Are some competitions scams?
I've recently been poking around the internet and I ran across some competitions that look a little funky. I'm not talking about allegations of jury-rigging at the big competitions. I'm talking about a brand of smaller on-line only competitions, which generally offer a paid concert and management to the winners.
Four examples that I found recently are:
Three of these seem to be supported by the same Alink-Argerich foundation, and they all have the exact same web site. They seem to be selling the online application pretty hard, and it seems like it could be a good business opportunity if enough people apply.
There is also this competition in Japan, which charges ~200 dollars for entry, and another 300 for people who make the finals, while most of the prizes in the finals are only about 500 dollars.
Is this another iteration of the classic "pay for exposure" scam or am I just being paranoid?
I don't know if any competitions are scams, but I know many music schools are.
Welcome to the musical-industrial complex.
Given that these websites promote themselves more than their winners...
It's called "pay to play."
I don't know whether they are scams but I smell that they are. At least they are good for resumes.
Scott nailed it. Now, a for-profit enterprise is not necessarily a scam. Maybe, just maybe, you get what you paid for: The opportunity to compete for a piece of paper that might be worth your entry fee. After all, if you're the winner of the XYZ International Violin Competition, you can write that on your web site and the parents of small children needing lessons might be impressed. If that nets you a client or two, then the return on your investment will accrue in a matter of weeks.
Thanks for all the responses. I chuckled at those competition names, Paul, and they reminded me of a supposed "scholarship" I was offered through the mail after I was accepted to college. It was a while ago, but as I remember it was from one Albert Nobel, offering acceptance into an "elite" high school honors society (for a small fee...)
From the musician’s perspective it may or may not be scam, depending on the amount of fee charged, how the competition is held, and what you get in return.
Don't forget that it can be valuable to get third-party commentary on your playing, too. And that sometimes it's very useful to do low-stakes competition in order to get experience. Or as a self-motivator.
Well, one of the most common pay-to-play experiences is the "performance in Carnegie Hall" one, which is offered by any number of companies. While I understand that it may not have the cachet of being invited by say, a major orchestra to perform with them in the hall, I think that having the opportunity to play in such a wonderful space is worth it for any music student, regardless of their career aspirations. Now that they operate them with festival-like parameters including coaching and feedback, certainly the educational component of such a trip is much better than it was in the past.
It's not a scam if people know what they're getting themselves into. Exposure is extremely important.
For a reference point: Here's the 16 year old winner from the Manhattan version of this contest, competing (but not placing) at the 2016 Menuhin Competition:
I've been told never to enter my kid in any competition that yields a performance at Carnegie (he's not at a level where it would ever be legitimate). These competitions may be resume builders and you may get to play in a nice hall, but you are basically just paying to rent out the hall, which anybody can do anyway. To me it is unbelievable how they get money out of you. Here's the general plan:
There's a NY Times article about this very practice from back in 2005:
It's somehow similar to buying a degree. You pay some 6,000 dollars to some non-accredited online institution, being sent a pack of powerpoint slides, then answer some 15-20 min quiz then get a bachelor's / master's degree.
Similar things can happen in the fiddle-making world. One might brag about their competition wins, but fail to mention that these wins were at the local county fair violinmaking and chili-cooking competition.
Collusion between sellers and buyers to exaggerate the buyer's credentials or to mislead someone else may create negative externalities to the violin community.
What Susan Agarwal has described sounds awful. Almost as though the activity was created by someone who honed his business acumen launching products the likes of wine, steaks, spring water, and fragrances.
Susan Agrawal said,
I looked up a few of the bigger ones and they don't list the judges. One listed an honorary head of the competition but said judging would be a "qualified" panel. It could be anyone.
I think it's unfortunate that music competitions have to exist at all, but in a dog-eat-dog world we just have to accept that and try not to get eaten by an even bigger carnivore.
Competitions themselves are a good thing, until there are those you just pay to win. It’s outright dishonest.
Judges in a competition not named? That is indeed suspicious. Whether they are unqualified, or qualified but do not wish to be publicly associated with the event, I really don't know which is worse.
Anne Luisa Kramb, the winner of that Manhattan Competition Julie was talking about completely deserves that price. I'm not saying that this kind of competitions are not scams, some of them might be so. But normally the winners of those competition are really high level players, not just someone who paid more than the rest or was lucky enough to have their teacher in the jury. Anne Luisa didn't get a high position in Menuhin 2016 but she got 1st prizes in many other important competitions, not only Manhattan.
How long do you think it will be before violin-playing becomes an Olympic event? I can see why they're needed in today's global marketplace but I believe competitions tend to subvert an important ethic of music-making, that music should be a inclusive endeavour, not all about "me, the great soloist". I well remember one televised competition where the popular favourite was rightly (in my view) denied the prize because their ego just got in the way of the music
Maybe this is another reason to switch to viola, lol!
Olympic violin playing would be HUGE! It could be modeled after the biathlon, with the competitor cross-country skiing to a designated spot, whipping out their violin, playing an excerpt, then skiing on to the next spot.
Fact check. I disagree with the posters above talking about Anna Luisa Kramb "not placing" or not getting a "high position" at the Menuhin.
Sorry Frieda, thank you for correcting the record.
Maybe olympic violin playing could be the next chapter for USA Gymnastics. After Chapter 11, that is.
The demographics of Menuhin 2016 winners still managed to surprise me ...
Demographics, you say?
Matt - I've certainly played alongside some executioners... But you're right, people will always be competitive and properly conducted competitions are necessary in order to give the best young players an internationally recognised emblem of their stature. The last winner of the Leeds piano competition, Eric Lu, was the first to play in the final and left me truly gobsmacked. Could the others even come close? No they couldn't.
@Paul how else you interpret it to be? (shivers down my spine)
In Greece there is a violin competition organized by a most reputable institution .The judges are a veteran violin teacher that offers a considerable amount of money for 1st prize and some of her former students that she has chosen .We cannot talk of real scam here of course ,but criteria of success are totally arbitrary for the participants.Everything depends on mostly non musical factors and not the best player wins ,not the most talented but the one that conforms to the commitee criteria (nobody knows exactly what to expect).The same story goes on for some years ,the commitee is really the opinion of one person only ,the chosen mediocre usually get 1st prize and the really good players only a chance to play in a luxury hotel room .