3. The Criteria For Entering Competitions Is Often Very Silly
To all of the fellow musical composers out there, I think you will understand this one well.
Have you ever wanted to submit to a competition, but the criteria for submission was, quite frankly a little silly?
Sometimes, the criteria for entering a competition can require enormous amounts of energy on behalf of the entrant to just simply enter that single competition.
Perhaps the criteria for entrance read as follows:
- Original composition must be at least 15 minutes in length.
- Must be for full orchestra, but no harp or piano or extensive percussion because those are too expensive to bring in.
- Must have never been performed before.
- MIDI mock-ups are not acceptable.
- Must not bear any indication of your name, except in a separately sealed envelope included in your application that we promise will not be seen by anyone important. Come now, we pinky swear!
- Include your resume’, even though we swear the judging panel won’t know who you are.
- The entrance fee is $75, and the prize is $1,000, so we only need 14 entrants to pay out the winner and the rest is profit. Who’s getting the prize now?
- Can never have won a previous competition ever.
- Winner pays for his own travel and accommodations.
And so on…
The above stated criteria is no exaggeration. What composer has the time to write a full orchestra piece that has never been performed or awarded before for the slimmest of slim possibilities of getting a performance?
Yet things like this are very common in our field.
The depth of criteria for entering competitions can only be summarized as most often being totally silly and a logistical waste of precious time.
2. It’s Somewhat Like Playing Poker
If someone told you the potential benefits of playing poker, and you didn’t know what poker was, you would probably think that playing poker is among the smartest moves you could do to advance yourself as a person.
The benefits of winning a competition listed earlier in this article are not dissimilar to that of winning poker games.
You could win money.
You could travel.
You could gain credibility with your social circle as being an awesome poker player.
But at the end of the day, poker is gambling.
And if you put all of your eggs into the competition basket, you could be gambling away valuable time.
1. Music Is About Benefitting Others – Competitions Only Benefit You
Why is music among the most wanted material items in the world?
Well, quite simply, music does not exist in a vacuum of competitive academia to the majority of our world – music is meant as an incredibly powerful and singular way of affecting people.
You might argue that at whatever prize-winning performance you perform at, you will be benefitting your audience at that one particular show with your performance.
But there are so many other ways to spend your time to reach an audience that you could be directly benefitting in a much more powerful way.
Have you thought about performing for charities? Charities usually bring in audiences up to the several hundred or even thousands.
This is a fantastic opportunity for you to promote your music.
Or perhaps collaborate with more artsy institutions, like museums and galleries? Bang On a Can did that. Most places like these are exceptionally open to these things.
By spending your time focusing on how you can benefit others and less about benefitting yourself with competitions, you will find a world of collaborative ideas that can be far more effective at reaching an audience.
Before you think I am telling you competitions are totally awful all around, hear me out on a couple positives.
Some competitions award more than one entrant, don’t have an entrance fee, and could be entered into digitally with a product you already have ready, such as a recording of you playing you have saved on your hard drive.
In a case like this, where submitting to a competition just takes a few minutes of your time and the criteria is not overblown, perhaps it would be in your interest to submit.
Also, if you are set on having a career in academia, prizes usually look really good on your resume’. Teachers at top music schools are usually highly recognized prize winners.
This, unfortunately, is not likely to change any time soon.
Outside of those conditions though, applying to prizes is more likely a waste of your time than not, for all of the reasons stated above and more.
Think twice before submitting to lots of competitions – the investment of your time and money is, almost undoubtedly, worth so much more elsewhere in your vast and expansive musical career.
Featured Image by carterse via Flickr Creative Commons