There are several reasons why virtual auditions are better than physical auditions, but none is more important than the recent health and safety concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed. Nigeria has been home to a plethora of reality shows, some of the biggest in the continent. These reality shows attract a great deal of interest from viewers across the country right from the audition stage. Typically, the format for hosting reality show auditions in Nigeria is to hold physical auditions across major cities in the country, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan. These audition centres are usually filled to capacity with teeming Nigerians eager for their shot at stardom.
Beyond the obvious safety hazards of stretching a building beyond capacity, potential participants travel far distances across the country to audition centres. They also spend hours waiting turns to get an opportunity to audition. Those who cannot make long-distance trips are also prevented from participating in the auditions. Holding physical auditions is also time-wasting and money consuming. Taking the time to hold several auditions across several cities is exhausting, requiring audition judges to travel from one city to the other.
Ahead of its Y’ello Star auditions and even before COVID-19 struck, MTN Nigeria did something different. The ICT company took the auditions virtual, and participants were required to send a video entry. This is the first time auditions would be held virtually in Nigeria, a country with a well-established string of reality shows. The COVID-19 pandemic also made the decision to hold virtual auditions even more relevant, as lockdown and social distancing rules became the norm. In spite of the novel requirement for virtual auditions, over 9,000 audition videos entries were sent in from interested participants across Nigeria. Interested participants were not deterred by the new way of doing things, but have embraced it.
Given the trend of recent occurrences, virtual auditions might be here to stay, providing a safer and more efficient alternative to carrying out nationwide auditions. Out of the over 9,000 audition videos sent in from across Nigeria, 40 were selected to move on to the next stage, out of which 14 were later selected to participate in the show.
Y’ello Star is a different kind of talent project. MTN Nigeria is creating a new template for music talent shows in Nigeria, rejecting the winner takes all format and embracing a system that empowers all participants, while still maintaining a competitive structure. Judges include multi-Grammy award-winning producer, Malik Yusef, RnB singer, Banky W and singer-songwriter, Omawumi. The show is hosted by Tobi Bakre and Hilda Baci.