The Voice Casting Agent Spills Behind the Scenes Details

THE VOICE -- "Blind Auditions" -- Pictured: (l-r) Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Shawn Carnes, a former gospel singer and a Nashville-based casting assistant has been scouting talent for The Voice since since season 11. Responsible for bringing Chloe Kohanski, the current winner to the show, the agent shared a few The Voice casting secrets with Billboard.

In order to leave no stone unturned, NBC spends a ton of money and time casting the show:

“If the producers like you, you can expect to be on a plane in less than two weeks,” says Carnes.

NBC makes a big financial commitment. All the contestants are flown to Los Angeles and compensated during a month or so of production, and some of them may never even compete. The judges, says Carnes, filled up their teams so quickly for season 14 that roughly 25 people never got to step on the stage for the blind audition.

“They get a good little salary,” says Carnes. “All their expenses are paid, plus on top of that they shoot all their back stories. [NBC spends] a ton of money, and they don’t even use most of it. There’s a limited few that make it on the show.”

In order to fill casting holes toward the end of the process, some contestants may only get a two week notice before flying out to Los Angeles to prepare for the show.

Also, Carnes said, those “fast tracked” contestants may only get a very short window to review massive contracts before joining the show.  He remembers one instance where a contestant “…flew home on that Thursday, got home Thursday night, had to have that contract back to them by Saturday afternoon,” Carnes said. “They’re not going to be able to negotiate anything, [and] it’s a thick contract.”

Carnes concedes that the show doesn’t really graduate genuine stars. “When they put all the artists through the process, they do a great job developing them and coaching them and getting them primed and ready to be on that stage,” said Carnes. “What they don’t do is teach them anything about starting their own business. They’re not ever taught how to utilize that platform once they get off the show.”

And for that reason, Carnes has started managing and/or consulting some of the acts he sends off to the show. But in the end, he told Billboard, “Each artist needs to be ready and I think it’s up to them.”

Those initial performances are called “Blind Auditions.” But there is no way a contestant could just come in off the street and deliver such highly polished performances. It’s obvious a ton of work happens ahead of time behind the scenes. 

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Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!