The Wondrous Joys of the Online Band Competition

 Is it a great way to gain exposure for your band?  Or is it just an annoying spam/marketing gimmick?

I just finished up with an attempt at winning another one of these big online band contests.  I’m not going to name which one, but you know what I mean.  You’ve seen them before and I’m sure many of you have entered them.  And you probably have asked yourself the same question I did:  Why do I do these horrible things to myself?  I really don’t know.  Anyway, we made it to the 4th round out of the 6 but ultimately got eliminated by a band doing a popular cover song.  It’s not that I expected to win the whole thing, it was a long shot to begin with, but what they make you do and go through just to get that far is painful, time consuming, costly and just a giant pain in the ass for you and your fans.  


First off, the original preliminary voting period (which was supposed to help your “seeding” in the contest) was nearly 3 months long and over that time period, each band promotes like crazy trying to gain all the votes in the universe as to have a better seeding when the ‘real’ tournament actually begins.  But wait?  So the tournament hasn’t actually begun?  So what is all this voting actually for?  I’ll tell you what it was for, absolutely nothing!  At the end of the preliminary period we ended up with more than 10,000 total votes.  WOW!  SUPER AWESOME AND EXCITEMENT CENTRAL, right?  No.  Not at all, in the first actual ‘round’ of the contest we were matched up with a band that had maybe a total of 1,000 in the preliminary period.  So what was the point of all of that promotion and gaining those 10,000 votes?  As far as I could see, there is no point except for one.


FREE ADVERTISING!  Hey, I know!  Let’s fill each band post with ads for our sponsors and other random crap!  So not only will everyone’s friends and family be flooded with “Vote for Me” posts, they’ll also have ads to enhance that already awesome experience!  It’ll be great!  We’ll make money off all the advertising and those silly bands will provide all the content for absolutely no cost to us!  I can just see it in my mind now, a bunch of fat cats in suits sitting around smoking cigars, drinking brandy and laughing at all of us while we scramble around like warring ant colonies trying to win the big time prize.  They should have a mandatory check box at the bottom when you sign up for the contest:  


“I am at least 18 years of age” – Check

“I agree to the privacy policy” – Check

“I agree to the ‘I’M A GIANT TOOL’ agreement” – Double Check!


Secondly, the voting and how it’s counted.  Every person who wants to vote had to sign up with an account, that or link it to your Facebook/Twitter account.  OK, that makes it easy for people to sign up, but Facebook shares and Twitter shares also counted as extra votes along with your one daily ‘real’ vote.   Wow, how could that go wrong?  And it did, oh how it did.  Like Communism, this system would work great in a perfect ideal world where no one was corrupt, evil, power hungry or a giant cheating Charlie.  But this is not a perfect world and like Communism, a lot of people end up getting really screwed.  The amount of Facebook posts and Twitter posts starting shooting off the charts with people creating fake accounts, sharing 2000 times a day and other unfair/cheating methods.  Bands that had only 40 real votes would somehow end up with 14,000 Facebook posts, sending them into the lead.  Eventually the people who ran the contest had to disable the Facebook/Twitter voting option due to the rampant cheating that was going on, but that didn’t happen till well into the 4th round of the contest.  So how many awesome bands got eliminated by cheaters and two bit hacks?


Thirdly, the “judge” votes and the way they judged bands.  So not only was there voting, there were also two judge panels that had to give you their votes to be able to move on to the next round.  It broke down like this:  1/3 popular vote, 1/3 judge one, 1/3 judge two.  You had to get 2 out of 3 to win the round.  At first it seemed like the judges were quite just and would fairly place their votes.   Then that all changed.  Suddenly acts that had little to no votes were being chosen to move on and bands with tons of support were being eliminated.  Why?  Who knows?  A lot of it seemed very unfair on many levels.  What’s the point of promoting and posting time and time again to your websites and Facebook to get votes if you’re just going to end up being eliminated by the judges?  Why?  Again, FREE ADVERTISING AND CASH FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED!  EXCEPT FOR YOU!


The contest people were touting how much “exposure” (I hate that word) this would bring to your band, even if you got eliminated, but I didn’t see it as that exactly.  Our video that we used for the main rounds maybe went up by 200 hits and I’m guessing that it was mostly the other bands seeing what kind of band they were going up against.  Our Facebook and Twitter likes/fan level stayed nearly almost the same, excepting for Facebook, which actually dropped a little due to all the constant postings for this contest.  So let’s look at it all:  I lost a good amount of personal Facebook contacts that didn’t want to see the spam, we ended up losing fans on our social media sites, and we gained 200 to 300 video hits, but we sold no merchandise and made no album sales.  So, please, tell me again about all of this great “exposure”?  I firmly believe that when anyone uses the word “exposure” when referring to your band and music, it is secretly a code word for “How would you like to do a bunch of free stuff and get totally screwed over?”


Contest Winner Stage Setup


In the end my conclusion is that these contests are probably rigged to begin with anyway and are really a giant waste of your time and energy, especially if you’re a competitive person like me who can’t stop worrying about the results and nearly give yourself a heart attack over it.  In the end you will just lose fans, anger your close friends and family, gain nothing and stress yourself out for no reason.  Watch to see who eventually wins the contest and find out what they really got out of it.  I’ll bet 9 times out of 10 the actually gig or prize ends up being worth much less than they were touting and the winning band somehow ends up getting screwed over.  Like putting the winning band on some other smaller stage far away from the main one with a stupid name to assure minimum attention and make sure you look like you’re the amateur hour act (like:  The Bozo J. Clown – Juggling and Clown School Benefit Stage), which will always be located as far away from the main stage and event as possible.  The live TV “exposure” is usually limited to around 15 to 30 seconds if you’re lucky to even get that.  You’re far better off getting a gig on your local news channel.  My advice after trying two of these awful things is to just stay far away from them.  They are a waste of time and even if you win, you still lose.

Patrick Neville