I have always been one to say I would play any opportunity I got. This included charity gigs, parties in my friend's basement, shows I booked myself and, of course, battle of the bands I entered. It didn’t matter if I made or lost money. I just wanted to play.
This should be the attitude of every band. Just play. It doesn’t matter if it’s for two people or two thousand people. Play for the love of playing.
Now for those who read my little rant on "Playing in music festivals", you’ll notice that what I have to say about BOTB is somewhat similar, but keep in mind, this is not an article written for the Globe & Mail. I speak merely from experience. No real research has been done on my part.
I’ve played in a lot of battles in my time. I’ve won a few and lost many. I didn’t necessarily agree with the whole BOTB vibe. Bands competing against bands? Bands are supposed to pull together and help each other out, not go to war with one another. I realize that now, but at the time all I wanted to do was play and have the chance to win some studio time because none of us had enough money to book studio time on our own.
One thing to remember is that the people judging these things are not necessarily authority figures of any kind. They may not be the president of Universal records. In most cases they are just friends of the organizers. This becomes even more so the case for BOTB that are organized by small local bars. From what I’ve seen sometimes they are musicians, owners of studios, or people who work at music stores. I remember one time I was asked to be a judge just by having been in the bar when the battle took place. And who am I to judge?
I tend to believe that bars are merely taking advantage of the bands. Chances are they are gaining more than what the bands could win. They don’t need to pay the bands and they know that any band that participates will bring in all their friends to watch the show and drink beer. Don’t forget, a bar’s primary function is to sell booze. If they don’t sell booze, then they will go out of business. As much as I would like to believe that bars are set up to give struggling musicians a place to play, no one can be that generous.
Still, aside from the obvious negativity I’m dishing out, it is a very rewarding feeling to win a BOTB. To know that your music and stage performance is better than everyone else’s is a sign that you’re heading for stardom, right? Well, it might mean that you’re on the right track, but just because you won a BOTB doesn’t mean you’re the best band in the world. At most it means you’re the best band that entered the competition.
It’s easy to build an ego when you win these things. It’s also easy to lose confidence when you don’t. Having lost some and won others, I can say that there are no sure bets in this business. How is one really supposed to judge a band anyways? How do you compare a hardcore metal band to an acoustic folk duo? So what if another band has more friends? Why should that count for anything? Well, remember what I said about bars? If part of the judging is based on crowd response, then the more friends you have in the crowd the better your chances. The more people in the crowd, the more potential beer sales. See where I’m going with this?
Now I know what I’m saying here is not going to really make a difference, but I just wanted to share my insights with you all. BOTB will remain to be a music scene reality. They do serve some good. If it weren't for BOTB then some bands may never get their foot in the door to play shows. One battle of the bands appearance got our foot in the door to playing on a regular basis at one bar. Another got us studio time to record a demo. And another one got us radio airplay which got us media attention, which then lead to a record deal.
Many friends of mine have participated in BOTB that brought them to play in front of thousands in Germany and win thousands of dollars in gear. You would figure that given my good fortune I would be raving about BOTB. True, I do owe a lot to the battles I’ve played, but it wasn’t those battles alone that got me what I wanted. It also took a lot of hard work and determination.
This post was not written in attempt to stop or make you enter into any band competitions, but a little light shed on the situation never hurt anybody.
Until next time….
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