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So you want to be in a rock band?: Warning signs of a bad battle

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | January 14th, 2008

Battle of the bands competitions and online Independent musician award contests

Hosted by infamously questionable companies like Supernova, local pubs frequently present battle of the bands competitions which appear, on face value, to offer lucrative prizes and acclaim to their lucky winners.

However, what few know is that the entrance fees that bands are required to pay in order to participate are often worth more than the actual prizes. While these competitions would likely not be considered scams in the traditional sense, I would argue that they do, in fact, fall into this category for two reasons:

1) Because participants are often mislead in regards to the actual value of the awards and

2) Because several of these events are fraught with speculation of being “fixed.”

I have heard, on more than one occasion, sad stories about bands that “rocked their hardest,” had the entire room up and cheering for them, yet still somehow failed to place among the top ranks, despite the fact that these competitions are openly noted as being fan-driven and placement is supposedly based on crowd rankings.

The customary top prize for a winner in one of these competitions is studio time. While this may seem like a great award, especially if your band has a cash-flow problem, what one needs to ask themselves is: what kind of studio would give away a recording session for free?

Through experience I can tell you that the kind of studio that would is NOT the kind of studio that you want producing your album. Further, usually the small allotment of studio time granted only allows an act to record a couple of songs which may or may not include additional mixing and mastering (any band that has previously recorded something professionally knows that a piece is virtually “unreleasable” if it has not been mixed and mastered in order to properly align levels and song dynamics).

Other popular prizes include website design, a free instrument and/or gift certificate to a music shop, free publicity, free merchandise design and a support slot for a headlining act and/or a performance slot at a festival. Again, although all of these prizes are tempting at first glance, I think it's important to consider the reputation and current client list of the company that is offering the free services.

On the same page, I also advise you to be skeptical of song writing and independent music award competitions, which seem to be growing in popularity over the Internet. As an entertainment columnist, I consider myself fairly in-tune with the industry, and I can say decisively, that to this day, I have yet to recognize a single winner from competitions of this sort, and so I have to wonder how much merit they actually hold among industry professionals? Of course, one of their biggest selling points is that these competitions usually have celebrity music judges, and so it makes indie musicians feel as though they are one step closer to being “discovered.”

The other aspect of these contests that seems rather fishy is their big time cash rewards. Now it makes sense that their entry fees, as a consequence, would be very steep as these contests need to be able to generate their giveaway money in the first place, however what concerns me is: what if they do not get enough entrants to generate that kind of dough? Will the award suddenly drop from one amount to the next? And if these competitions are not relying on the entrance fees in order to generate their grand prize money, then why are the entry fees so steep considering that it's a well known fact that independent musicians do not have that kind of money to burn?

Warning Signs:

If you've been invited to play at a Battle of the Bands event and/or to participate in an independent musician award contest, I urge you to request more details, prior to accepting the invitation, if you notice any of the following features regarding either event:

- Pricey entry fees and questionable prizes

- Unknown past winners

- Unknown sponsoring companies with limited client lists

- Studio time as the top prize (how much time is granted, does this include mixing and mastering, is the studio reputable, and who has recorded with them previously?)

- Crowd ranking of the performers

- Unknown so-called “celebrity” judges.
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