Talent programs feed entertainment industry

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Talent programs feed entertainment industry

Audition programs are rising in popularity on television, eclipsing long-running amateur competitions such as “National Singing Competition” and “Housewife Singing Competition,” both of which have been staples of Korean television.
The shows are providing a venue for scouting new talent, and insiders say it’s difficult to cast star performers due to the dominance of powerful agencies. Through audition programs, it is easier and less expensive to test talent.
“Everybody wants to take a leading role, and audition programs are booming,” said Ju Cheol-hwan, a communications professor at Ewha Womans University. “The success of these programs lies in the conscience and taste of judges who will select creative contestants.”
And the benefits of amateur audition programs ― which primarily cater to singers and comedians ― are fresh ideas. With a first shot at stardom, the shows can open professional careers for people overnight.
“The participants can see the trends faster than anybody else,” said Shin Sang-gyu, a producer for “Bbeon Bbeon Gag Show.”
Recently at CJ Media headquarters in southern Seoul, 150 aspiring singers gathered to compete to be on a singing audition show called “Battle Shinhwa” on the cable music channel M.net. Most of the participants were teenagers.
The singer hopefuls were videotaped, and the recording was delivered to the popular boy band Shinhwa for judgment. The second audition ― with 60 people ― was selected by Shinhwa and aired earlier this month on M.net.
The program selects six people every month, and the “best singer” is picked in November. The best singer will receive 100 million won ($100,000) and an option to release an album.
Another music channel, MTV Korea, broadcasts a similar program called “Sangsang Madang MTV Scout.” The preliminary selection panel screens 15 people every month, and six finalists are allowed to compete in the finals in November. They are also given training, such as tips on stage manners and singing. The winner is introduced to an talent agency.
Comedy auditions have also become a popular venue for finding talent.
Five consecutive weekly winners at the “Gag Sanyang (hunting),” a KBS program that started May 7, will be given a chance to perform at a newcomer venue, “Rocky & Rookie” in the “Laughter Club.”
“Bbeon Bbeon Gag Show” on M.net is also a comedian audition program. Winners will regularly appear on the show as well. Some of the winners have already become stars of well-known comedy programs such as SBS’s “Utchatsa” and “Laughter Club” on KBS.
For the first run of “Gag Sanyang,” more than 120 teams competed, including high school students and college lecturers.
“I have longed to be a singer,” said Jin Tae-hwa, 18, who passed the second audition for the M.net audition program. “I practice several hours a day.”

by Lee Ji-young
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