VOTE FOR PEDRO: Why Band Competitions Don't Work

When hiring builders to build a house, you wouldn’t expect to vote on which builder should lay the bricks; you’d expect the brick layers to be trained, professional, and to be able to lay bricks to a quality suitable for which a house should be built in. The same goes for politics, the politicians who run countries should not be the most popular or the most camera friendly, they should be the ones who would be best at the job. And the same I feel goes with bands.

There’s been an enormous burst of band-related, online, vote-for-your-favourite, mini-social networking sites these past few years, for the winners the prizes have been everything from magazine coverage to festival slots. The premise for these competitions is quite simple: make a ‘mini’ site (many bands will probably have numerous online profiles when a simple MySpace and Facebook page will generally do), add other bands or people to it, and then get your friends to make profiles so that they can vote for you. The winner is the one with the most votes/views/plays friends etc. The issue is thus: is people power the best way to gauge the talent, quality or promise of a new band? The answer is, er, no. For proof just take a look at the Top 40 over the past three years, in the main it’s been unbearably shit and yet the Top 40 is a list of the most bought music of the week, if us portentous-up-our-own-arses indie fans look down snobbily on whatever pomp Cowell is spewing out, then why are we taking part in these band competitions if the result is usually the same? An ok indie band gets through because that’s the most generally popular kind of alternative music. If Animal Collective, Wild Beasts, Walls or any of today’s most interesting bands had entered these competitions I’d bet my bottom lip they still would’ve been beaten by Mundaneity. And that’s because that’s basic fact – when looking for a consensus, you don’t get through the individual sparks of genius, you get a general picture which equals the most popular thing overall being safe and inoffensive; the musical equivalent of a digestive biscuit.

The one competition which breaks this rule is the Glasto Emerging bands competition which has, year-on-year, brought about some great artists, Golden Silvers and We Have Band to name two. This is, of course, because the winners are decided by a bunch of industry insiders and journos who have an actual, specific music taste, and can pick a band which hold innovation and creativity with a few tracks that are easily commercial without the whole thing being a sorry excuse of an indie band getting some slot which accounts for nothing because, at the end of the day, no one is actually going to sign a shit artist just because they have fifty sisters who are all willing to go through the pain of setting up profile accounts and voting… you just have to look at past Unsigned Act winners to see that.

If you want to get some records sold, don’t waste your time on administrating pointless band profiles on numerous sites, get some gigs, get a real fan base, get some songs on iTunes or whatever and do it yourself. It’s a way of thinking I’m going to start to harbour and it’ll mean a lot less time is spent spamming mates, and a lot more time doing actual work. But hey, I’d rather spend years working with a band who end up having a real fan base, instead of seeing a band have one feature in a music magazine, gain five minutes of fame, and then instantly be seen as being pastiche. Y’know, those-ones-who-won-that-competition-once? Don’t trust consensus; trust your ears.
By Nicholas Burman.