The Battle of the Bands Sham

Posted: August 25, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Battle of the bands are an (almost) total sham

My band has now played several battle of the bands gigs now and looking back I say…

What the hell was I doing?

Let’s see what the organiser of a typical battle of the bands offers you:

A lifetime experience, groupies, a recording contract, fame, fortunes and all that jazz

Ok, so what they are really selling you is *your* dream, a ticket to instant fame and an audience who cares for your music. That precious dream that you live for! Ahhhh if only it worked like that. So falling into the hype you work hard to bring an audience and they milk in the money. Sweet, what a simple plan for the lazy promoter.

Let me ask you a question, have you ever?, I mean ever heard of a band in the mainstream that became famous just because they won a battle of the bands contest somewhere…now think hard….right, none!

Usually a BoB contest also asks you to bring loads of supporters so that you can be voted to win. Emergenza being a great example of that, they even ask you to pay £50 upfront….and thousands of bands fall for it every year…yet I have not heard a single band that *made it* via Emergenza. The world’s biggest battle of the bands festival is the world’s biggest sham. And they keep getting away with this immoral practice of “pay to play”.

If I bring 30 of my mates to a gig and they pay £5 each, then my band is carrying a £150 worth of capital. Why on earth should I then enter a contest where my mates pay all that money and I *may* (but very unlikely) end up winning a recording contract. I might as well raise the capital direct.

If I don’t end up winning YOU and your mates have just ended up sponsoring some other bands recording sessions for free.

Charity work for other bands, nice!

There are some exceptions to this (high school/college fun gigs), but those are rare, almost every time the promoter is benefiting from a BoB gig somewhere. Whenever you get this sort of offer, think about how someone else is benefiting from it.

So that’s what I think, but your experience might well be better than mine on this or worse…either way, I’d love to hear from you so drop a comment.

  1. Haha Atul, this article has made me crack up. I am not in a band so I have never been in this situation but I have supported many a band in “battle of the band” shows and paid my fees and then some band that I don’t care much about wins even though they have no crowd or following. It’s a really strange thing and I don’t think it should be taken too seriously unless its voted for by the public.

    If it allows you to showcase your music to a new group of individuals then that’s a positive. If not, rather rehearse in a room and save that money for recording fees.

  2. Atul Rana says:

    Thanks for the comment Marcus. I have had bad expriences with every BoB gig so far (we’ve done a few now). BoB is just another gig really and another chance to expose your music live as you say.

    Using Emergenza as an example, BoB gigs have a much higher ticket tag (£8 to £12) and the incentive is on the band to pre-sell some tickets. I think I will need another anti Emergenza rant in here to explain fully 🙂

  3. Hi Atul, very well done for setting up the site…was thinkinig of doing something similar myself…Definitely think I can give some very handy insights into music biz as have been involved with it for many years, and know quite a few established acts/industry people.


  4. […] commit the ultimate sin in the live music scene. They hand over the tickets for bands to sell in a Battle of the Bands type gig. This is essentially pay to play and no band should have to pay to go on stage. This is a […]

  5. […] that do a “pay to play” system. My band experienced pay to play via Emergenza in a sham Battle of the Bands contest and I sure learnt my lesson after that, never ever again to get sucked in. Being given tickets to […]

  6. They’re nice enough for kids at schools, but anyone who expects to be taken seriously should avoid entering these types of things. Live and Unsigned was the big one near me (Guildford, they were down the road in Aldershot) and a few of my mates bands were playing.

    How did I know they were playing? Because I did a small local radio show and they all wanted to come on and plug the gig. I was quite new so I went along with it, taking little notice of the fact that part of what they were being judged on was how much local press they could get. Only later did it click that this was just to market their big show for free, while also meaning they could turn around and say how the bands get much more exposure as a result of the contest (if the bands had just asked in the first place, and were good, then I would’ve done it anyway.)

    But anyway, I went along to the show. There were a few decent acts, but overall the standard was shocking. It was the Regional Semi-Final and 4 of the acts that were put through to the final were abysmal girls singing out of tune covers to a backing track BUT they had bought down their entire tone-deaf family for support who all voted for them.

    It was also about £6-7 for a ticket and each artist only got one song but was encouraged to sell a bundle of tickets! If you can sell 25 tickets for £7 for a 3 minute set then you might as well put on your own gig with 3 similar bands where you can sell 100 tickets for £5, play a full set and then keep a healthy portion of that money too.

    Speaking of money, you have to ask how much was actually spent on promoting the winners. This show has celebrity judges, loads of flashy production adn tours the country, with thousands paying entry fees and selling tickets. But you have to question what they spend that money on, the winners get absolutely nowhere that they wouldn’t get on their own (one of them still has less than 1000 FB fans.) You then have to look and ask whether that’s really worth all your effort when you could spend it sorting out your own infinitely more rewarding shows, tours and recordings.

    But ultimately these contests succeed because some people want a shortcut to stardom. Most of the best bands/artists I know wouldn’t bother with this crap because they’re willing to put the real hard work into their careers and many of them are forging humble but solid, enjoyable careers from it.

  7. Atul Rana says:

    Hi Andy,

    It’s a real shame that so many bands fall for it, but the highly emotional issue of getting a shortcut to fame and exposure is just too tempting for new bands. There’s so much hope and excitement on the prospect that young bands fall for it.

    There’s no real shortcut or magic pill to success, just lots of hard work and lots of attention on small things that add up. Then the luck comes naturally I guess!

    Funny though that you never heard “Battle of the Bands” gigs for real bands in the mainstream. Instead you get festivals….which is exactly what these gigs should be, even for the humble unsigned lot.

  8. Breno says:

    hey, below my blog from Apr ’10 about our experience playing surface festival:

    On the 10/03 we played a band’s competition called Surface Unsigned. The gig was at a decent venue called The Boston Music Rooms, it is just a shame that the promoters were not as decent as the venue!
    That was our first (and last!) experience doing battle of the bands. I say last time because the whole thing was rigged! From being ripped off having to pay £50 (about 80 American dollars) to play a 20 minutes set then having to bring people to “vote” for us and also give them more money by sending sms that cost £1 to get more “votes”! The whole thing just sounds wrong! And to make things worse, there was an “industry” guy voting for the best bands (mind you, his vote counted 30x more than audience vote). After the gig I had a chat with the fella and funnily enough he voted for the band that he is promoting! How fair was the judge?
    I wonder how come people can get away with something like that… and still make money from bands like us who believed that it was a “fair” competition where the best bands would go through.
    Just to finish this subject off, when we had a look at the ‘audience votes’ this same band supported by the judge (or shall I say sponsored?) had over 250 votes!! I wonder how it was possible to get more than 250 votes if there were about 50 people in the audience? Anyway, we all just laughed about it… shame we didn’t get our 50 quid back though!

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