Last night I played a little gig in Novato CA. The man in charge came up to me saying how amazing my songs and the performance was. When I enquired about further bookings in the area I got asked about notable things I’ve accomplished. I started to rattle of a list and the guy said – but do you have a following in the area. My take on it was that he didn’t care about the accomplishments. Later last night I read a blog post linked by a friend of mine that was about a musician who refuses to audition for TV shows such as The Voice, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Rockstar INXS, et al. This got me to thinking about an experience I had with a TV audition and trappings that go with ’em. Get settled in, cause this is a little long.
Several years back there was a show called Rockstar INXS wherein INXS teamed up with a production company to make a show out of finding a new singer for their band. I had numerous friends suggest that I try out for the show. Personally, I wasn’t all that into auditioning for TV shows after seeing some of the results of American Idol. However, it was certainly flattering that friends felt I should front a popular band known the world over.
Rockstar INXS Story
I started getting calls from various friends who were being contacted by the production staff who were looking for specific recommendations for people to audition for the show – not the typical video-yourself-cattle-call thing. I got about 5 of those calls all from different people all saying exactly the same thing “They’re looking for X quality and the only person I can think of recommending for this is you.” So I relented and said yes, you can recommend me for a private audition. Which was how it was presented to me.
I got a call from the production company for Rockstar INXS giving me all the details, the time, the date, what not to wear, what not to do. I said no problem I’ll be there.
When I arrived at the audition location for Rockstar INXS, The Whiskey A-Go-Go in Hollywood, I was a little taken aback as there was a line out the door, down the block and around the corner. I walked to the front door, and mentioned I was there for a private audition to the door person for the production company. He looked blankly at me and said “Go get in line.”
I replied saying that you guys called me, I have a recording session I have to be at at 3:00, obviously that’s a cattle call line. If you want me to audition great, if not, I can go. He then said “Hold on.” Turned, walked inside and brought someone higher up the food chain for Rockstar INXS who came out to speak with me. Said person had a manilla envelope with my name written in sharpie. He said “Fill this out and then come inside.” Then he handed me a pen. I stood to the side and pulled out a contract which I proceeded to read through.
There was one clause in the Rockstar INXS contract that stated any song I perform, the rights would revert to them in perpetuity. Knowing that I wasn’t about to give up the rights to a song for an audition, I decided to scratch out that clause. Initial it, then signed it. I put the contract back in the envelope and proceeded back to the front door to go inside.
The nice person that gave me the contract then shuffled me to the front of the line for my Rockstar INXS audition (not all that private in reality). Which incidentally winded around the room along the wall, until it passed the film crew and ended up at the side of the stage. There was actually two people in line or rather on deck. The “musician” on the stage at the time I was put in line was doing everything the production crew for Rockstar INXS told me shouldn’t be done. He was dressed like Michael Hutchins, he was “performing” an INXS song, and he was doing the moves from the video of that song. Fortunately there was a musical friend whom I knew next to me in line, Kat Parsons. We chatted a bit as we were wondering why this guy was doing everything they asked people not to do. Oh well.
Kat got up, did her thing very well for the Rockstar INXS peeps. Then came my turn. As I walked onto the stage, the stage hand had adjusted the mic to what he thought was the correct height. I walked up to the mic and stood behind it only to have to come up to about my collarbone. I made a move to adjust the mic at which point the stage hand came running out stating I wasn’t allowed to adjust it on my own. Ok, weird.
He got it adjusted and I stood back at the mic that was now towering over his head. Guess, he didn’t realize, I’m tall. The director proceeded to ask me some questions which I answered and got some laughs with. Then they asked about the song, I gave them the story behind it. They asked me to play and I proceeded to roll with the song.
When I finished I got an unexpected response. The whole room erupted in applause, starting with the production crew. This didn’t happen for any of the artists I had seen prior to me. I caught sight of the guys from INXS who were sitting in the upstairs private area. Even they were applauding. As were other musicians in line around the room. It was pretty strange.
But Jody – we never saw you on the show.
This I know. I never got a callback for Rockstar INXS. For a short while afterwards I was a little bummed that I got such a great response from the film crew, even from the band and never got called for the show. Life goes on and I didn’t really think much of it. That is until a year later.
I got another round of calls from people saying hey this show is coming and the only person I can think of that fits the bill is you. This time the show was called Rockstar Supernova, by the same production company as Rockstar INXS. I shined it on until another friend, Brian Austin Whitney, called and very pointedly asked if I would audition and also asked if I could recommend a few other friends. So I came up with a list of several people that I figured would be great for it, including my buddy Jeff Scott Soto.
Brian gave the list to the production company. I never got a call. Brian called me back saying hey – did they call you for an audition. I said no and he replied thinking it was a bit weird because they were asking him for more names. People I had recommended all got called, I did not. So Brian made another list and put my name on it again.
The Second Snub
Again no call.
Brian called yet again to ask if they had called me and I said no. Apparently they were asking him for even more names, but were not auditioning me. So I told him the story about Rockstar INXS, which you’ve now read about. He stated, well, you’re only looking out for your interests, I’m going to ask them why they won’t call you.
I heard back from Brian a few days later, but all he could say was they wouldn’t give him a reason as to why they wouldn’t call me. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure it out. Regardless, I’m not bitter about it. Though I will say it was disappointing to be passed over strictly because I wasn’t willing to sign away my rights to a song on the spot. Any good lawyer worth their salt would have negotiated that point.
Yet Another Show
About a year ago, I was called by yet another friend asking if I would like to do a special audition for America’s Got Talent. I said sure. So he sent the producers forms over for me to fill out. Can you guess what happened?
I haven’t seen you on that show either Jody.
Bingo – no callback.
I don’t begrudge people that are looking to fast-track their roll in the music business. However, as an observation about these shows – very few of the winners and contestants go on to have meaningful careers. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it’s a pretty small amount. I’ve met several people who have been on those shows and gotten to the semis and the finals. Most of them have gone back to their hometown and back to their day jobs. Only one that I personally know, and have worked with, has turned his time on The Voice into something that is working for him. That’s Will Champlin. I applaud him because he’s really been able to use his 3rd place finish as a great springboard. Plus he’s still an excited musician and down to earth dude. Will is a career musician and as far as I can tell, always will be – no matter what. Which is what I am.
As I’m finishing up new songs, I’m now working harder than ever to get things to percolate and rise. One person at a time, until it becomes thousands, then 100s of thousands, then millions. It all comes down to the song and the performer and the audience and the word of mouth. Besides there’s nothing like bouncing back after you’ve lost everything and been homeless.
Thanks for reading.
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p.p.s. – Feel free to comment, discuss, and chat about your TV experience.