Rules That 'American Idol' Contestants Have No Choice But To Follow

Jordan Claes
Ryan Seacrest and the cast of 'American Idol'.
instagram | @americanidol

The iconic reality TV series American Idol has been bringing television audiences the best singers that the country has to offer for more than 20 years.

For the past two decades, the series has helped to launch the careers of pop icons Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

Now, in order to peel back the proverbial curtain, here is a list of rules American Idol contestants have no choice but to follow.

You only get one kick at the can.

'American Idol' contestants giving the peace sign.
instagram | @americanidol

If you happen to audition in New York and don't advance, you can't then get in your car and drive to Pennsylvania in order to try your luck again. Contestants receive only one audition per season but are welcomed back the following year.

Walk-ins are technically welcome, although it's not advised.

Katy Perry and Thomas Atkins backstage at 'American Idol'.
instagram | @americanidol

Your best bet to ensure that you're seen by the producers (and hopefully the judges) is to submit an online audition. However, you can show up on the day of the event to register — just be prepared to wait an incredibly long time.

There's an age requirement that must be met.

Randy Johnson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell on stage at 'American Idol'.
Giphy | American Idol

American Idol has also skewed toward a younger age demographic. In order to meet eligibility, contestants must be at least 15 years old at the time of their audition, and no older than 29.

The show isn't always out to showcase the best singers that America has to offer.

Do you remember a contestant by the name of Sanjaya? He was on Season 6 of American Idol and managed to finish in 7th place — even though he was far less talented than the majority of his peers.

In the more recent seasons, contestants must submit an online audition for consideration.

HunterGirl and Noah backstage at 'American Idol'.
instagram | @americanidol

Obviously, the internet wasn't what it is today Kelly Clarkson was crowned — nor was the show even close to as popular. Today, you only receive an in-person audition if your online submission is a success.

Patience is a virtue when it comes to being an 'American Idol' contestant.

Leah Marlene in a limo, posing with fans.
instagram | @americanidol

Don't expect a quick turnaround after submitting your video audition. Hopeful competitors can expect to wait at least six months (and sometimes longer) for any word regarding their submission.

Leave your brand-name clothes at home.

David from 'Schitt's Creek' sitting in a booth, where a black sweater with eyeballs on it.
Giphy | CBC

While it's true that American Idol doesn't have a dress code perse, the producers do encourage contestants to dress for the camera. That means no brand-name clothing or corporate logos are to be worn.

There's a reason why parents sometimes tag along.

Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, Ryan Seacrest, and four 'American Idol' contestants on stage, taking a selfie.
instagram | @americanidol

In short, it's because they have to. All contestants who are under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Otherwise, they will be barred from the competition.

Those with political aspirations may want to think twice.

HunterGirl and Carrie Underwood taking a selfie.
instagram | @americanidol

One of the requirements for eligibility on American Idol is that contestants cannot be running for political office during the time of their audition. They are also banned from running for at least one year afterward.

There's a new twist for 2022!

Jewnnifer Lopez dancing in her seat on 'American Idol'.
Giphy |

Starting this year, nine singers will receive Platinum Tickets. These allow singers the chance to observe their competition from box seats at the performance theater, rest their voices, and eventually choose whom they want to duet with.

The show takes care of your living expenses once you make it to Hollywood.

During the audition process, contestants are responsible for paying their own way. However, once the lucky few who make it to Hollywood are announced, the show covers their living and food costs for the duration of their time.

No instrumental support or backup dancers are allowed during the audition.

Adam Lambert singing.
Giphy | Adam Lambert

The judges encourage all singers to sing acapella. However, contestants are permitted to bring along a guitar with them — provided that they know how to play it themselves.

International contestants need not apply.

The show is called American Idol, after all. Therefore, it only makes sense that in order to compete, you must be a resident of the United States. To date, there are roughly 100 versions of Idol in countries all over the world.

Past contestants are disqualified from re-entry.

Dwight crying in 'The Office'.
Giphy | The Office

I love Willie Spence as much as the next guy, but you have to admit that it'd be a pretty pedestrian move if he were allowed to jump back in and compete the following year. The same is true for any contestant who finishes in the Top 10.

Your prize money depends on you completing your record.

Winners of American Idol make far less than what they used to and they don't get it all at once. The first $125,000 comes after the winner is announced. The additional $125,000 is only given out once the album has been completed.