Simon Cowell launches search for boyband to emulate success of One Direction

He will hold auditions all over the country.

Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell (David Parry Media Assignments/PA)

Simon Cowell said he is “praying” he finds a group as talented as One Direction as he launched a UK-wide search for a new boyband.

The music mogul is embarking on a hunt for a group to rival the success achieved by Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne, 14 years after forming One Direction on The X Factor in 2010.

Cowell said he wants to go “back to basics” with the search, in contrast to the auditions in front of large crowds on The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, but the process will be filmed for a potential future documentary series.

He told the PA news agency: “I would pray to find a band as good as One Direction and to find the records as good as they made, there are so many factors involved to make a band successful all over the world.

Cowell with One Direction members Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne
Cowell with One Direction members Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne (Ian West/PA)

“You can’t fake this, even though I’m the one going out to do the auditions, it really depends on the individuals. If you find the right people I’m not someone who says dress like this, say this, do this, it is just not my style and I never once did that with One Direction.”

He said One Direction were “lightning in a bottle” but he is hopeful a new group can emulate their success, saying the recent decline in UK artists breaking internationally is “shocking”.

Ahead of nationwide auditions later this month, Cowell donned a pair of dungarees and scaled a ladder armed with a brush and bucket of poster paste to erect a billboard in London reading: “Simon needs you. Future megastars wanted for new boyband. No time wasters.”

Cowell with his billboard
Cowell with his billboard (David Parry Media Assignments/PA)

He said: “Bands never knock on your front door, it’s never happened in my career, someone has to go out and put them together – and the truth is since One Direction there hasn’t been a successful UK boyband.

“The only way to do it is do what I used to do, go out and do it and audition and do it face to face and don’t have any pre-casting.

“In other words, don’t have people choose people in advance, it really is first come first served.

“You have to see a lot of people, the auditions are quick and you have to pray and hope enough people turn up and the right people turn up.

“If we are lucky enough to find the right people then there has never been a better time to be in a band right now.”

(David Parry Media Assignments/PA)

Asked why he was rejecting The X Factor format for the search, he said: “Because I wanted to show the process of what really, really happens when we do this.

“I’ve been in the music business for a long, long time and I’ve never seen anything that portrays what really, really happens when you go out and audition.

“You have to make an awful lot of decisions and a lot happens which we’ve never really showed. So I thought, apart from anything else, it will be really interesting to document the process and then hope also along the way that we get lucky enough to find the right people, because if we don’t get enough people turn up we are screwed.”

Cowell was dismissive of musicians trying to find fame on TikTok, saying: “I have no interest in those people whatsoever. I’m only interested in people who want to show up and tell us why they want to do this.

“And if they can’t be bothered to do this, then they’re the wrong people to be in the band, because it’s hard work being in a band.”

He added: “If you really honestly believe that just by posting your videos on TikTok or whatever, you’re going to suddenly get a global career, well buy a lottery ticket, because the market is so crowded right now with so many people trying to get attention.

(David Parry Media Assignments/PA)

“Posting videos in your bedroom, it’s not enough and I’m trying to prove a point here that to succeed in the music business, you got to get up, you’ve got to turn up, you’ve got to show up.

“And by showing up, it shows that you’ve got ambition. Because the decline in UK artists breaking internationally right now is shocking.

“I’ve never ever seen such a bad, sorry state of affairs. And I’m not doing this as a crusade but I hope to prove a point that this is one of the ways of getting a career in the music business.

“Because if the band’s successful, as One Direction has shown, you do have a chance of having a really successful solo career.”

He will be joined for the auditions by people he trusts from his record label  and TV company, who he believes “genuinely made a difference in One Direction’s career”.

He added: “I’m praying that this is going to work and even if it doesn’t work, at least I can say, ‘Well, I tried.’

“I’m really passionate about this. And I always always believed that there are gems out there waiting to be discovered.”

The search is being documented by a TV crew from Box To Box Films, the company behind Formula 1: Drive To Survive, and Cowell said he is “getting close” to announcing the format it will take.

Auditions are scheduled to take place in Newcastle on July 4 and 5, Liverpool on July 7 and 8, Dublin on July 28 and 29 and London on August 1, 2 and 3. Hopefuls can sign up at simonneedsyou.com.