Selling Yourself 101 -
There are five words that are driving me nuts right now.
No, it's not 'Stump
The Schwab Gets Renewed', though that is another article
in itself. The five
words that are irking me are this
"I didn't get enough airtime."
These words are coming from the first eight contestants
that got booted from American Idol for the past 2 weeks.
When host Ryan Seacrest asks why they got booted, that
always seems to be part of their answer. The answer
hasn't been "Well, I mangled the song", or "I picked a
song that was a hit long before the bulk of the teen and
twenty something voting community was born" or "I didn't
realize that if I pick two songs with a 5 note vocal
range and sung them with the emotion of a brick that I
would in danger of being eliminated." or "I didn't
realized that if I interacted with Ryan and the judges
with the personality of an avocado that I would in
danger of being eliminated" - but maybe it should be.
Let me state for the record right now that I am sure
that all 24 of these people are talented. They certainly
had the guts to listen to round after round of Simon
Cowell and deal with the scrutiny of the camera. What we
are talking about now, however, are the things that will
separate the people between Top 24, Top 12 and the
For the 12 who are still there and for the people who
can't wait to audition
next year, take notes.
1. The contest doesn't start when you sing for the
judges. The contest doesn't start when you are waiting
to get into the audition room. The contest doesn't start
when you are outside in the rain. The contest starts THE
SECOND YOU GET ON THE LINE. ANY opportunity that you
have to get on the camera, you TAKE IT. BE bubbly when
you are out in the crowd. Be VERY attentive to where the
cameras and Ryan Seacrest is - and MAKE SURE that you
take full advantage of both that and the sound off room
afterwards. For the most part, the people who got the
camera time are the people who are still there (and may
have even gotten a pass or two from a rotten effort
during these past 2 weeks).
2. Tell a interesting story about you. Make us CARE. I
can't stress this enough - tell us why we should care
about you. I will guarantee you that if you have a great
story, the producers will air it. Who could forget Scott
Savol's story about his dad saying that he wouldn't live
up to anything? I'm sure a lot of people, who are
voters, do. They aired Regina Brown and Jaclyn Crum, and
they didn't make it. I'm sensing that the other people
didn't work as hard on this point - and they paid for
3. If you don't have a good story, then show us emotion
or something -
ANYthing - in the audition. Ruben Studdard's yelp of
joy, the hug from Ruben's brother and the family
celebration evoked sensitive moments from our group that
watched it, and that was a huge starting point for the
eventual winner of AI2. How far in AI2 did Ricky Smith
get with "Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!"? Top 12 far, as
that certainly helped him in the Top 32 format. Mikalah
Gordon's screaming and looking like this was the best
thing in the world to happen to her may not be the
reason why she is still there, but I'm sure it's one of
them. This could have been what some of the other
contestants auditions were like.
Judges: Come in.
Droopy Dog: (Enters) Ok
Judges: What makes you think you can be the next
Droopy Dog: Well
.I don't know.
Droopy Dog: (Sings)
Judges: Congratulations! You're in!
Droopy Dog: You know what? I'm happy.
Randy: Man, he had as much emotion as Droopy the Dog.
Simon: I liked the voice, but that has got to be the
most boringest singer
America, in the world, in the universe, ever.
I doubt that this is what happened on the auditions for
some of these people, but I'm sure I'm not that far off.
4. You're in the Final 24. Your story will only get you
this far. NOW, you have to sing like your career depends
on it - because it does. In these three weeks, people
select their favorites, and you had better give them one
hell of a good impression. If you don't get the screen
time, then you are admittedly at a disadvantage, but by
singing to your potential, you can get people to vote
for you - and in this format, with only two people
leaving a week, you have an even better chance to show
that you should be going to the Top 12. Make sure you
have a song from sometime in the past 10 years, make it
a song that you know you can shine on, and sing the heck
out of it. Time after time, this segment has rewarded
people who have taken risks and have severely punished
the people who don't take chances - ask Sarah Mather,
who could have been a contender to win the whole thing,
but she sang uninspired and the audience called her on
it. This segment has also been an equalizer to those
people who got very far
who didn't get the face time - like Latoya London, who
got to the Top 4 last
year - but she got there when she wowed everyone when we
first saw her in the round of 32. David Brown got the
hook this year in week 2 because he sang 2 lack luster
songs and hoped that the popularity that he got early on
would carry him. Wrong.
5. Singing is not the only thing in American Idol - you
better have personality. ALL of the people who are
threats to win the whole thing this year have a
personality and have no problems showing it. They also
have something else in common - they are grateful to be
there and grateful to have your vote - and they make
sure that you know it. That's what stopped LaToya from
winning American Idol last year and was it one of the
reasons why Fantasia Barrino won it. Mikalah was
brilliant in week 1 - she created a persona for herself
that while upsetting some people, polarized a voting
block for her and gave her a pass to week 2, where she
put on a great effort. If she keeps that up, she has to
be a serious dark horse to win the whole thing. For al
of you who are still left, make sure you stay happy with
Ryan, don't argue with Simon and thank your millions of
fans who are keeping you on the show.
For the 12 of you left (or for future contestants), read
the rules and learn how to either get a better edge on
staying in the competition or how to prepare for the
competition for next year. And for 7 of the 8 people who
have been eliminated and complained that they didn't get
enough airtime - based on what I saw with how you sang,
spoke to Ryan and had the opportunity to strut your
stuff for the 30 million of the audience out there -
there was a reason for it.
Gordon Pepper can be reached at