How to be a K-Pop Star – Top 10 Best Tips for K-Pop Auditions

With the rise of K-pop globally, more and more people are looking to become the next K-pop idol. Korean entertainment companies do a great job of recruiting to find the next top talent. Many go all around the world holding offline auditions. K-pop entertainment companies know it is smart to have at least one member in the group be a non-Korean which will help them expand into that particular market. For example, JYP has an all-white Kpop group called EXP Edition and having Lisa who is Thai on BLACKPINK, has expanded Kpop into Thailand. In fact, Lisa is one of the most popular K-pop stars at the moment.

However, before one can become a K-pop Star, one must go through the growling training process that can last 3-5 years. Jo Kwon from 2 AM had to train for 8 years before his debut. This can ultimately lead to being one of the top 30 richest K-pop Idols

The life of a trainee is hard as they live, train, and perform with other trainees at a very young age. For those looking to become the next K-pop idol, we at Seoulz talked to many experts in the K-pop industry from producers, past idols, and staffers to come up with 10 tips on how to be a K-pop star. Remember to become a K-pop star you need to have 2 out of 3 factors. Be a good singer or rapper, be a good dancer, and be attractive. It is a must to at least have 2 out of the 3. 

Here are the 10 Tips on How to be a K-pop Star 

How to be a Kpop Star1. Start voice and dance training at an early age.

You can audition as early as 12 years old. Therefore it is recommended to get a full two years of experience in dancing and voice training before auditioning. That means at the earliest you should be training at age 10. If you are under 14, a legal guardian will need to accompany you for your audition. The average age of those that audition is 18 years old (ranges from 12-25 years old). Still, this means you should start training at age 16 at the latest. 

We recommend focusing on dancing as most interested in entering K-pop can sing or rap. Your focus should be on hip hop and urban dancing. For those that do not have the funds to take dancing lessons, there are hundreds of dance tutorials online that can help you. Commit to at least 30 hrs a week on becoming a more versatile dancer. One producer said that they would take a great dancer over a great singer any day. In Kpop performance on stage is very important. It is very common for the songs to be pre-recorded so the group can focus on the choreography of their live performance.

While singing can be faked with autotune, dancing can’t. These performances are visually stimulating in ways that just singing can’t deliver. In addition, if you are a good dancer, you will be featured more on the teaser videos. An example of this is with EXO/Kai and SHINee/Taemin. 

Therefore, it is possible to become a K-pop star even if you can’t sing. There are many rappers, dancers, and visuals that have found great success as a K-pop star. For example, Nancy from Momoland and Yoona from SNSD do not have great voices but are pretty much the face of their group.

2.  It helps to know some level of Korean.

SM Entertainment AuditionsIt is not a requirement to speak Korean. Remember, BlackPink’s Lisa didn’t speak Korean when she was a trainee. In fact, many K-pop entertainment companies allow all ethnicities and races to audition. This is because they want a representative from a particular country because that expands their audience base. Countries like Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and of course China are places many K-pop entertainment companies are eager to enter. However, you should still know some level of Korean. Furthermore, you will be living in Korea during your training and it is a good idea to know some Korean in case you want to travel around Seoul. In addition, Koreans like when foreigners make an effort to learn the Korean language. 

Try to learn the basic phrases in the beginning and while you train in Korean you will quickly be able to pick up the Korean language. You will be performing many Korean songs and be surrounded by many Korean trainees. Therefore preparing by studying Korean beforehand will be very helpful. There are many Korean educational apps you can use to make this process easier.  

3.  Don’t forget to work on your personality.

K-pop entertainment companies realize that personality goes a long way in building a group’s fanbase. All will have to go on Korean variety shows and this is where personality goes a long way. A great way to work on your personality is to watch K-pop idol interviews and prepare yourself with the typical questions that might come your way. Another way is to have a few prepared funny/interesting stories ready. Think of it as storytelling and the more you tell it, the more feedback you will get to try and improve it. 

Remember the life of a K-pop star is very short so it is important you are able to transition into other areas such as announcing or acting. Therefore as mentioned at #2 on this list, if you are a foreigner, learning the Korean language will give you more exposure on these Korean TV programs. Koreans like hearing foreigners speak broken Korean, they consider it cute. In addition, Kpop stars will be pushed to sell Kpop merchandise and if you have a fun personality, it can bring a lot of value for the entertainment company, ultimately giving you more advertisement exposure.

4.  Perform well-known Pop songs during your audition.

This is crucial. Take a popular K-pop song and add your own arrangement and style to it. When you have time, take a look at YouTube of IU’s acoustic cover of SNSD’s Gee. If you perform your own original song or an obscure song, most judges will tune you out from the start. If you are a songwriter, you will have plenty of opportunities to showcase your talent, just don’t do it during an audition. While you are a trainee you will be asked to write and choreograph your own original music so keep that in mind. Most auditions will ask you to sing on an English song and one Korean song. It is always good to have one backup just in case.  

5.  Prepare one personal dance choreography routine.

Most auditions will ask you to do a dance choreography. Again pick a popular song and choreograph your own dance routine. This is where you can really show them your creativity, more so than with a song. Check out this amazing choreography of BTS’s Boy With Luv.  

6.  Don’t be too active on social media before you become a trainee.

Korean entertainment companies will screen your social media accounts to make sure you are not in scandalous situations. K-pop stars need to show good manners and behave properly. Especially after the recent Burning Sun scandal, it is important to keep a low profile on social media accounts. One mistake can be costly. Therefore it is better to be safe than sorry.

Hold off on social media for now and focus on training. This also means you need to stay out of trouble. No more partying at clubs and drinking alcohol with friends. Producers do their best to try and predict if a certain trainee could cause issues later on down the line. Therefore don’t give them a reason to doubt your willingness to work hard.

Some might say that there are teams looking at social media accounts to find that next star. This is not true. There might be occasions where Korean entertainment companies select you based on your social media profile but in over 95% of cases, talent is scouted via auditions and profile submissions. The fact is that talent scouts are just too busy to keep track of social media to find talent. They are focused on live auditions and reviewing online submissions, therefore focus your attention on those.

Once you become a K-pop star it is up to the entertainment company’s policies and rules on whether you can have your own social media channel. The good news is that because of the success of BLACKPINK and BTS using social media to expand their reach, more and more K-pop entertainment companies are letting their stars run their own channels.

7.  Don’t be overweight and stay fit.

Korean entertainment companies are a certain beauty standard and if you don’t fit that standard they will not take you on. No matter if you are the best singer or dancer you need to be below a certain weight. The magic number tends to be under 50 kg. In order to come in under this weight, it is recommended one eats below 2,000 calories per day. This is because of all the training you will be doing preparing for your auditions. This is the unfortunate side of the K-Pop industry, as your appearance is going to influence whether or not you become a trainee. For those interested in the K-Pop Diet, here is a great article to read

8.  Wear normal comfortable clothes and minimal makeup for your audition.

Producers have said they want to TURN people into K-pop stars. They love seeing a blank canvas they can work with. Therefore, don’t wear body-altering clothes or fancy K-pop clothing. Keep it simple and comfortable as you will be asked to dance. As far as makeup, it is important to have a minimalistic look. Remember once you become a trainee there will be a team of makeup artists and stylists who will transform you into a K-pop idol.  

9.  Apply for as many online auditions and live auditions as possible.

How to Become a K-pop starYou need to get yourself out there as much as possible. Online auditions (email auditions) are easy to enter and we suggest you enter as many as possible. Live auditions (open recruitment auditions) might get costly, especially if you have to travel a long distance. However, if a live audition is nearby, go to it because if you are one of the top winners, you can become a trainee right away. 

We suggest you visit all the Korean Entertainment company’s websites and make a calendar to see when the next audition takes place. Most K-pop entertainment companies look at each other’s schedules to not conflict with them. Therefore you will not be in many situations where you will need to choose one company’s audition over the other. 

We would recommend you check back every week as companies update their site regularly on the latest news regarding tryouts and auditions. Since K-pop is becoming more and more global, global live auditions are happening all over the world.

What to expect at K-pop auditions.

There used to be the top 3 but now it is the top 4. Big Hit Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, SM Entertainment, and YG Entertainment. Competition to be a trainee at these K-pop entertainment companies will be intense. Big Hit Entertainment focuses primarily on boy groups and is the toughest company to enter into. They give a lot of attention to one group and promote that one particular group. As with the case of BTS. 

For all auditions, you will need to fill out an audition application (kind of like a resume) form a few days before the actual audition. On the day of the audition, you will be with a large group of people in a practice room. Then they will bring out a list of names to let you know when you will enter another room to audition. The audition itself is different for every company but usually will require you to introduce yourself, perform 1-2 songs, and 1 dance choreography. Judges will not give feedback for this audition, so if they like you will get a call back for a second-round audition or get a call back telling you what to improve on. Round 2 consists of around 15-20 people and each will be required to sing inside a recording studio to perform one song.  

Some K-Pop entertainment companies prefer group auditions. This means around a group of 10 people enter the audition room and from there they each choose to sing, rap, or dance. Based on this they will call back to request a second audition.  

How to become a K-pop star JYPWhere to apply for K-pop auditions.

  • Big Hit Entertainment auditions here!
  • JYP Entertainment auditions here!
  • SM Entertainment auditions here!
  • YG Entertainment auditions here
  • FNC Entertainment auditions here!
  • Cube Entertainment auditions here!
  • Woollim Entertainment auditions here!
  • Pledis Entertainment auditions here!
  • Starship Entertainment auditions here!
  • Top Media Entertainment auditions here
  • Jellyfish Entertainment auditions here!
  • Mystic Entertainment auditions here!
  • DSP Media auditions here!
  • Fantagio Music auditions here!
  • KQ Entertainment auditions here!
  • BrandNew Music auditions here!
  • C9 Entertainment auditions here!
  • MLD Entertainment auditions here!

Applying for K-pop Reality Shows.

Another method on how to be a K-pop star would be to audition for K-pop reality shows. The top channel in Korea is Mnet which is Korea’s version of MTV. When auditioning for these programs, your “story” goes a long way in you getting on their program. Since they are first a TV show, they want to showcase your story more than your talent. Make sure you have a compelling story when applying to these K-pop reality shows. Some of their K-pop reality shows on Mnet are listed below.

  • Produce101
  • Produce X 101
  • Queendom
  • Produce 48
  • Superstar K
  • Show me the money
  • Girls from Abroad

SBS also has its own Kpop reality show called Kpop Star. The show brought judges from SM, JYP, YG, and a producer from Kpop Star. Therefore for the audition, you won’t be judged by one of these 4 judges or a representative for them.

KBS2 – The Unit is an Idol Rebooting Project where idols who have already debuted are given a second chance to showcase their talents to form another male or female group.

10.  Learn from every audition.

From the former K-pop stars, we spoke to it took an average of 8-10 auditions before they got accepted. This is because they got a lot of valuable feedback from producers and judges. Make sure to take what they say and incorporate it into your next audition. If you pass an audition, you will need to pass some more (usually 2-3 more). Then you will become a trainee and with a lot of hard work will be on your way to becoming a K-pop star. It is a good rule that after 20 auditions and you have made zero progress, that is a clear early sign you won’t make it.  

How to be a K-pop Entertainment Influencer

There might be those out there that might not want to join one of the top K-pop entertainment companies. The truth is that once you join one of those companies you lose a lot of freedom and your creative voice. That is the sacrifice many artists have to make when entering this industry. However, there are other options. There is currently a huge market for influencer marketing. The industry is expected to reach $16 billion by 2022.

SG Entertainment

K-pop in HongdaeSG Entertainment is a K-pop academy located in Hongdae, which is one of our top 10 places to visit in Seoul. The academy trains up and coming artists at their academies to help them build their reach and leverage their fan bases to promote the advertiser’s products. One can train at SG Entertainment and through hard work could end up being signed by SG Entertainment.

Professional Studio Setup

Learn to dance, sing, act, and produce/compose music.

K-pop Entertainment Dance StudioAn artist produced by SG Entertainment will be promoted both to the Korean market as well as the French/EU market through the Paris agency. Therefore advertisers will be able to reach a much wider global audience. Those that are looking to visit Seoul, should go to Hongdae and check out SG entertainment as they offer foreigner tourist tours. Contact: contact@sg-ent.com

Frequently Asked Questions on How to become a K-pop Idol

Is there a Kpop Entertainment Company for Non-Asian Artists?

Yes, we at Seoulz did a full article on UnionWave Entertainment. They are an international Kpop company that focuses a lot on diversity. They recently opened their Seoul office. They hold global auditions toward the second half of the year. Make sure to follow their audition page to keep up to date on their next global audition.

What is a typical Live K-pop Audition like?

This is different for every single K-Pop Entertainment company. However, a rough estimate is that for singing you will get to sing for 30 seconds. You will be with around 5 other applicants. If they like you, you will be asked to sing a full song. For a dance audition, you will be with a group of 5 and you all will dance to one song. Again this is not for every Entertainment company. However, this is pretty standard.

What is required in an online audition?

The typical requirement is for you to fill out their application form, upload your profile picture or pictures, and upload or send a singing, dancing, or rapping video (around 2 minutes).

How long do I have to be a trainee?

A lot of luck and work ethic are involved. However, there have been cases of people only training for a few months and other cases where they are trainees for 10 years. The average length is around 3 years.

What is a typical schedule like as a trainee?

Again this is different for every K-pop Entertainment company. So we will layout a typical day based on a collective average of all agencies. Since most trainees are students they will have to go to school first which usually ends around 4 pm.

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – The will start to train at their company’s training center. This is where they will turn over their cellphone. They will practice their singing and dancing during this time. It is usually split into two sections.

7:00 pm – 8:00 pm – This will be their dinner time. Most K-pop trainees will be on a strict diet so the foods will be low carb meals like salads or soups.

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm – They will have this time to study. The study could include learning a new language, personality training, and sex education. This does not include their school study.

10:00 pm – Midnight – This is where the trainees will have free time. However, in most cases, this is not free as they will need to use this time for their school studies or to practice more. Some stay up until 1 to 2 am.

Depending on the K-pop entertainment company, the trainees will either go home or go to their dorm which will be filled with at least 4 other trainees.

What are some of the things you are banned from doing as a K-pop Trainee?

Some of the typical bans are as follows:

  • Dating
  • Social Media
  • Drinking
  • Clubbing

At what age should I give up becoming a K-pop star?

If you are a trainee for a K-pop Entertainment company and you are about to turn 25 years old. This would be a good time to quit. By this age, it is almost impossible to debut since more groups are debuting at a younger age each year.

Do I need to have pale/light skin?

Yes. There is a reason why a vast majority of K-pop stars have pale/light skin.

Do I need to speak Korean well?

This is not a requirement. However, if you are not Korean, mastering the Korean language would be a huge bonus. Koreans love foreigners that take the time to learn Korean. Look at Lisa from BLACKPINK.

Can I become a K-Pop star if I am from another country?

Yes! K-pop Entertainment companies travel the world looking for new talent. Of course, you will need to have “the look”. This means you have to look somewhat Korean and be attractive. The reason why K-Pop Entertainment companies go to other countries is that they want that market. Countries get behind K-pop groups if one of their own has made the group. This is a recent trend because in the past K-pop Entertainment companies only focused on China and Japan. Now they are looking all around the world.

How many “Rookie Groups” end up making it big?

There are so many K-pop Entertainment companies out there besides the Big 3. All combined they produce hundreds of groups per year. Out of all that, only about 10-15 groups will become known to a reasonably sized audience. The rest end up disbanding within the first year of their debut.

How much do K-pop Stars make?

If you are part of the lucky ones that end up making it big, you will make millions of dollars. Groups like BTS, SNSD, BIG BANG, and BLACKPINK brought in an insane amount of money from their Entertainment companies. Each member made at least $1 million a year. BTS, for example, is reported to have made $8 million each! This is just what they get paid by the Entertainment companies. This does not include endorsement deals which could also bring them millions of dollars.

According to the Korean National Tax Service: The top K-pop stars (Top 1%) averaged $3 million in yearly salary. The mid-tier K-pop stars (10%) averaged around $600,000 a year. The remaining 89% average around $10,000 a year.

How long will it take to find out if I passed my K-pop Audition? 

It will take less than a week. We have spoken to some trainees that got notified that day. These scouts know what they want and will notify you that you passed within a matter of days. After a week if you don’t hear anything that means you did not pass. They don’t notify you that you DIDN’T pass because this would take too long for them. This is why you should never put all your eggs in one basket. Try out for as many K-pop auditions as possible. The companies realize that most do which is why if you have passed they want to notify you right away.


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John

John is the Editor-in-Chief at Seoulz. He has covered the startup, tech & blockchain scene for media platforms Startup Radar and Seoul Space having written over 600 articles on Korea's blockchain and startup ecosystem. John has worked closely with The Ministry of SMEs and Startups as well as the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity. Email him at john@seoulz.com

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