What really goes on at the X Factor auditions?

This week I went to watch the X Factor auditions being filmed and it was a fascinating experience. Here’s what happened…

How it works:

  • Although the auditions were being held at The O2, two thirds of it were curtained off so it was actually no bigger than the usual venues they use.
  • The auditions each last about 5 minutes, but the judges spend just as much time between each one getting their hair and make-up retouched.
  • In a four hour session, we saw about 20 auditions, so the judges must see about 40 per day.
  • A surprising number of people got to sing two songs, probably around half of the auditionees.
The judges:

  • The judges were so late in the morning that our session started over an hour after it was scheduled.
  • The conversations between the judges and contestants feel weirdly intimate, like you are eavesdropping… along with thousands of other people.
  • The experienced judges, Gary, Tulisa and Louis, all knew how to talk in sound bites, perfect for TV editing, but guest judge Rita Ora just kept rambling.
  • Rita was totally out of her depth – she was so ineloquent that she kept saying things which sounded mean when she was trying to be nice, and got booed several times.

The audience:

  • We were told not to join in or look like we were having fun if a contestant was bad, but instead sit still and quiet. No-one paid attention to this instruction.
  • Gary Borelow told the audience off for shouting things out during the auditions, claiming it was disrespectful.
  • Rita asked a girl if she and her twin were born on the same day, and the audience laughed mercilessly.

The contestants:

  • We saw two contestants who had already been in signed groups, Daizy from Girls Can’t Catch and Kye from Diagram of the Heart. Apparently Lolene turned up the next day!
  • My favourite contestants of the day were two girl singers, Maisie and Cherise.
  • There were very few groups, and none showed any promise. Another year for made up groups, I expect.
  • Around twice as many people got a yes as a no, which hopefully means the producers intend to spend less time on silly auditions this year.
Although I came away feeling like the whole thing was very manipulated, I still thoroughly enjoyed seeing what the audition process was really like and would definitely recommend you to go if you get the chance. Now I can’t wait to see how they edit the auditions I saw for TV!


  1. How early did you arrive before the auditions started? I am meant to be seeing the auditions in manchester tomorrow but apparently lots of people don't actually get in because there are such big queues?!

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