through?  Dozens?  Hundreds?  I actually don't envy the casting people their task of almost guessing who will make entertaining TV from a little bit of video and auditioner recommendations.

I will be glued to the TV come December.  I just hope I have a couple of horses in this race.

Also, as a side note I would like to add that the people running these auditions could not have been nicer, more respectful or professional.  I was very happy to have participated.

Professional outfit

griffon4, I couldn't agree with you more: for whatever flaws in sound, or in understanding the nuance of what a cappella is about, the actual process was great.  The definitely know television, and treated EVERYONE with the utmost respect, seasoned pros to tentative amateurs: they still got to sing their two songs, and were thanked (sincerely!), and had a great experience.

anyone else get the "top 25" message?

I didn't get to go, but my kids said they learned a TON at the Chicago auditions and that everyone was super nice. Like Tim said, we never thought we'd get close to on - but it was worth the trip... Thanks, Tim!


Brody McDonaldDirector of Choirs, Kettering Fairmont High SchoolDirector, Eleventh Hour

no comprende "top 25"

Unfortunately the process from here is shrouded in mystery, dressed in monastic robes, locked away inside impregnable gates of secrecy and decorum ... I might have been pushing the limits of the non-disclosure agreement I signed by posting this blog in the first place.

No one is s'posed to talk about the results, especially the groups that are now being considered for inclusion on the show.  May not know the groups until the show airs!  

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