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For or Against: Entrance Fees for Composing Competitions

Some competitions charge an entrance fee to submit scores and be part of the competition. This has come under sharp criticism by many composers ....

Thanks Bob

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I'm of two minds on this. As a composer, I never want to pay to have someone look at my work (or listen to it). I'm never likely to earn my costs back on most of my music as it is. If I spend 500 hours writing a piece at $25 an hour, that's $12,500 in time only. My last piece I wrote really quickly, I estimate took 280-300 hours, and the commission wasn't even half of that. Yes, there will be performing rights, and a trickle of royalties from the recording, which probably won't be released for 5 years. That doesn't figure in the cost of traveling to the premiere. I make a loss as it is. Winning contests can be a lottery anyway. Usually, the mediocre win. Why pay to lose?

On the flip side, as an unpaid board member of an arts organization, we don't have funds to pay people to read score submissions, which can take a considerable time to accomplish. Charging $15-25 for an entry fee still won't cover that cost, nor the cost of the performance, or prize money, but it might allow us to give our reviewers a small token of our appreciation. If you want us to perform your music, isn't it worth that tiny investment? And what about advertising the competition in the first place? The AMC used to post contest listings that didn't charge for free, and charged the organization if there was a fee. I personally never entered the latter. But that was then. Now I take a deep breath and pay the fee, if I think that the potential outcome is worth it. At least now, you can submit a pdf and save the cost of postage and return.

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