X Factor in crisis? Number of people auditioning plummets
The dream of instant stardom and global adoration brought thousands of wannabe pop stars to the X Factor auditions at the Liverpool Echo Arena, where they queued for hours to impress the television juggernaut’s talent scouts.
At least, they did last year. At the second and final day of this year’s audition in Liverpool, it seemed there were hardly enough people to populate a pop group. In the words of one person there, it had all the atmosphere of a doctor’s waiting room, suggesting the prognosis for Simon Cowell’s faltering Saturday night staple isn’t good.
Liverpool, which has a rich musical heritage dating back past the Beatles, has yielded many successes for the reality show, launching the careers of Rebecca Ferguson, Christopher Maloney, Ray Quinn and Marcus Collins.
The city usually attracts large numbers of wannabes. “X Factor queue here” said the sign placed optimistically by crash barriers at the entrance. There was no queue.
It is a sign of the changing fortunes of the 11-year-old format. Last December, X Factor’s ratings dipped to an all-time low, with an average of 8.4 million viewers. Five years ago, it drew 14.1 million. Cowell has indicated he will pull the programme if its ratings continue to fall.
Disappointed student Jenny Fairbrother, 18, from Litherland, who sang Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran, was turned down due to her lack of confidence. She said when she auditioned last year they were “queuing round the arena in a big circle” and she’d waited for hours.
Her mum, Chrissy, said: “Last time there were hundreds inside the arena sitting on the floor, playing music and singing.” Yesterday it just “felt flat and it doesn’t look or feel like an audition”, she said. “It felt like I was waiting for a doctor’s appointment.”
Singer and guitarist Owen Brown, 17, from Crosby, said he hadn’t been allowed to play his guitar. His mother, Moira, said: “It did feel a bit strange the lack of people. I expected it to be busy and it was quite dead.” She described the “air of disappointment” inside.
Molly Read, a 21-year-old student, who’d sung Unconditionally by Katy Perry, said: “I knew I shouldn’t have come. It was a no. The lack of people in there made it worse. I expected to have about six hours to warm my voice up. I had to wait only an hour.”
The X Factor security men were on full alert, however, approaching The Independent’s reporter as contestants were interviewed as they left. “Who are you and what are you doing?” one asked. “The car park is private land. You can go across the bridge and stand over there by Albert Dock. You need to leave.”
An X Factor spokesman said: “Numbers are actually on a par with previous years. Overall we’ve had tens of thousands of people apply.”