Why bands should NOT participate in (most) online voting competitions: Boston Emissions vs. KISS

So, your band is in the running to open for the Davy Jones Massacre or play the side stage at Superdooperpaloopa. You just need to get the most votes and this coveted experience will be yours! I say you shouldn’t do it! Why?

You are being used. Virtually all of these online voting schemes are essentially marketing scams to get a lot of cheap publicity for a brand or a band or a show. Let’s say, for example (and this is a very real example), KISS is going on tour.  Rather than paying for publicity for their Boston show, what if they could get hundreds of bands (music lovers / fans of KISS) to contact all of their friends and family (music lovers / fans of KISS) to tell them that KISS is coming to town?  All of their local marketing budget, which used to be a lot of money, is now reduced to tolerating a band playing a 20-minute set long before anyone arrives at the venue for KISS.  Sure, it looks good for your band to open for KISS; sure, it’s a dream come true; sure, it’s lots of fun.  What about the 500 bands that lost the competition?  They basically just put in hours of free advertising for KISS.  I wouldn’t have known that KISS was playing in town if it weren’t for that contest.  Big bands are using small bands to sell tickets.  Festivals are using small bands to sell tickets.  Brands are using small bands to both establish name recognition and to associate themselves with “cool” music.

What do bands get out of it?  Not a damn thing.  You annoy all your friends, family, and fans for a slim shot at something that isn’t really worth very much anyway.  In music, no contest should exist where merit and talent are non-primary factors.  That’s the plain truth.

I’ve done it many times, asking people to vote for my bands in online contests, so I am not criticizing anyone who has, but I now believe that I was mistaken in doing so, and I am suggesting that you all shouldn’t do it anymore.  I am suggesting that fans, friends, and family also should not encourage online voting by participating.  You should ignore calls to vote or even respond with an active declaration of non-participation.  I’m sure I will get a lot of bands that chime in and say they won some great honor by fighting for online votes and “good for you,” I say, but think of all the losing bands and think of how much your resources have been taken advantage of to promote a giant corporate entity.  If you are shilling for a product or a big band, you should get paid.

Now, very importantly, THE BIG EXCEPTION to my suggestion.  If the vote is being run as part of something that you want to help promote, then there is no reason to feel used.  The Boston Emissions Favorite New Local Song Poll is a perfect example.  I love and support Boston Emissions.  It has a mission aligned with local music, focusing on helping promote local bands, so the least we can do is pay it back a little by asking people to vote in the poll, in turn familiarizing them with the show.  Boston Emissions, for example, deserves support and promotion provided by the bands it serves.  KISS, for example, does not.  For every scenario, you will need to make the call as to whether it fits the Boston Emissions model or the KISS model.