Recently I was accused of being cynical due to my negative attitude towards events which advertise themselves as a ‘Battle of the bands’. Hey congratulations if your band has won a money making ego driven dick slapping contest. To be fair, there are some genuine ones out there but my lack of interest was shaped years ago when my own band entered a Battle of the bands which gave the winner a headline slot at a large music festival the week after the final. This all sounded great until I went backstage and overheard a member of one of the other bands competing in the event (who turned out to be the promoters son) boast how excited he was that his father had booked the hotel for next weeks gig and that it was within walking distance of the festival they would be headlining at and that “All those dumb ass other bands playing tonight have paid for our petrol money too!”. Me and my band did the honourable thing and drank all their beer whilst they were performing on stage, later on we purposely gave them the worst performance ever knowing that everyone there would have to sit through it for 30 minutes and replaced the words of our songs with phrases like “You’re all a bunch of bastards” and “Move your tour bus before we burn it”.
Of course if this had have been a professionally organised event then afterwards we may have been at the mercy of media appointed Judges and subjected to pointless dream-busting advice from celebrities like Scary Spice, Tom Jones, a former Big Brother contestant (perhaps a relative of Jade Goody?) and maybe even the next door neighbour of someone made famous by Television for sleeping with an Essex postman that once stepped in some dog shit that happened to resemble Paul McCartney’s face. By not having opinionated judges voting too any contest with bands and musicians competing against each other is open for further criticism. At least on TV talent shows the gormless trigger-happy voting public are personally shielded from blame for who they choose to win but in a music venue where most band contests take place there is also a secondary competition held inside which is the “Who’s got the biggest family contest?” proving that if you invite all your six toed cousins, uncles and in-laws to every heat or round then your band stands a greater chance of success (Just in case it’s not decided on talent alone).
The aftermath and prizes of band knockout contests are also confusing. With Television talent shows the media advertise to an extent, support and follow the progress of a winner but if your band has won, say for example, a regional Band of the year final or a band vs band contest then you have the almost impossible task of somehow letting everyone know that you are a winner. How? Winners are given 12 months to tell the world of their achievement, meanwhile the organisers of the contest (sometimes a week later) are already so busy preparing for the next years talent-finding contest that there’s hardly time for them to invest much energy into telling all about this new talented band their event has discovered. Plus it’ll be harder for those organisers to find more fresh talent next time round as they have to avoid all the dead corpses belonging to all the losing bands that failed to impress them.
There must be some bands out there entering these competitions thinking that if they were to win a contest like this then a gigantic email will be sent out to every single human on earth and that people like James Hetfield from the band Metallica will recieve a text message on their phone stating “The next biggest band to take over the world has just won a Battle Of The Bands in Stoke….watch out James”. In their defence, these contests quite often mean that young bands do get an opportunity to play at some great British venues, many of which wouldn’t otherwise book you for a show in a million years. My idea of a Battle Of The Bands would be more similar to the film Battle Royale and that bands should be sent to a remote small island with weapons scattered around in it and made to fight each other to the death so that there can only be one overal winner, then when all the killing is over and there is only the winning band left alive we all celebrate their talent with a fantastic happy party with balloons.
In conclusion to all this waffle, good luck if you are entering your band into a competition, ask the right questions, know what you are getting involved in and I recommend taking part in one at least once in your bands lifetime so that you can experience it and learn from it. Success to me shouldn’t be too easy, it should be hard work, if it was that easy it wouldn’t be worth doing in the first place. Yes music is competitive but it also has to be fun and it’d be no fun if it was handed on a plate or won in a crossword competition. However, if in the future they start selling Lottery tickets in Tescos which give you the opportunity to win a record deal or if there are scratch n sniff cereal packets you can buy that promise stardom where if you scratch the Coco Pops monkeys arse to reveal a picture of Simon Cowell that smells like a monkeys arse…..then you go waste your money if it makes you feel talented.
Nick J.Townsend is the vocalist and guitarist for British band WEAK13. An experienced underground musician, music promoter and zine columnist. He is also a TV supporting Actor and has appeared in shows such as Shameless (ch4), Hustle (bbc) and Young Dracula (bbc).