Battle of the Bands Competitions | Fan Appreciation

Sacred Tuesday

When it comes to entering a battle of the bands contest, most bands are clearly thinking all about themselves – the prizes, the venue, the judges and all the rest; but what about the fan appreciation?

Yes, the fans…remember them?

When it comes to most BOTBs, the fans are an afterthought and often get the worst of the experience. They become ‘bodies in the venue’ or ‘tickets sold’ or ‘cheerleaders’ as opposed to real people who need to be valued or potentially lost forever.

So what is so bad about inviting your fans to a BOTBs competition? For the last time I’ll say that it depends on what the quality and reputation of the event is. For the most part for a BOTBs gig your fans will have to:

  • Travel farther to see you perform
  • Watch you perform for a shorter set
  • Pay double or triple what they’d pay to see you at one of your own shows
  • Feel obligated to stay and cheer for your band
  • Endure barrage of bands, most of which they’ll have zero interest in

This is especially the case if you live close to a major city where a big time BOTB event is being held. I live about an hour away from the biggest city in Canada (Toronto), and inevitably all the bands within a 3 hour square radius want to do a gig in the “Big City” where they can be “discovered”.

In this instance, they have to travel to the city, pay outrageous parking fees (plus find a place to park) pay the cover charge, wait until “their band” hits the stage, buy food, avoid buying too many expensive drinks, get the heck home as soon as possible afterwards.

And all for what? For the bands to feed their ego to perform on the ‘big stage’ in the ‘big city’ for the ‘big prizes’.

Is it any wonder why most bands have to beg and plead to even sell enough tickets to get some asses in the seats? What’s in it for the fans?

A Night In The Show, 1915Unfortunately, until bands stop looking for shortcuts to fame and fortune and start paying more attention to their audience – they’re going to continue to walk all over the few fans they have to hopefully win the favour of a ‘mysterious stranger’ who will wave their magic wand and grant them a record deal so that they can live happily ever after.

The funny thing is that without the fans, all the showcases and meet n’ greets with the ‘big shots’ isn’t going to get you very far. When you have a pile of dedicated fans that are willing to actually pay for your music and shows, the big shots will start taking notice anyway.

So the next time you’re considering being part of a Battle of the Bands competition, battle of the bands showcase, band wars or whatever name they want to call it next, consider how it will affect the people that you’re leaning on the most to ‘win’ at the competiton

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Battle of the Bands Competitions | The business behind BOTBs

Siege at their high school's 'Battle of the Ba...
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Okay, onto part three of the Battle of the Bands competitions series. This time we’re going to dig into the business end of Battle of the Bands contests. Hopefully this post will be a bit of an eye opener for those who think that performing at these band versus band competitions is the ‘cats ass’.

In my first post I went over the basics of what a Battle of the Band competition is, well often bands are so preoccupied with what participating in this type of contest can mean for them (prizes, new opportunities, exclusive club, big production/big stage/pro lights and sound etc.) that they don’t think about what lurks beneath it all.

It’s for this reason that many bands are swept away blindly by the opportunity to perform at one of these shows that they don’t even consider the business end of them. Once you do, you may get a bit of a sour taste in your mouth for these events.

The Battle of the Bands Romantic Version

Lets get romantic for a sec and look at BOTBs in the most positive light – the “Hollywood” version if you will. This version is what you see on TV and the movies:

  • Band is getting nowhere fast
  • Band signs up for BOTBs
  • Band performs at a top-notch club against formidable rivals
  • Band has the opportunity to be discovered by hotshot record execs
  • Band wins (somewhere in the top two), gets approached by labels and suddenly their career is on fire

While that certainly sounds nice, the reality behind battle of the bands contests is often rooted in the mundane.

  • Bar/club is suffering from low attendance
  • Bar/promoter comes up with event called Battle of the Bands
  • Bar/promoter announces the competition so bands will sign up, promise big prizes and industry reps as judges to lure in the bands
  • Bands pay money to participate
  • Even lazy bands sell a few tickets because they are motivated by the ‘big event/opportunity’ provided
  • Event is scheduled for a slow night of the week
  • Bands bring in paying customers, prizes money is mainly recouped by entry fees to the bands and by offering advertising in return of prizes to local studios and music stores.
  • The bar gets a shot in the arm and makes good money from the event. It’s also exposed to a lot of new potential customers who wouldn’t have visited the bar before.
  • Winning band(s) collect their loot – bask in their 5 minutes of fame and promptly implode or go on to do nothing particular successful for the rest of their music career.
  • Bar/club/promoterĀ  rinses and repeats this formula anytime their need an influx of cash into their business.

Too cynical? Think that bars/clubs and promoters run battle of the bands strictly out of their love of music and to elevate the profile of the acts in their scene? …can I have some of what you’ve been smoking?

27/365: MoneyMaking money isn’t wrong for the bar or the promoter. Without sufficient money, the venues that cater to live music will close shop and bands will have nowhere to play – nobody wants that.

However, keep in mind what the ulterior motive is for having a battle of the bands. In the best case scenario it’s a win/win situation for both the bar and the bands involved.

In the worst case scenario it’s a cash grab aimed squarely at making money off the inexperienced and the gullible; preying on their hopes and dreams in order to make a quick buck.

So how do you tell the difference?

Telltale signs that a BOTB is garbage

  1. Entry fee is $50 or more
  2. Anyone can enter
  3. Ticket sales are a large part of the final score (in other words, tickets trump talent)
  4. Set times are only 15 minutes or so to cram in the maximum amount of bands in a single night
  5. The style of the bands range from country, metal, jazz to bluegrass in a single night
  6. Names of ‘industry judges’ are never revealed. Bands unable to learn the results of the judges feedback regardless of whether they succeed or fail in the competition
  7. The contest is scheduled in early afternoon, Sundays or any other ‘slow business’ day or time.
  8. Prizes are ‘incomplete’ – like 8 hours of studio time (enough time that it seems ‘valuable’ but ultimately isn’t enough time to create even a finished 4 track EP).

By their nature, just about every Battle of the Bands competition is going to have a few of these points, but if there are 4 or more – chances are the competition is nothing but a cash grab.

Okay, so we’ve looked at BOTBs in general, why bands sign up and the business behind it – however there is still one aspect left – the fans that actually attend these shows. I think many bands would rethink their participation if they stopped to consider what they’re doing to their fans. Confused by what I mean? I’ll explain fully in the next post.

Have you played a “dud” BOTBs competition that was a thinly-veiled cash grab? Leave a comment below.







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Battle of the Bands Competitions | Why Bands Sign Up

Battle of the Bands - Ford Fiesta MovementBattle of the bands competitions have been around for years, and while they’ve probably started to lose some momentum chances are they’ll be around for years to come. The reason for this is that the entire concept of a band contents is based on the following things that lure bands in.

  1. Big prizes
  2. A chance at fame
  3. Opportunity to play a club they’d never get a gig at

Lets face it, there isn’t a lot of attraction to having to pay your dues for bands – most would prefer to take a shortcut right to the fame and fortune that they’ve seen on TV and the movies. We live in an ‘instant gratification’ world these days and bands want to sidestep the work of building a sustainable career and would rather win the “rock star lottery” and become instantly famous overnight.

A recent survey indicated that as much as 75% percent of indie bands want a record deal and I’m sure that much of the same demographic signs up for a battle of the bands competition for similar reason.

Like it or not, a Battle of the Bands competition is considered ‘an event’. The bands have invested their own money to participate (these are the same bands that rarely invest in promoting their own shows) and then have to go out and convince their friends and family to come to the show to see them – another thing that these bands often aren’t willing to do.

The band competition is a business model that manages to suck in beginner bands in droves as well as bands that should know better but decide to do it anyway. So why do they do it?

Why bands sign up for Band of the Band Contests

  • Some bands sign up because they are new and it’sĀ  a chance to play at a ‘real’ club.
  • Other bands sign up for the opportunity to get some free recording time, local radio play or a chance to put a club that they could never get themselves booked into on a regular night onto their ‘band resume’.
  • Some bands want to get feedback from the music industry judges to find out if they’re on the right track with their music and performance.
  • Some bands are also hoping that some agents, labels or other ‘industry big shots’ are in the room to ‘discover’ them.

Battle of the BandsLike I said in my first Battle of the Bands post – these reasons may be right or wrong for your band depending on where you’re at. However, the reputation of the event is very important since there are increasingly many shady competitions out there that prey on the hopes and dreams of young musicians.

However, there is a negative element to playing these shows in my personal experience.

Firstly, you can pretty much forget about winning any new fans at typical Battle of the Bands gig. The reason being that each band is bringing out their personal cheering squad to ensure that they have the best opportunity to win the competition; even if they like your band they won’t dare “betray” the band that they came to root for.

Next, networking with other musicians is often trickier at one of these gigs. People take the competition part of this too seriously when the reality is that winning the event isn’t likely to make a whole lot of difference to the band’s music career anyway.

Lastly, if you come into these types of events looking for some validation from judges, crowds or prizes that help to take you to ‘the next level’ chances are you’ll be disappointed. An angel isn’t going to drop from the sky, point at your band and proclaim that you are destined for greatness – you have to claim it for yourself and bust your ass to make it a reality.

I did my fair share of Battle of the Bands in my time and for the most part they were great learning experiences if nothing else. If you decide to enter it – just make sure you go in with your eyes wide open and your feet grounded in reality. Do your due diligence and make sure the bar or promoter running the show is reputable before you hand over your hard-earned cash.

There’s more to say about Battle of the Bands yet – next post I’m going to dive into the business model and perhaps remove a lot of the appeal of these contests at the same time.

Have a Battle of the Bands story to tell? Share it below in the comments!





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