Saturday, May 16, 2009

America's Got Talent

I've been sitting on this for a month, waiting until we at least got to the end of a chapter to write about it.

And the first chapter in this adventure ended today. Next one starts--TOMORROW. (We always do things down to the line, don't we?)

So here's the story:

About a month ago, out of the blue, Tim got a call from a casting director at America's Got Talent. He said he'd found moosebutter's myspace page (which they haven't updated in over two years) and wanted moosebutter to submit an audition for the show. Please send video.

Tim did.

Didn't think much of this, since it happened once before with moosebutter and nothing came of it. Besides, moosebutter was functionally retired. (Notice I said was?)

About a week later, Tim's group Wonder Voice did a talent show benefit concert. They sang one song. They lost. BUT one of the judges was involved with entertainment at Station Casinos and had connections somehow--and she got everyone who performed in the talent show private auditions for America's Got Talent.

Very cool. That semi-live (you go and sing, but they film it and take it to the producers) audition got scheduled.

Then about two days later, a DIFFERENT casting director called and said she'd seen King 4 in the Harmony Sweepstakes in LA, and could they please come audition for America's Got Talent. That got scheduled in Vegas the day before the Wonder Voice audition.

So...casting scramble. We have multiple casts for everything, but had to deal with who was available short notice and could they learn the parts for new songs, etc.

The cast that ended up doing the King 4 audition literally met each other for the first time in the parking lot outside the building--it was parts of a couple different casts for that group.

So the audition went well.

Then the next audition went well.

Afterward, the producer caught them and explained that they were flooded with a cappella groups this year, so no promises, but she personally thought they were FANTASTIC.


Turn out there are a TON of factors involved in getting a group onto that show.

These were things that affected the outcome for us, despite the fact that the producers clearly loved all three groups:

1. Any single person CANNOT appear in more than one act. (So we'd have to do the great Casting Shuffle yet again if more than one group got selected).

2. (And this is standard for any job interview/audition/manuscript submission--it's slush pile normalcy) It entirely depends not only on who else applied, but what order the applications/audition materials were viewed, since context does determine how we view things. With them being swamped with a cappella applications, they all start to look mundane and boring (and therefore less likely to get on the show) unless there is some sort of gimmick that makes them stand out. That's why King 4 and moosebutter caught their eye--they are DIFFERENT from your average contemporary a cappella group. Different is, of course, Tim's specialty, so no surprise there.

3. Permissions. Copyright law only applies to written sheet music. But intellectual property laws come heavily into play here. AGT is a show that is performed before a live audience AND broadcast. So they have to get both performing and broadcast permissions for any song that is performed, and pay the appropriate licensing fees.

4. Auditioners only get 90 seconds. And comedy is tricky to pull of in 90 seconds--it requires a set up for the punchline to work, and that takes time.

Despite all this, we heard back about King 4 and moosebutter (but not Wonder Voice, and no answer means no "audition"--really call back to sing in front of the live judges)

But just hearing, "We love you and we want you" wasn't cause for celebration. Not yet.

There was that permissions issue. See, when you get accepted, you turn in a list of songs you can use and the first one that comes through with licensing is the one you must sing.

AND (and here's the stickler)--the estate of Elvis doesn't give permission. They don't like their songs performed in a tongue-in-cheek way, like by Four guys in bad Elvis glasses with sideburns attached. So King 4 got put into permissions limbo (we still haven't heard how that came out, but we're assuming it was a no)--they'd have to sing something that Elvis sang but not only didn't sing first, but that his estate hasn't since bought all the publishing rights to (publishing rights in music doesn't mean printing the sheet music--it means using the song for anything). Like "How Great Thou Art", which the guys would totally do an awesome job on...but it doesn't really feel right to perform a sacred hymn with elvis side burns dangling from gold sunglasses, and it wouldn't really highlight the funniness of the concept.

King 4 wasn't the only one with permissions problems.

moosebutter had them, too.

See, the permissions/licensing issue is thorny with parodies, so they disallowed any use of parodies in the show. And that happens to be where all of moosebutter's best music is.

Also disallowed (for licensing issues) is any reference to any pop culture product or other licensed or copyrighted entity. So...Star Wars. Harry Potter. Psycho--all out, even if they wrote new music for them.

AND they really seriously discourage the use of original music. They say this is because they end up swamped with singer-songwriters singing boring songs. I personally suspect (and this is just speculation) that they don't want to delve into the legal mess of licensing the original music (and therefore paying the performer to compete, which is ethically iffy), especially since 99% of the original songs out there just aren't good enough and wouldn't get past the "audition" (call back in front of celebrity judges) round--so it's a complete waste of resources for the staff of the show.

But I'd say 95% of moosebutter's music is either original or parody.

Which left us with just a few choices--and they would still have to be licensed.

Thus came a week of back and forth with the producers, who had to look at all their covers and all their original music to see if any of it was usable, and then get Tim to send video of live performances of the songs they liked, get that approved with the executive director (who, fortunately, loved moosebutter or they would have ended up in the 'too hard to work through the issues' pile), then submit the material for permissions.

Miraculously, all the backing-and-forthing of it all ended up with...licensing came through for the song everyone agreed had the best chance of coming across on TV. So moosebutter gets to go to the "audition" (really call-back) round. Remember, though, that half the people who get through to that round are put through because they are so bad that it'll make great TV. So Tim has the double challenge of making sure everyone gets there and that they are good enough that nobody puts them into the "worst of..." reels.

So THEN we had to do the great casting shuffle again, this time with the travel coordinator (by now Tim has talked to and emailed half a dozen people who work on the show as he gets through each step of the process). Tim is here in Vegas, but had a today (Saturday) singing in the finals of the Harmony Sweeps. AND he had a gig on Tuesday and Wednesday in New Orleans with Toxic Audio. Chris is home with his family in Oregon right now. Weston is home with his family in Cleveland right now (both of them going on family vacations, I think). Glen is unavailable for the run, so Tim had to find a replacement for him all together (and two of his regular stand-bys were unavailable as well, so he went with one of the guys from the newly-formed Vegas cast of moosebutter--who is an excellent choice, I might add). I think just selecting guys from the 3 casts-plus-understudies of moosebutter in itself gave Tim ulcers! And AGT needed them in LA sometime between Monday and Thursday of this coming week.

What a nightmare.

Thanks to the flexibility of everyone involved, they got a day and time, got travel arranged, and should all be there for their audition, even though they have to show up the day before (and that might overlap a job interview Tim had scheduled--singing with a dance band, of all things).

So there you go.

Watch AGT's audition rounds and see if you see Tim!

(no promises. this is TV after all. We had friends who got this far and then didn't even get on TV--the judges didn't like them at all, despite the fact that the producers LOVED them).

Still, things are never quiet around here, are they?

And now I know a whole lot more about auditioning for TV shows than I ever dreamed.

Oh, and don't too excited. Even if we win, we won't have money to lend. The winning group gets a million dollars--over 40 YEARS. What with having to divide it among all the group members, if we WON (which is a seriously long shot), we'd get $5000 (before taxes) every year until we were 75!


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Anonymous said...

If there was a "like" button for this post, I'd click it. :)