American Idol will replace the on-stage band with audience members

American Idol has hired Ray Chew as its new band director, but is planning to hide him and the musicians, replacing them on the stage with audience members, because as we all know, American Idol‘s biggest problem was that it had too few coached audience members getting screen time.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported that Ray Chew would join the show; he’s previously produced and conducted live music for live TV shows such as the Grammys, the 2008 Democractic National Convention, and The Singing Bee. (Watch his reel to see what’s he’s done.)

Executive producer Ken Warwick told Entertainment Weekly that the band is being moved: “At the moment, the [upper] tier that was where the band was is now going to be audience. The plan is that the band will come out when required. There’s going to be a whole new kind of arena feel to the whole proceeding.”

MJ reminds us that the show didn’t always have live music: season four was the first season with Rickey Minor and a live band; she also speculates that the show’s new mentor could create backing tracks that the band would add to.

Meanwhile, reports continue to come in about format changes; most recently, Joe’s Place reported that “The top 40 will be brought back to Hollywood for a round called ‘Sing For Your Life’.”

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