If you’ve ever wanted to enter the X Factor and give yourself the best chance of doing well, you’ll want to read all 5 parts of this guide. This is part 3 of Max Millias’s 5 part guide to doing well at the X Factor. Other parts in the series are:
- Getting on X Factor and doing well at the auditions.
- Doing well at Bootcamp.
- Doing well at the live stages part 1 (This guide).
I’m now going to hand over to Max:
OK, so if you’ve followed this book down to the letter and have a good amount of talent, there’s a good chance you will reach the X factor live shows. But what are the live shows all about? And how do you tackle this next stage of the journey? Fear not, once again we’re here to reveal all…
What Are The X Factor Live Shows And How Do They Work?
The X Factor live shows are the final stage of the competition. Every thing you’ve been working for before has led up to this moment, if you thought the pressure was on before then you haven’t seen anything yet! During this stage of the competition, you have to do live performances in front of both the judges and a studio audience of thousands. Not only that, but the show will be recorded live and broadcast all over television. So you will have millions of people watching you!
One big factor you’ll now have to deal with is your on-stage performance. While previous stages were mainly focused on the singing aspect of things, during the live stages people will also be looking at your on stage performance and also your stage presence. Some weeks you’ll be able to just stand on the spot and sing, but other weeks you’ll have to show some of your moves. The judges are looking for someone who can do it all, and the more you can do the further you’re likely to go in the competition.
The live shows are recorded over a number of weeks, and each week there are two shows. In the UK this was a show on the Saturday followed by a show on the Sunday but in other countries such as the USA they may choose to do this during the week. On the Saturday show, contestants are made to sing a song that they’ve been practising throughout the week. At the end of the show viewers are given a number they can call to save their favourite act. This number stays open until the next day’s live show, where at one point they’ll let people know they can’t vote any more. During this second live show there are special performances from established musicians, as well as the results of the votes. This is the current format that is used on X-Factor, however when I worked on the show they used to do it all in one night. Guess they realised they could make much more money by having voting lines open for over 24 hours!
The presenter then reads out the results of the votes, and the two contestants with the least amount of votes have to go head to head in a sing off. During this sing off you have to sing a song which is different from the one performed on the previous days show and the judges make a vote on the person they want to keep in for next week. For the person that loses the head to head, it is the end of their time as an X Factor contestant.
In the event that the judges can’t decide and both acts get two votes each, then the process is taken to “Deadlock” which means the public vote comes into action. Who ever got the fewest votes from the nation is then voted off the show.
This process is then repeated every week Each week will have a different theme, So you have to be prepared to do a lot of different music during this part of the process . This carries on until there is only three acts left. At that stage you have the X Factor final.
On the final week, the last three standing contestants each perform multiple songs in a bid to be voted the X Factor winner. At some point during the show, the person who has the least votes is voted off. It is then down to the final two contestants who have a final chance to show why they deserve to win the show. Voting by the public still carries on during this time, and at the end of the show the votes are counted and the final winner is announced.
While this may sound nerve-racking to some of you, you must realise that being in the live stages of the competition has just opened up some new doors to you. Now, no matter whether you reach the last week of the live shows or not, you will have had enough media exposure to get your name out there. More on this will be covered later in the chapter “How To Win Even If You Don’t Win The X Factor”, but for now let’s stay focused in winning this thing!
Your New Busy Week
While in the previous stages it was pretty much business as usual, during the live stages everything changes. Throughout your week you will now live X Factor 24/7, as it will now practically be your day job. During each week you will pick and learn your songs, learn your dance or stage routines, do interviews and public appearances, and generally raise your profile before the week end comes round. There will be some fun evenings out such as trips to Film Premiers and you will be treated like you are already a star so enjoy it! Just remember, that this stage of the competition can be very tiring, but when all is said and done it is worth it. As long as you don’t expect it to be an easy ride you’ll be fine, good things come to those who put the work in.
If you’re dreading the long week for what ever reason, just remember it like this: This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. There are so many people who would give any thing to be in your position right now, so doing anything less then enjoying every moment of it (Yes, that includes the early mornings) would be ridiculous! If you don’t put 100% in at this stage I guarantee you’ll regret it if you don’t go on to win. And what’s more, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. You make sure you put the work in!
The Importance Of Learning Your Songs
So now that you’re reached the live stages of the competition, it’s absolutely crucial that you learn all your songs inside out! Not that it wasn’t before, but during the live stages anything can happen! All it could take is one nervous moment and you could forget your lines, And if the words aren’t imprinted into your brain, it may be hard to pick those lines back up again.
Each week you’ll be given a new song to learn. My advice is to begin on learning them as soon as possible. By Saturday you don’t want to just know these songs, you want to have a real understanding of them and know them inside out. If you know the songs like this, you’ll be able to sing it more naturally. And if you sing it more naturally, your voice, speed and pitch will all sound a lot better then if you were trying to remember on the words as you went along.
I’m always around musicians. When recording, it’s often easy to tell if a person recorded their vocals while reading the lyrics from a piece of paper, it just doesn’t flow as well. Similarly, if you don’t learn the song inside out before the show, the judges will be able to tell and you’ll lose ‘marks’.
My advice to you is this: Go over the song every day, and especially at night before you go to bed. Sleep is a wondrous thing, it allows the brain to absorb and process information we gained during the day. Some times you may be going over lyrics again and again, but just can’t seem to remember every line. Then you’ll go to bed, wake up, and find you know the whole song without even looking at a sheet of paper! If you do this every day, learning the song off by heart shouldn’t be a problem for you. Repetition is the key, the more you do, the more you’ll learn.
Getting Your Routine Just Right
In the same way it’s very important to learn your songs off by heart, it’s also important for you to nail your on stage movement well before the live show. If you’re already a natural dancer then this shouldn’t be an issue for you. If you’re not however, this is something you’ll need to work on to get right.
All the live show performances require some kind of on stage show. The good thing about this stage of the competition is people get a glimpse of what you’ll really be like during a tour or live gigs. If you put on a good show here, there’s a good chance you’ve already sold tickets for when you start doing live shows post X Factor.
Luckily, you won’t have to create the routines yourself. There will be professionals hired to come up with a stage routine for you based on what song you’ll be singing, so all you’ll have to do is work on the moves they show you. No matter how you currently feel about dancing you should embrace this opportunity, as learning to move properly on stage will add to your all round game. The fact that these dance teachers cost a fortune to hire should be reason enough to learn as much as you can from them whole you’re not paying!
Remember, at this stage you will also be closely working with your mentor who will be on hand to offer you advice. In the UK show most mentors were either pop stars themselves or high up in the music business so be sure to listen to everything they say as chances are they will know what they are talking about.
An important skill to learn is the ability to ‘style things out’. Even the best performers in the world can get it a bit wrong sometimes, but it’s the way they style it out that makes them such great performers. Its important to remember that the audience aren’t going to know your performance.
Let’s say you were meant to do a hop and skip to the left of the stage at one point, but you forget. When you remember, you can either do one of two thing: 1, Do the hop and skip then and put your whole routine out of sync, or 2, Do some thing else on the spot such as jump up and down waving to the audience until you re-pick up your routine at the next bit. Which sounds better to you?
If this happens, your crowd aren’t going to be any the wiser. You still put on a good performance, and as far as they know the show went exactly as planned. Your mentor will know, but if anything they’ll be pleased that you took the initiative and carried on the show. The ability to do this is the mark of a good live performer.
From working on the show I have seen a number of contestants slightly mess up routines, however the public and even the judges were none the wiser as its all about how you manage to style it out.
How To Effectively Connect With Your Audience
As I mentioned before, during the live stages not only will you be performing to the judges, but there’s also be a live audience you’ll do well to try and please. While this audience doesn’t judge you directly, they do play a big part in your progression in the competition.
The thing is this, if you pull off a wonderful performance that pleases the crowd, they’ll likely make a lot of noise for you and make it more obvious in others minds that you done well. Not only does this show judges you’re a fan favourite (Which is what they want, they want some one people will like because it means more people will buy their records), but it also means that the people at home who are having a hard time trying to decide who they like have another merit to make their decision on. If you’ve ever used a public forum, you’ll know that public opinion counts for a lot. You’ll often see threads started stating one opinion, and all the replies to that thread stating that same opinion. Then one person would post the opposite view on the same thread, then the next few replies will be agreeing with the above opinion. Why is this? It’s because people don’t generally like to go against ‘the norm’, but as soon as one person brave enough to say what they actually think breaks the ice people feel comfortable to say what they really mean. You can use the first part of this type of mentality to your favour, get the crowd on your side and you’ll instantly gain those people that don’t like to go against the norm.
Now you know why it’s so important to connect with your audience, now you need to know how to do this. Well there are a number of ways, but here are the most effective:
Use Eye Contact:
This is one of the most effective ways of connecting with your audience. Looking directly into the eyes of one of the audience members and holding their gaze is more powerful then you can imagine, and definitely worth doing. The person will most likely start to feel all shy and giddy, but really appreciate the attention and it’ll be a talking point for them after. Not only that, if you do this say three or so times through out your performance, other people will also notice this connection even if you don’t look directly at them. This will add to the vibe of the whole show, and make the audience feel like they’ve been an appreciated part of the show.
One thing I’ll say though, is when you keep this eye contact, you want to hold it, but not for too long. About 4 to 6 seconds should be long enough, any more and the person may start to feel uncomfortable in the wrong kind of way. A good idea is to plan ahead certain parts of the song where you’ll hold gaze with an audience member. For example, if you’re singing a song and the lyrics are “You’ve the only one I’ll ever love”, you may decide to look some one in the eye when saying that. There’s no doubt that’ll make that person in the audience feel special.
It’s also great to use this tactic on the judges themselves. If you are a male and there is a female judge and vice versa then try it on them. You will be surprised at how easily flattered they will get and it will make it much harder for them to give a negative opinion of your performance!
Talking Directly With The Audience:
Crowds love it when you talk directly to them. Little things like “How are you doing tonight” and “This one’s for anyone who’s ever fallen in love before” are instant crowd pleasers, and are guaranteed to make the crowd star cheering with appreciation. If the judges can see you can work the crowd like this, they will of course be impressed by this. Not only that, but it’ll also create a better atmosphere which the people at home will see as well. If they see a lot of people are going wild over you, they’re more likely to get excited by your performance and vote for you to stay in. If you want to take it a step further and want two way interaction with the crowd, there are ways you can get them to interact with you that bit more…
Getting The Crowd To Interact With You:
This carries on from the last point. We’ve all seen live performances where people are interacting with the crowd. They all use the same lines “Let me hear you scream” *followed by the crowd going wild*, and “Repeat after me”. These are methods of interacting with the crowd, and making them feel like they’re involved with your performance. You may want to include a few of these in your performance if the song is appropriate, you of course won’t want to do this on a soft love song. You can pre plan what you’re going to say to the audience as you would any other part of the performance, so have a think about it beforehand.
How To Overcome Nerves
OK, so you’ve had to deal with nerves before during the early stages of your auditions. The type of nerves you may be getting during this stage of the competition are quite different though, so we will briefly run over some of the things you can do to over come them again.
A lot of contestants get nervous about getting on stage knowing they’re being record live for thousands to view. If you feel the same, my advice to you is this: Focus!
Forget about all the people watching you through their TV set at home, other then them you’ve been through all this before. You’ve performed to the judges many a time, and you’ve sung in front of a live audience before as well. You made it through on those instances, and all you have to do is do the same again.
The real people you need to perform for is the people in front of you, if you get those people on your side then the audiences at home will follow. So if every one at home is making you feel nervous about performing, simply don’t think about them. You have performed in front of people many times before, this isn’t much different now. Have some one you’re close to hold before you go out on stage if need be, and make sure you are where you are meant to be at the right time. Having to rush will only add to your nerves, so give yourself plenty of time to get to the stage.
The moment you walk on the stage and start performing however, you should be all right. It’s often with nerves you dread going on the stage, but once you’ve sung the first note everything flows out. I’m sure you’ve found this before when you done your previous performances, so just remember that there’s nothing to really to be afraid of.
My best piece of advice would be to not try and suppress your nerves, but instead turn them into adrenaline and try and ENJOY performing! Think of all the appreciative people that will love you to come on stage and grace them with your presence. Listen to the cheers of all the people who love the way you sing. Don’t you want to make them happy? If you change your mentality in this way, after a few times hopefully you won’t be able to wait to go on stage.
Remember, when you win the X Factor you’ll have to do a lot more live shows then this, so learning to enjoy it will allow you to deal with shows easier. After each show just focus on the positives of the performance and you’ll realise it was actually quite an easy and enjoyable thing to do.