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Interview with Simon Cowell of "The X Factor"
on FOX 4/7/11.
FBC PUBLICITY: The X Factor Conference Call with Simon
April 7, 2011/4:00 p.m. CDT
Alex Gillespie – FBC Publicity
Simon Cowell – Judge, The X Factor
Moderator Welcome to The X Factor Conference Call with Simon Cowell. At
this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will
conduct a question and answer session. Instructions will be provided to
you at that time. As a reminder, today’s conference is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the call over to Alex Gillespie.
A. Gillespie Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us.
We only have a short time with Simon today, so I’m not going to take too
long. All I wanted to say was that you know we’ve announced The X Factor
launching of the audition studios in Nashville, Anchorage, Kansas City,
Denver, Honolulu, and Phoenix. In addition, we have four more audition
tours in New Jersey, Seattle, Chicago, and Dallas. So, Simon is here to
answer your questions about both of those events. In addition, if you
require any photos of the audition booths, you can get it on our
Without further ado, I’m going to turn it over to Simon for your
Moderator Our first question comes from the line of Ari Fischbach with
A. Fischbach Can you just talk about how these booths are going to work
and just to follow-up on that, the cities you chose for these booths?
S. Cowell Well, the idea was that we could only go into so many cities
to do the open auditions. When we spoke to Fox and we spoke to Pepsi,
they wanted to get a further reach and these booths came to my attention
about—just under a year ago. Very reputable company, they work and the
idea is that—like Alex said, we go into as many cities as we can—give
other people a chance to audition. It’s like doing an audition in front
of the producers or the guys in the record label as an open audition.
They’re officially branded X Factor Audition tapes and they’ll be sent
to the producers and everyone, effectively, will be auditioned by a
producer. The whole idea of the show was that we’ve invited the whole of
America to audition and this is just another attempt to get the reach
Moderator We do have a question from the line of Alicia Rancilio.
A. Rancilio How are the auditions going so far?
S. Cowell They’re going great, actually. The numbers are much higher
than we anticipated. We started off in L.A. and it was just under
20,000, apparently, actually turned up and everyone was seen. The latest
count from Miami is—it’s around 8,000 to 10,000 are expected. The word’s
got out; the numbers are up. Apparently, the producers are very, very
happy with what they’ve seen so far in Los Angeles and we’re getting the
right message out.
We’re asking people to come along and audition as if they’re in the real
world to compete with people in the charts. … until I actually sit in
the audition rooms myself, because I’ve been told this a million times,
“Everything is going great and then you turned up on the first day and
it’s a nightmare.” We’ll see, but people seem optimistic. Most
importantly, the numbers are up because the worst thing you can do is
that you announce the auditions and no one turns up.
Moderator Our next question comes from Suzie Mahey with KDVI St. Louis.
S. Mahey We have local auditions a week from Saturday. What would be the
top three things we should look for in the contestant?
S. Cowell I’ve been trying to get the point out, as I said to the
previous caller, that don’t turn up and do a typical talent show
audition. If you’re 16, sing like a 16-year-old. If you’re 12, try and
appeal to 12-year-olds. What we used to see a lot of is people prepared
to audition by their moms and dads and we said to everyone from the age
of 12 to 18, “Seriously, don’t listen to your parents.” Everything’s
available on YouTube now or on the Internet. All the clues are out
there. Look at what’s happening in the charts at the moment and you’ve
got to speak or sing, literally, with your own voice.
Try and be original. Try and stand out. Try and do a song or a version
of a song no one’s heard before and don’t be afraid to be different now.
I mean, we’ve got to be much more open-minded in terms of what we’re
looking for. The whole idea of the show is you find the winner and it
launches a career, which is going to last for a long time and hopefully,
you sell records all over the world. Otherwise, this whole exercise has
been a complete waste of time.
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Carla Hay with
C. Hay I know you’ve been traveling back and forth between the U.S. and
England, but have you actually had a chance to attend any of the
auditions so far?
S. Cowell No, I haven’t and funny enough, I never have in the past
because I don’t really like to see or hear what I’m going to see in
advance. When I see it in the audition room like the other judges and
the audience behind me, I’ve got absolutely no idea who’s going to come
in, what they’re going to sing or what they’re going to be like because
if you knew in advance, it would be even more boring than the process
is. These are long days and the fun of it is that when you get
surprised—I mean like the Susan Boyle clip is a classic example.
Everybody thinks that I had seen Susan before. I had never met her in my
life. So, when she sang for the first time, I was genuinely shocked and
I like that feeling.
That’s why I haven’t been to any of the open calls yet, but I get calls
all the times from the producers. They let me know how it’s going and
when they get excited because they found someone. As I said before,
everyone seems happy.
C. Hay Can you confirm or deny the reports that Fergie is a possible
contender to be a judge on The X Factor U.S.?
S. Cowell All I can tell you is that her name was put forward, but like
with a lot of other people we’ve spoken to, we have to check out
everyone’s availability. There’s a lot of time you have to put into the
show because it’s not a two-day a week job …. When you’re in the live
show, it’s because you’re mentoring the contestant. You’re working five
or six days a week. So, I can confirm that her name is being put
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Terry Morrow.
T. Morrow What are the advantages to doing the booth auditions as
opposed to doing the traditional route?
S. Cowell I don’t know if there’s an advantage or a disadvantage to be
honest with you. All I know is that in some of the places we’re going
to, I think it would be physically impossible for some of the people to
attend the open auditions, so that’s why we’ve gone to a lot of the
places which are far away. I mean, what they will find—it’s
professionally done. You can sing whatever you like. It’s a relatively
straightforward process. I don’t think it’s probably as fun as attending
an open audition, but it is your chance to be seen and heard and that’s
why we’ve done this. I’m going to try and put these in as many cities as
possible prior to our filming.
T. Morrow Does it really matter if you guys produce a star because with
a lot of these shows, it would seem the chase is more appealing than the
S. Cowell The chase—in what way?
T. Morrow That people get behind someone. They want to see them win.
They win, but then after it’s over, they really don’t care what they do
S. Cowell That’s a very good point and that’s why, as I’ve said many,
many times, when we agree to do the show and we put the $5 million up,
that’s with a belief that you’re going to find somebody who’s going to
have a long-lasting career, and it does happen. I’m not saying it
happens every year. That’s why I’m going to a lot of effort to get the
word out, to get as many people turning up as possible. Because, if you
get a year where everybody’s hopeless—and it has happened—you don’t have
a show. So, with the booths and the open auditions, we’re trying to see
as many people as possible.
If I can’t make it work after all this effort, I’ll admit that I failed.
So, there is a certain amount of pressure. You’re right, you don’t just
want somebody who wins the show and then they’re forgotten about. You
want it to be the start of—whether it’s Carrie Underwood or Susan Boyle
or Leona Lewis, they’ve got a career. It’s a launch pad. So, we’re
working hard at it.
Moderator The next question is from the line of Sean Daly with
S. Daly Last week on Idol, we saw a contestant eliminated who had
previously done pretty well on America’s Got Talent. I’m wondering if
you’re finding that there are a lot of familiar faces that are out there
that are turning up at X Factor auditions, maybe people from other shows
that you’ve been on, been involved with or watched.
S. Cowell Apparently yes. I would much prefer that we see new faces;
otherwise, it’s going to get a bit boring for me and for the viewers.
Having said that, if we come across somebody who we think is genuinely
talented or wasn’t given a fair chance, I think you’ve got to consider
them along with everybody else, but looking at the amount of people who
are turning up, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of people you
remember. I think if that’s the case, then I haven’t done my job
properly in getting the word out.
S. Daly People who have followed the U.K. show have said that you come
across on that show as being a lot nicer as opposed to the callow
character we got to know on Idol for so many years. I’m wondering if
given that and given the new approach to the way Idol is handling things
with softer gloves and the other singing show that’s coming out is all
about mentoring and coaching, have we reached a time when these
competitions are no longer about knocking people down and they’re more
about building people up. Do you think we’ve sort of turned a corner
there and what was the point that …?
S. Cowell Well, it’s a good point. It all depends who’s in front of you
and you’ve got to remember that the audience at home are not stupid. So,
if you’ve got somebody in front of you who can’t sing a note in tune,
nobody—or certainly not me—is going to turn around to that person and
say, “You’re wonderful or take a couple of singing lessons and you’re
going to become a mega-star.” I mean, that’s ridiculous.
I’ve never believed in patronizing contestants. On this show, we’re
going to say to everybody in advance, “You know what the rules are. If
you’re hopeless, we’ll tell you. If you’re great, we’ll tell you you’re
great.” I mean, you want to find great people, but there’s always going
to be times when bad people come along or on the live shows they do
something stupid. I think it’s my job to say that. Otherwise, I think
these shows become boring or fake and it’s just not my style.
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Andrew Ryan with
A. Ryan Do you think, Simon, that say just the rise, I guess, even in
the last several months of sort of instant stars like Rebecca Black and
the young lady who sort of did the YouTube copy of Lady Gaga, does that
work for or against like a new show like X Factor?
S. Cowell Definitely works for it. I’ve had a lot of times in the U.K.
where we’ve had clips—I mean, I mentioned Susan Boyle and before that,
Paul Potts. I mean, they’re really good examples of where you can
audition on this show and YouTube and all the other Internet sites pick
up on the clip and suddenly, you’ve become a star all over the world.
Honestly, we pray for that. You want a moment where something magical
happens in the audition room and then outside of people watching the
show, they’re interested in the clip. I’m always very, very aware of
that. You always hope that you’re going to get that moment.
You look at what’s happened to Rebecca. I know she’s had a bigger …, but
I mean she’s going to be laughing all the way to the bank. I mean,
that’s what the Internet does to you nowadays. This would never have
happened ten years ago. She’d be singing that song in her bedroom ten
years ago. Now, she’s known all over the world. So, I think it’s
incredibly positive and I’m excited about the fact that we’re in this
world when we shoot auditions that you know you’ve got it right when
your clip …. So, I’m always looking for that.
A. Ryan Do you think that, let’s say the social media like Twitter and
Facebook, again, will that be sort of built into The X Factor when it
S. Cowell Oh, God, yes. I love it. I like the fact that people are going
to be twittering and watching at the same time or on Facebook. I think
we’re in an incredibly exciting time to make these shows because you get
this instant feedback. You know whether you’ve made a good show or a
horrible show within about five minutes. When I launched Idol, we didn’t
have this. So, we’re embracing it. We encourage everyone to be a part of
it and I think it just makes it more exciting.
Having said that, with the Twitter, I mean when you do something wrong,
you know about it instantly. So, you’ve got to watch yourself very, very
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Tenley Woodman with
T. Woodman How close are you to getting a deal with the final judges?
When can we get that?
S. Cowell We’re still having nightly arguments with everyone trying to
get everyone to agree is the truth. If you asked everyone involved on
this show who they’d like as the panel, you’d have about 25 different
opinions, and I’m used to this. I’ve done shows in the past where the
day before filming we still haven’t agreed on the fourth judge because
people freak out. They have different ideas, another name comes into
play, I mean, in Miami today, out of the blue, Gloria Estefan turns up
and apparently she did a fantastic job and I had no idea she was going
to be there. So, I’ve kind of found the whole process really interesting
to see who’s enthusiastic about being on the show, and you get to see
people’s commitment and enthusiasm. So, I think it’s been fun, but it
really does show publicly how complete and utter indecisiveness.
T. Woodman As you said, she showed up in Miami unexpectedly. Are they
S. Cowell I guess she is and apparently, she did a great job. I’m all
for it, but I mean she’s been a sweetheart for doing it because it made
a big, big difference today apparently and she gave everyone a lot of
support and encouragement and not a lot of people would bother to do
A. Gillespie We have time for one more question.
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Mike Hughes with TV
M. Hughes Usually, we get to hear the same cities mentioned over and
over again, so I love the fact that you’ve got Hawaii and Alaska in
S. Cowell You know what? I’m dying to go to Alaska one day.
M. Hughes That’s what I was going to ask you. You’ve never been there
S. Cowell I’ve got to go. I mean, I would have done it this year. I
don’t know why we didn’t do it, but if we’re still around next year, I’m
going to make a big push to go there because I love going to places
we’ve never been before like you said.
M. Hughes Are you optimistic about it? I mean, other than Jewell, no
star has ever come from Alaska. Are you optimistic that you’ll find
someone up there?
S. Cowell Of course, that’s why we’re going there. I think you’re going
to get a lot more enthusiasm and I don’t know what we’re going to
expect, but we’re going to find out. It’s definitely going to make it
more interesting. These are probably going to be the first tapes
everyone’s going to watch, is my guess.
A. Gillespie That concludes our conference call with Simon Cowell. Just
a reminder, if you’re looking for photos of the audition booth, you can
find that on our press Website, www.foxflash.com, with all of our press
releases as well and the information about the upcoming four audition
cities starting with New Jersey next week.
S. Cowell From me to everyone who bothered to take the time, thank you
once again for doing this.
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