How Does ‘America’s Got Talent’ Work?

America’s Got Talent is a live competition show in which acts compete for a cash prize and affirmation from Simon Cowell himself. Talent ranges from dancers, magicians, sword swallowers, and ventriloquists, but the common denominator is they are all striving for a million dollar prize.

Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell at the season 13 finale | Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The audition process

Talented hopefuls can audition for the show by appearing at an open call or sending in a video of their performance. Experts recommend that acts try to get to one of the in-person audition sites to perform because producers like seeing the talent in person.

The first round of all auditions for America’s Got Talent are open to the public, which means the line for auditions could be very long. When a contestant arrives for an audition they are assigned a contestant sticker number based on their position in line. Then they simply wait for their number to come up.

Unlike other reality talent shows, acts don’t find out if they move on during the day of their audition. Instead, they have to wait several months to find out if they have made it onto the next round. Only then will they have the stage audition, as you see on TV, in front of the panel of judges. 

The ‘America’s Got Talent’ judges

The acts that make it through the first set of auditions move on to the “Judges’ Auditions”. They are then given just 90-seconds to perform their act for the judges and a live audience. At the end of their act, they receive a little bit of feedback or criticism from the judges and then the judges vote to see who moves on to the next stage. Contestants are eliminated if they don’t get the majority vote at this time. 

Each judge has a buzzer to use if they dislike a performer. If all three judges “buzz” an act, the act is automatically eliminated. 

The magic of the Golden Buzzer

The Golden Buzzer was added after several seasons of America’s Got Talent. Now, during an audition, a judge has the opportunity to automatically send a contestant to the live shows even if the other judges disagree. The judges can only use their golden buzzer once per season. Additionally, the host of the show is able to use the Golden Buzzer as well, if they have an act they’d like to save.

In recent seasons judges have given all kinds of acts the Golden Buzzer. One example is Angelica Hale who’s been received the Golden Buzzer twice. 

The live competition

The acts who get through auditions achieve a place in the live competition where they all compete against each other to make it to the live finale. 

Judges then see each participant give a brand new performance of their act during a “performance episode”. Judges give them their positive and negative feedback and then (as long as an act hasn’t been terminated by the buzzers) the public has a set time to vote for their favorite performers. 

Results of the voting are given during a separate “results” episode and the top contestants move on to the next stage of the competition. 

The final round

The season’s finale is when the finalists compete against each other for the most votes from the public and a seriously large cash prize. Final performances take several episodes and competitors are typically allowed more than on performance. The winning act receives a million dollar prize and often gets to headline a concert as a result of winning. 

This ‘America’s Got Talent’ season

You can watch America’s Got Talent Tuesday nights on NBC. It will air all summer long, as the judges seek to find the next big thing. Auditions have been scheduled for Season 15 already. If you think you’ve got talent check to see where the closest audition city might be. You never know, you could be the next winner!