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BRITAIN’S GOT TALENT – shame about the admin…..

Against my better judgement* in the vain hope of getting a bit of extra exposure, in 2008 I applied for an audition to appear on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.

I received a confirmatory letter giving me a number (14118 – in the form of an adhesive strip) and details of when and where to attend. Mentioned in this same letter: if the act required any ‘setting up’ (which mine did) I should call the number supplied for this purpose.

When calling this number the person who replies – a ‘production runner’ – thereby becomes the person who administers your application and organises the setting up you require – clearly a source of extra work for them.

In my case this was a gentleman by the name of Marc (“with a ‘c’”) Harwood. I explained to Mr Harwood that my act involved a recorded rhythm section over which I performed ‘live’ vocal and ‘live’ lead guitar. The setting up involved a small semi-flight rack (on wheels), a pair of speakers and a microphone, the same as I use for gigs so an arrangement I am very practised at putting together. I made the point that I would be happy to attend at any time, on a different day if that would help, to set up in preparation for the audition. Beyond his presumably having to be there, I would need no physical assistance.

In September I received a call from Mr Harwood. As I spoke with Mr Harwood I could hear his obvious if unfathomable – what was he doing there? – reluctance to become involved, he intimated that he was extremely busy. I continued to press for guidance regarding when and where I might present myself to ‘set up’. He hummed and harred. Eventually he suggested that a solution (there was no problem – why did we need a solution?) would be for me to submit an MP3 recording and a photograph – these would be an acceptable alternative to an audition.

These I sent but received no confirmation of receipt. I chased. And chased.

I was still under the impression on the 7th October that a proper audition might be possible and repeatedly sent the following email:

ID No: 14118

 Hi Marc,

     Please respond – sorry to hassle you I understand that you have many calls to deal with but I have to know when and where to unload and set up et al if the MP3 and pics are inadequate.

    20th Oct leaves only 12 days to prepare an audition piece as well.


……….I received this:

Hi John,

I have recieved (sic) the pictures and MP3. On the 20th October turn up as stated on your audition letter.

Your sincerely,

Marc Harwood
Production Runner
Britain’s Got Talent- 3 Series
Talkback Thames

Needless to say come the day those trying for an audition were many. We queued. Most of that day was taken up with steering us applicants to different rooms where a preliminary audition could be performed. Luck of the draw of course but my time was late in the day.

Room ‘E’. I entered.

A pretty Indian girl sat behind a desk and to her left stood a young Indian guy with a small video camera.

“What are you going to do for us today?” asked the young lady.

I explained what my act was and all that I had been directed to do by Marc Harwood, the MP3 the photo’s etc..

The young lady seemed not to understand. I said it all again, still she did not understand, but made it perfectly clear that an MP3 and a photograph would be of no use whatsoever.

I asked if she knew Marc Harwood – she said she did.

Did I have a show-reel, sometimes they would look at show-reels?

No I didn’t.

As I stood there feeling rather foolish, the young lady then delivered a medium length dissertation on the advantages of having a show-reel, ‘even a home made one’! I could see what she meant but it seemed unlikely that I would be able to make one just at that moment.

Purely by chance – no such suggestion had been made by Marc Harwood – I had a CD with me, one of the tracks being the audition piece.

I pointed out that my contribution was vocals and lead guitar over a recorded rhythm section and then played the track in question.

“Who’s playing the drums?” she asked. (!???!)

‘Disappointment’ hardly covers it.

I sent the following email to Mr Harwood several times but not surprisingly heard nothing further from him.

Marc hi,

     I attended as you instructed. Can I ask please why you wrote the below?

     In Room ‘E’ I was faced with a young lady who knew and accepted nothing of what you told me. It seems the MP3 and pictures I sent to you were completely meaningless to her and did not amount to a satisfactory showreel substitute. She delivered a (by this stage of course quite pointless) dissertation regarding home-made showreels.

     I explained how I used a backing track and added ‘live’ vocals and lead guitar, she listened to a few bars of the track I sent you (which, thank goodness I happened to have with me on CD – did you not arrange access to this MP3 for anyone anywhere?) and then asked me in all seriousness, ‘who is playing the drums?’

     Can you imagine how utterly humiliating, saddening and desperately disappointing this whole episode was, culminating with a preliminary hearing by a judge who is not even listening to what is being said?

     Is there some way we can address this please? A great deal has gone into this. I am good at what I do but find myself defeated by quite unrelated failings.

     Could someone perhaps listen to the CD I left with this young lady, or check out my website and hopefully add me to the call-back list please?

Eventually I wrote to the Head of Production – not in a sour grapes sort of way – just to recount my experience there.

She replied (this is the Head of Production!) that she was sorry I felt that I had, “not been given enough time during my audition”. (Where do they get these people?)

How do they ever get the show going? My first contact really couldn’t be bothered, the lady doing the preliminary audition was not listening to what was being said to her and finally we have a Head of Production who doesn’t read.


* I’m not really a big supporter of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ as a means of career building, I think few musicians are. It is inarguably a reliable means of raising the profile, which is what I was hoping to do – telly reaches a huge audience of course, you don’t have to win to achieve this.

But very few successful entrants seem to go on to have anything more than a quick flutter into the limelight before sinking back into obscurity. Tony Bennett they aint.

It could be something to do with what might be described as the ‘helicopter syndrome’. If you see someone dressed for mountain climbing, complete with ropes, dark goggles and a fur-lined hood and so on, gloved up and standing on the top of Mount Everest this will give you a certain impression of the subject.

If the camera then pulls back and a few meters away stands a helicopter with the rotors still whirring, this will modify the first impression. In most cases it is a long and very hard struggle to succeed long term in the music business. It may be tough but it is significantly less of a struggle to win a singing competition.

More often than not when you see a successful and long established act you are looking at a dedicated practitioner of extremely hard work. The impression often left that it’s an easy way to make loads of money and that winning a singing competition is going to provide for the rest of your working life is a bit optimistic to say the least. I wonder how many of those winners quickly discover that they are required to work many times longer and much harder than they were doing nine-to-five?







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