Former K-Pop Audition Manager Reveals What Agencies Look For In Different Age Groups

The age groups start with lower elementary school students and end with college students.

A former K-Pop audition manager recently took to YouTube to reveal an insider look at the trainee casting process. One interesting tidbit he shared is how the criteria for passing auditions changes based on age. From looks to skills, here’s what idol hopefuls will need to show if they want to become trainees—from lower elementary school to the college years.

1. Lower elementary school

In South Korea, lower elementary school students are around just eight to 10 years old. Unsurprisingly, the former audition manager explained that it’s difficult to have high expectations for their skills at this age, as well as expectations for their future appearance.

TWICE’s Jihyo became a trainee at the age of just eight years old. | JYP Entertainment

Since children’s physical features and abilities are still developing at this age, many agencies consider it a high risk to commit to recruiting these auditionees as long-term trainees.

BABYMONSTER’s Rora reportedly began training at the age of nine. | YG Entertainment/YouTube

Since we don’t know how their height, proportions, or face will change with age, from the company’s perspective it’s high risk to commit to offering them long-term training.

— Former audition manager

However, the audition manager does not that it’s not all that uncommon for there to be two potential celebrities in one family. As such, younger trainee hopefuls are advised to tell casting agents about their famous older siblings if they have any, as this gives agencies a better idea of how the child may grow up.

2. Upper elementary school

Similarly, even upper elementary school students are still going through a phase of “uncertainty.” However, aged around 11 to 13, the former audition manager says that it is easier to predict future potential at this age.

IVE’s Wonyoung joined Starship Entertainment at age 12, shortly before competing on “Produce 48” | Mnet

As such, if an upper elementary student displays “remarkable looks, dance abilities, or vocal abilities,” agencies tend to notice. This can make them valuable “assets” to the company, which is why it’s not uncommon for trainees to be recruited at this age.

| YG Entertainment

It’s not a 100% guarantee, but if they are very talented, it’s fairly noticeable by this age.

— Former audition manager

For upper elementary students, the audition manager notes that height and body proportions are usually overlooked in favor of “face and skill.”

3. Middle school

The former audition manager went on to say that middle school years are usually the easiest and most preferred age to cast. Middle school students in South Korea are 13 to 15 years old.

Stray Kids’ Han became a trainee in 2015, aged 15. | Def Skool Dance /YouTube

In middle schoolers, casting managers look for students who show promise in their visuals as well as singing and dancing. But, they also try to gauge the trainee’s potential for improvement. Many middle school-aged aspiring idols train for several years before making their debut, so they’ll have plenty of time to build their skills with the right training.

BLACKPINK’s Jennie was 14 years old when she became a trainee. | YG Entertainment/YouTube

These students are ideal for improving their ability through slowly training them and working on their appearance to debut, so they are prioritized in casting.

— Former audition manager

4. High school

While it may sound surprising given their young age, the former audition manager revealed that high school students (aged 16 to 18) are only cast in exceptional circumstances. They’ll need to show “remarkable strength in their appearance or ability” to make it through auditions because they won’t have long to train.

Red Velvet’s Irene started training when she was 18 years old, several years after auditioning for SM Entertainment. | SM Entertainment

This is because they’re at the age where they have to start preparing for an upcoming debut.

— Former audition manager

He went on to say that high schoolers must either have perfect looks, or “show potential to improve their looks” with minor cosmetic procedures (for example, filler, botox, eyelid surgery, and skincare) or dieting and weight loss.

LE SSERAFIM’s Chaewon began training just months before “Produce 48” at age 17. | Mnet

Height and body proportions also matter more at this age, the manager notes, as most teens have stopped (or almost stopped) growing by their high school years.

5. College

Finally, while many fans believe that there shouldn’t be an upper age limit on becoming an idol, the former audition manager says that aspiring stars must have very “advanced” skills to become trainees if they’re over 18.

BTS’s Jin was scouted in his freshman year of college. | @bts_twt/Twitter

As such, he doesn’t have positive feelings toward K-Pop-oriented university degrees, which are becoming more popular in South Korea. According to him, youth is one of the most prized assets in the K-Pop industry, so it’s unwise to dream of debuting at this age.

MAMAMOO’s Solar was around 20 years old when she was cast. | RBW

I’ve seen people enter the K-pop major saying to be active in Korea, you need to have graduated college, but like I’ve been saying, youth is key in this industry.

— Former audition manager

Source: The Audition Bible