By Mandi Bierly
Updated February 24, 2011 at 08:37 PM EST
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The X Factor‘s hunt for the next American idol — who will receive a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music upon his, her, or their crowning — begins next month, Fox has announced. Auditions will start March 27 in Los Angeles. (You can see the list of all six dates below.) The network has also released a video of Simon Cowell explaining his “singing competition with a twist” (embedded below). The show, which premieres in September on Fox, is open to singers and vocal groups of 12 years of age or older. Contestants will be broken down into four categories — young guys, young girls, older singers, and groups. Those who make the finals will be mentored by a judge. More specifics and requirements are found on the show’s website. In the video, Cowell hints at the added drama of watching people audition in front of an audience of 3,000 or 4,000, and of having people in their 40s or 50s, for whom this really could be their last chance, competing against 14-year-olds. Because thousands of people will be auditioning, Cowell encourages contestants to stand out: “Dress differently, behave differently, dance differently. Don’t copy what other people have done before,” he says. But for $5 million, we assume he’s talking about making a song your own — not making a memorable fool of yourself. Cowell will talk more about the show with Piers Morgan, who announced earlier today on Twitter that he just booked his friend for his CNN show. The interview will be taped next week in LA.

The X Factor audition dates:

Los Angeles, CA: Sunday, March 27, L.A. Sports Arena

Miami, FL: Thursday, April 7, Bank United Center

Newark, NJ: Thursday, April 14, Prudential Center

Seattle, WA: Wednesday, April 20, Key Arena

Chicago, IL: Wednesday, April 27, Sears Centre Arena

Dallas, TX: Date TBA, Location TBA

Read more:

Episode Recaps

The X Factor

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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