So the very premise of Competition in Music can seem strange to me and I am sure it does for many other musicians as well. There are so many facets to music it would seem impossible to set a system by which to “judge” it unless the parameters were fairly narrow. For example: Judging songwriters from strictly performers can be widely different. Songwriters may have parameters such as lyrics, melody, and structure.
(structure is a place where I think personal opinion can start to take over. Is less more? Is hitting more structured elements better?)
Performers may have to adhere to an actual piece of written music and achieve playing technicalities of the music judged by someone know knows either scholarly music intimately or the piece note for note.
These are the avenues I can see and make sense of having a music “competition” where someone wins at the end. Many of the other wonderful things about music is how differently it can effect different people… Ultimately I ask myself “what makes people happy?” Anything goes. Repetitive chanting, crushing digital beats, a solo violin, progressive rock, a folk ballad, death metal, opera, the list goes on and on! So to me it becomes strange quickly when venturing into the foray of judging music.
All thoughts aside why did I enter myself into the Southern Oregon Rising Stars Competition? Well the first thing was one of the prize items was very attractive. Opening act for an evening at the Brit, an amazing amphitheatre-style venue in Southern Oregon that attracts some of the most respected names in Music (Robert Plant, The Funk Brothers, Derek Trucks Band, Bela Fleck, etc). Also their scoring system wasn’t the typical “Battle of the Bands” format where simply the band that brought the most people through the door typically wins and gets to make it to the next round.
(I find these “competitions” exploitative of artists since the only way to win is bring the most people; which the club owners benefit greatly from, and they drag on for long periods of time and go through every band that applies thereby getting maximum people paying through the doors while rewarding the least amount possible to each band. Essentially if you were to split the winnings and pay each band evenly I wouldn’t be surprised if on average bands are paid $30.00 all while maximizing the club profits.)
The scoring system rested simply in about 70% vote coming from a diverse panel of judges and 30% coming from an audience vote. Additionally not everyone who entered could compete. They whittle down around 100 entries to 16 semi-finalists to begin the “competition”. The way the program was set up seemed to have maximum benefit for the artists even if they didn’t win. They would receive plenty of press and eyeballs on them and could be seen by the Brit staff regardless if they won or not… perhaps making securing a gig there more easy! To top it all off all the proceeds from the Event go to LifeArt, a charity for youths at risk of suicide.
I figured why not!? I entered and was contacted a few weeks later saying I had become a semi-finalist. I have wondered how my live-looping approach would be received in this type of forum, a live show with a packed house and judges. It is interesting to think about all of it but at the end of the day I just remember that this is actually a fun way to go see other musical contemporaries in our area get together for a show that otherwise would definitely not have happened. I see it really as a celebration more than a critique of music.
The date came and as expected the venue was fantastic, outfitted first class with a Meyer Sound System provided by Martin Oliver, and a packed and receptive audience. This event was first class all the way! Despite what I felt was a great song selection and performance I came a vote or two shy of advancing to the next round. There was a great Americana Folk Rock band called “Kites and Crowes” that moved on. Basically after all this wind I am basically saying that this was a great event that raised money for a good cause and provided musicians and listeners a great venue to enjoy it all.
I will post some videos from the evening as I receive them.