I have already written a lot of words about exploitative national music competitions, mainly Live and Unsigned and Open Mic UK (run by Chris Grayston) and Surface Festival, (run by Jay Mitchell). These events appeal to naive bands with the lure of playing in front of new audiences and industry insiders at prestigious venues. Prizes are promised – sometimes with large money values attributed to them. Instruments, equipment, recording, management, mentoring and tours are the sorts of thing that are sort of promised.
People that I have spoken to or corresponded with (including a past winner) confirm that the impression given by the advertising and the experience of taking part can be very different. The best place to get a feel for the disenchantment and anger felt by these people would be in the long-running and well-established Leeds Music Forum. Over the years there have been several threads.
The Daddy of them all, with its 50 pages, many stories and 33,000+ views (figures updated 01.03,2012) is at http://www.leedsmusicforum.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=25026
To put the scam in a nutshell, what the operators provide for money, and for their own profit, is twofold:
- expensive entry to a sequence of rather poor quality live performances; and
- unlimited £1 text voting to influence progress through performances towards a final.
The clever part of the schemes is that sales of the expensive tickets, personal encouragement to make the text votes and promotion of the whole scheme through social media are delegated to the artists themselves.
None of the competitions advertise the successes of their alumni, for the simple reason that there aren’t any. Anyone who cares about young people or the honest communities that support fledgling music should warn people away from these things. Energy is much better spent doing things locally among people you can talk to directly. It's tough, but if you have a scrap of talent, it is possible. Using the BBC Introducing Uploader once you have a sound worth sharing is far more likely to lead to something exciting. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/introducing/uploader/