Music Competition Participation: The Pros and Cons

We all grow up as beginner musicians or bands, and somewhere during our journey, we take part in a sort of music competition. Whether that’s taking part in a Battle of the Bands, or a singing competition, are these competitions an important stepping stone to the development of becoming a successful musician?

Taking part in musician competitions is an important journey for all musicians to go through. Learning how to cope with criticism, constructive feedback and building contacts are all part of the pros of taking part in the development of inexperienced musicians.

Let’s focus on the comparison between the pros and the cons.

The Pros of Partaking in Musical Competitions

In my experience, taking part in music competitions is that every competition you partake in is an opportunity that you take. You have nothing to lose, and only valuable experience to gain.

We should be thankful to those that go the extra mile in organising such events to develop talent and find the new stars of the future.

Networking With Other Musicians

Engaging with other artists must surely be one of the most valuable opportunities offered by such an event.

I remember playing in a series of Battle of the Bands, where we saw the same bands over and over again. We all became great friends, motivating each other to bring the best performances to the stage.

These bands and musicians are the guys with whom you’ll share much of your journey since most of the artists are approximately the same experience- and skill level.

Make sure to greet everyone on arrival and show interest in what they do.

Questions to ask the other competitors:

  • What other competitions are coming up for them?
  • Where do they get bookings and how regularly do they perform?
  • If they have a demo or EP available?
  • Etc.

Networking With Hosts, Judges, and Staff Members

Do research about the judges before gig day. In this way, you know who they are and what you are dealing with. This puts you a step ahead of the other artists.

Greet friendly and introduce yourselves. Try to find a similar interest during a short discussion, before you leave them to be. This is if the judges are approachable. Only during a few Battles I participated in, you didn’t have the chance to meet the judges.

Meet the other staff members like the sound engineer, the announcer or audience host, sponsor-brand managers, and managers of the other participants.

Receiving Constructive Feedback

You will perform on a stage and in front of (mostly) professional judges. They will analyse your performance and give you feedback either live (or verbally) or in a written format.

Take these points and try to see them from a neutral point of view. It can be positive feedback with tips that can improve you for the next gig, or it could be something that is pure nonsense.

You should be adaptable to become a better version of yourself. Not to change who you are just because of a judge’s opinion.

I’ve seen some judges’ feedback that was absolute trash, so take some feedback points as an opinion. Choose what you find valuable, but know that criticism is part of the game.

Gaining Experience

The experience you collect from taking part in such events is invaluable.

Enjoy every moment and make the best of it. Even if the venue is empty.

Play for the judges, sound engineer and barman. This is your chance to become better as a band. Make use of it.

But the most important area here to work on is building self-confidence. If this is something that you would like to focus on, I wrote an article that you will find helpful and interesting.

Don’t miss Tips to Build Confidence for a Musical Performance right here.

Winning New Fans

On a day when multiple bands are playing, there will be plenty of people that have never seen or heard of you before. This is a golden opportunity to play for the crowd and win them over.

Set this a goal: With every Battle-gig, try to increase your social media by 5-10%. By building your fan base you will have an audience you can connect with and share upcoming gigs.

Try to have small prizes to increase the interaction with the audience and make a statement.

If you would like to have more tips and learn more about how to up your game with stage presence and interacting with the crowd, don’t miss the post that I wrote about it here.

Being Hosted

Enjoy the fact that you are walking into a venue where everything is set up for you and all that you need to do is a sound check, and perform.

It won’t always be this easy so enjoy being part of it.

Rock band performing (Photo credit: Canva)

Opportunity for Trying New Things

Yes, you might want to win the competition, but you are not being paid to perform. It’s a golden opportunity to make new fans and try out a few things.

Especially when you play a few Battles after each other. Then you can use the feedback from the previous judges to implement it in the next performance. This will count highly in your favour if you have judges that you’ve crossed paths with in the past.

The Cons of Partaking in Musical Competitions

Yes, there are a few things that are not so nice about music competitions. Especially feeling criticised and learning to deal with it. You are exposing yourself and perhaps you just got out of the garage-band phase.

If you are aware of the following points, you will be fine knowing we were all there.

Pre-organised Winners

Believe it or not, in some very rare and corrupt situations, some of these competitors already know who they would like to win beforehand. The point of still hosting the competition is to make sure that the pre-decided winners stand head and shoulders above the other contestants.

There will often be a recording deal included among the prizes, which confirms that a winning band will receive the trust and cash to record their music.

Underqualified Judges

In many cases, the judges are people that represent the brand sponsors who don’t necessarily know much about music.

My tip is to balance your set out with entertainment, not only showcasing your talent and musicianship.

By focussing on entertainment you are making yourself marketable to judges who might not have the highest knowledge about making music.

Difference in Opinion

It could be that the judges are looking for a specific genre of music which means that even if you are brilliant, you will just not fall into their line of taste.

Perform for the crowd and make sure that you showcase the best version of yourself as a band. Advertise yourself and make sure that the result will be irrelevant to your goal at the competition.

Shorter Performance Times

You might only have 30 minutes in total to perform your music.

Work your set so that you focus on your 5 best songs, including a cover and a ballade.

Open with a bang, end with a bang

The Waiting Game

Especially when you play at the beginning or end, it can get late for you and your fans to sit around and wait for the announcements to come.

Try to be patient, stay present and be visible.

Slim Chances of Winning

So if 30+ artists are performing, don’t only go to win, but set yourself other goals too.

This post was written and posted by De Wet from on 05.04.2023. The content was stolen from me if this blog post is seen anywhere else.

When it comes to preparing for a Battle of the Bands, prepare mentally too. (Photo credit: Canva)

Audience Playing a Role

There’s a reason why many Battle-winners go to the band with the biggest number of fans at the venue.

I remember a Battle I played in where the winners were not the best performers on the night, but just because the venue was filled with people shouting their band name, the decision was unanimous.

This is, in my opinion, totally unfair towards better-performing bands that travel far to partake but won’t win because their home-based crowd can’t travel the distance.

Lack of Audience

Especially during earlier rounds of competitions, the bands will keep their audiences waiting for the next round. It could be that the bands end up playing for each other just to find out who will progress to the next round.

When this happens, try to have the pressure off of you by just enjoying it and making the best of it.

Tips for Music Competitions

  1. The best time to perform is either 2nd or 3rd on the schedule
    • The audience is still fresh and excited
    • The first artist sorted out any potential sound difficulties
  2. Keep your set short, but powerful.
    • Be entertaining, but leave the audience, and judges wanting more.
    • Interact with the audience and introduce the band in a nutshell.
  3. Be polite, kind and flexible with all the people you meet.
    • Flexibility is the one tool that not many people have. Mostly, people tend to only think about their own needs and not be part of the team. Which type of person would you prefer to work with?
  4. Be early and prepared
    • The program cannot run late because one artist is reluctant. That’s like self-disqualification.
    • Tune before-hand.
    • Be ready to go. Just get up and perform.
  5. Do background research about the judges
    • This can help you to craft your set accordingly.

Once you feel like you have reached your goal of performing in music competitions, you might be curious about starting to get booked and paid gigs.

In this case, don’t miss the guide I made for bands and artists in step format to reach the goal of getting paid booked gigs right here.

Please feel free to add any other pros or cons to the comment section to help others on their journeys.

Rock on guys and gals!

De Wet

The dream started during a school tour at the age of 15 years old. One that might take a long time to reach. De Wet was 16 years old when he got his first bass guitar as a gift from his dad. The guitar was found, hidden under boxes. As if it was waiting for its owner to come by and pick him up. He practiced every day to improve and to teach his fingers to dance to the music. After finishing high school, he played in various bands where he collected valuable experience, before being signed by a record label as an upcoming band. He reached success at age 22 when he released two albums with his band, which also included televised music videos for publicity. By age 24, he co-started management, artist promotion, and booking agency for successful and upcoming musical acts.

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