Former SM Entertainment Audition Agent Explains What Happens After Idols Are Street-Cast

Getting street-cast is just the first step in a long journey!

Street-casting has always been something of a mystery to K-Pop fans. How is it that idols cast for their visuals on the street somehow turned out to be super talented too? Thankfully, K-Pop fan, model, and YouTuber Izzi Isman recently sat down with a former SM Entertainment audition judge who explained exactly what happens after idols are street-cast.

You may not have realized it, but many of SM Entertainment’s most talented stars were spotted by casting agents on the streets of Seoul based solely on their looks. Girls’ Generation‘s lead vocalist Seohyun, NCT Dream‘s lead dancer Jaemin, and EXO‘s main rapper Chanyeol are just a few examples.

Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun was street-cast while on the subway.

What are the odds that they’d be talented as well as attractive? Well, what many fans don’t know is that there’s a whole private audition process for idols who have been street-cast.

EXO’s Chanyeol was street-cast while literally walking down the street.

Many assume that street-cast idols receive trainee contract offers based on their looks alone, but receiving an SM Entertainment business card out in public is just the start of their journey.

NCT’s Jaemin was street-cast while doing volunteer work.

The company’s former casting agent explained that street-cast idols have to come to SM Entertainment’s offices after receiving their preliminary offers.

EXO’s Suho was street-cast while doing community service at a park.

Before, we usually ask them to come to the COEX SM Artium [5-21]. There was a studio there. We’ll film there a little bit, then we go to Apgujeongdong 521—it’s a famous building next to Galleria. We sometimes film there too. Then Samseong-dong 52-1. They weirdly like the number 521.

— Ex-SM Entertainment audition judge

The company asks the street-cast starlets to show up in a comfortable outfit—something like a fitted tee, skinny jeans, and sneakers (no dresses or heels). Once they arrive, they have to introduce themselves in front of a camera, stating their name, age, school, and more.

f(x)’s Krystal was street-cast at a mall when she was 5 years old.

But once isn’t always enough. The former casting agent told viewers that the potential idols have to keep recording their introduction until they’re good at it—likely to ensure they’d do well on camera in the future.

EXO’s Sehun was street-cast while eating tteokbokki with his friends.

Next, they have to take profile pictures, including headshots from the front, left, and right, as well as full body shots.

SHINee’s Minho was street-cast on a skiing vacation.

Once all the visual work is done, it’s time to crack down to talent. All the starlets who are cast on the streets are asked to prepare a staggering 4 to 5 songs to sing at their private audition—and they all need to be high-pitched to show off their vocal range.

NCT’s Taeyong was street-cast while literally walking down the street.

Then, at the audition, they face a grueling process of singing their songs over and over again until they’re good. The casting agents then select and edit the best recording, sending it to former SM Entertainment CEO Lee Soo Man personally for his opinion.

f(x)’s Amber was street-cast at a festival in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

And the process still isn’t over yet. Next, they have to dance. Street-cast auditionees are asked to prepare a dance in advance, but the casting directors hit them with their own pre-prepared songs at the audition too.

NCT’s Jaehyun was street-cast outside his school building.

For example, if they can freestyle to a hip-hop song, it doesn’t matter if they’re not great. We just need to know that they can follow the beat.

— Ex-SM Entertainment audition judge

The dance videos are cherry-picked and edited too, so the best ones can be shown to the higher-level SM Entertainment directors during later meetings.

TVXQ’s Changmin was street-cast during gym class.

Sound like a lot? There’s still more to come. Those who show exceptional singing skills after being street-cast are then asked to come to a real recording studio where they can record professional versions their best renditions.

Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany was street-cast at a festival in Los Angeles.

Finally, all these tapes and recordings are presented in a meeting with Lee Soo Man. Only when the former CEO weighed in with his opinion could the casting agents begin offering and signing trainee contracts.

Lee Soo Man | SM Entertainment

Even if they got street-casted, if they’re really bad at singing then we let them go.

— Ex-SM Entertainment audition judge

With all the work that goes into proving their talents, it’s no wonder the street-cast idols on SM Entertainment’s roster today are so incredibly talented as well as beautiful and handsome!

Former SM Entertainment Casting Agent Reveals What The Company Looks For In Its Idols