Thoughts on contest entry fees?

Hi all,

I'm so glad to slowly be exploring various parts of this great forum, and appreciate already how many people have taken the time to comment on pieces I've posted in the composition sub-forum.  Looking through this sub-forum, I was curious to see how many of you have willingly entered contests with entrant fees.  I have resisted this, as much as I've resisted the idea of "pay to play" and the myriad other ways it seems companies exploit musicians desperate for recognition/opportunities.  

I understand the administrative aspects contests require, as well as the inordinate number of hours to assemble juries, evaluate entries, notify people, promote, etc.  That said, a recent virtually unknown competition asked for entry fees (I believe they were $20 per piece, but many have been much more).  They claimed afterward to have received over 2000 submissions and made their "decision" within a month of closing, and like most competitions, don't offer feedback or even an evaluation form completed for each entrant.  I have a hard time believing they sifted through and listened to 2000 submissions...it would have taken so many hours to almost make it impossible to imagine a jury sitting together (or even apart) wading through and narrowing choices.

Of course, the results of that contest, like so many others, seemed to be based on the bios of the composers (the first announced winner was a Latin Grammy nominee, and they seemed to use his name recognition to bolster their own contests' legitimacy).  Basically, what I'm asking is:  do you feel that the majority of composers that fund these contests do so foolishly, as they'll likely never be considered in the first place due to the sheer quantity of entrants, along with political, and other issues that I'm sure contests cleverly pretend don't exist, but really do?

I'd be happy to hear your thoughts, because I've avoided contests with fees until now, but feel that since the vast majority of them do have fees, if I want to even be considered, I've got to pay to get in the game.


All the best,

Dave

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Replies

  • Hi Dave,

    As it happens, I just signed up and paid for a contest. It was only $10, and they allow you to submit your piece with your name on it. The prize is $500, they perform your piece, and they will pay for travel, lodging, and food. Sounded like a good deal to me!

    Gav

  • Well if you want to promote a product (yourself) any mention anywhere is useful, so why not pay a reasonable fee to have your name or work appear somewhere to be seen by industry people?  It's nothing compared to the hours and dollars you already have invested, so in terms of percentage of total investment an entry fee is not worth worrying about.

    As for fairness  . . . . well, that comes and goes.

  • Hey Gav,

    Thanks for sharing this info.  Any chance you're willing to mention the competition?  I'd understand if you prefer not to.

    Gav Brown said:

    Hi Dave,

    As it happens, I just signed up and paid for a contest. It was only $10, and they allow you to submit your piece with your name on it. The prize is $500, they perform your piece, and they will pay for travel, lodging, and food. Sounded like a good deal to me!

    Gav

    Thoughts on contest entry fees?
    Hi all, I'm so glad to slowly be exploring various parts of this great forum, and appreciate already how many people have taken the time to comment…
  • Those are good points, Ingo.  That said, I remember attending a music conference many years ago, where a fairly famous songwriter mentioned how musicians die from exposure...it's the age old promise of exposure at the expense of pay...and rarely does it lead to anything meaningful after they've given away their services for free.  But you're certainly right that if one were to value the endless hours put in to creating music (for free), contest fees are a drop in the bucket by comparison.

    Ingo Lee said:

    Well if you want to promote a product (yourself) any mention anywhere is useful, so why not pay a reasonable fee to have your name or work appear somewhere to be seen by industry people?  It's nothing compared to the hours and dollars you already have invested, so in terms of percentage of total investment an entry fee is not worth worrying about.

    As for fairness  . . . . well, that comes and goes.

    Thoughts on contest entry fees?
    Hi all, I'm so glad to slowly be exploring various parts of this great forum, and appreciate already how many people have taken the time to comment…
  • Sure Dave - it's still open, but only for a few days more -

    https://www.lakegeorgemusicfestival.com/composition-competition/

  • Musicians especially good ones who can sight read anything within reason are expensive. I assume this is where the majority of entrance fees go since most competitions promise either a playthrough to "'test'" the piece or perform the winners or both and see nothing unreasonable with the need to pay in order to retain players.

  • Thanks for the link, Gav. It looks promising!

    For sure, Charles, musicians don't come cheap and should be well-compensated (heck, I make my living as a performer, far less of it comes from composition).  

  • If I may be so bold.....! 

    I'd never go in for a composing "competition". I don't look on composing music as a sport, nor do I think that a specially selected jury would necessarily have the qualities to grade entries from poor to the best. As you say, they're probably commercially biased in some cases: name-dropping or, as was once the case here, taking a bung from a wealthier contestant.

    I don't think of compositions as good or bad, rather inexperienced to experienced. Does it say something to me. I'm pretty eclectic so it's more a question of how well it engages me. With established composers one sometimes detects weaker and stronger works (personally or by consensus), pot-boilers or major developments, so I suppose some grading might be possible - but seen against a composer's output generally. 

    I'd say: just compose - and try to find people to play your work. It helps if you play an instrument - helps more if you play it well - even more an instrument sought after in good amateur groups. 

    Just my thoughts anyway. 

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