Why Battle of the Bands Suck

Despite how awesome Scott Pilgrim vs The World made band battles look, they actually suck IRL. Bob Perfect breaks down why.



Ah, Battle of the Bands. Exploitative popularity contests that are always in the back of the playbook of tasteless/clueless (your pick) promoters who need to generate hype and income without risking anything. It’s one rung above a Facebook poll as a measure to determine who gets to open for *insert band from 10 years ago* at *generic festival*. Except, you know, nobody is making money off the Facebook poll except Facebook.


There are a few reasons why I hate BotBs:


They’re a ponzi scheme


Let’s get the main issue out the way. The reason why BotBs are so lucrative for those who organise them is that the bands are the ones doing all the work. Say you do a BotBs. You invite 16 groups of suckers to enter in this competition to win a sponsored prize, a sometimes/sometimes not paid slot at a bigger gig, and/or a cash prize. Some enter because fuck it, a gig is a gig and who knows? Others get their hopes up (bless ‘em) and enter with full intent to win. Some just want to play to more than 5 people.


The thing is, typically, only one band gets a prize. The rest walk away with nothing after bringing in their crowd of friends and family members to make a noise for them and pay entry. If entry is R50 per person, and each band has an average of 3 members, who each guilt trip 3 unfortunate loved ones, that’s a door of R7200 at the minimum. Include money on drinks spent at the bar and you could turn over R20k easily by getting the bands to do all the promoting for you. You should draw more people than that with that many bands, I’m just being conservative for argument’s sake.


Maybe you throw the winners R5k, or you give them a used 10 year old amp that was donated by a local music store, or, you offer them a paid slot at another gig. Because this was just an audition that their friends and family had to attend for them to get the gig. It’s a great rig if you’re a promoter. The effort you have to put in is minimal and you get to reap most of the rewards.


They’re popularity contests


In the words of Oscar Wilde “Everything popular is wrong”. And yes, you have to pull a crowd to win a BotB. Promoters who book BotBs want to see an act they know can draw people through the door. That’s it. There are exactly 0 other reasons why your band would win a BotB than that. You might be a great band but if only 3 people in Japan who found you on Soundcloud like you, it doesn’t matter that you’re the next musical prodigy, to the shameless promoter, all that really matters is that you have a group of fans screaming at you in the front row.


It is very fucking rare that the band who brings the most “fans” doesn’t win. It has to be a comp where judge votes matter a ton and even then it’s not like BotB judges are the most discerning critics.


Which brings me to my next point…


The wrong band always wins


Judges are fucking idiots. So are audience members. I’ve been both a judge and an audience member, so I know this. No matter who decides who wins, and even if a really good band does win, there’ll almost always be a case for another band or 2 who deserve the win and many people will leave feeling hard done by. At the end of the day, it’s either up to who can bring the most people through the door or which band hits the judges’ prefered audio sweet spot. If I’m a judge and I hate metal, I’m probably not going to vote for the metal band to win. Yes, this can be solved by getting a diverse array of judges, but let’s not act like BotB judges are anything more than people who said yes to a bar tab for their free time.



BotBs are essentially market research for lazy promoters who get paid for their lack of creativity. It’s one of many ponzi schemes in the music scene and I wish they would all fuck off.


Besides, art being competitive for money/prizes is pretty weird. If you want your band to be successful, practice your shit, make music you’d actually pay to listen to, play a ton of live gigs, rewrite all your songs because you realise you actually sucked when you started, record some songs, register them with SAMRO, write a press release, send your music and press release to all the blogs, websites, newspapers, and radio stations (online and irl) whose email addresses you can find, play more gigs, book a tour, start a mailing list, etc. Basically, you have to do all the hard work that made your idols successful and not waste your time on building someone else’s bankroll.

2 Responses to “Why Battle of the Bands Suck”
  1. Colin Peddie says:

    This is spot on – have been saying this for years.

  2. Ozzie says:


    They have, and always will suck.
    New bands, do not enter them. Even if you win it will not advance your career.

    The very worst thing is competing to win a support slot for a bigger band.
    With my old band Lowprofile, we unfortunately had to do this multiple times to even get into certain festivals but still, it’s really lame.

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