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Singing Competitions: Are They Worth Your Time?

Author: Caleb J. Murphy

Date: March 7, 2019

Reads: 16,331

Caleb J. Murphy is a Songwriter/Producer based in Austin, TX. He is the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog to help part-time musicians succeed. He is also a contributor to CD Baby's DIY Musician blog, Sonicbids, and Bandzoogle. His work has been shared by ASCAP, Hypebot, and Music Think Tank.

Singing competitions: a modern-day version of gladiator fights. Your reputation lives or dies based on your performance. Will you get a thumbs up or thumbs down?

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but you get the idea. These contests are a strange idea and can be very difficult to compete in. But if you do well, they can really pay off for your career.

The thing is that most people don’t do well.

Here’s what you need to know about singing competitions:

  • Should you pursue your “big break”?
  • Why enter a singing contest?
  • The best singing contests to enter
  • How to prepare for a singing contest
  • How singing contests can benefit you
  • What to do after a singing contest

Should You Pursue Your “Big Break”?

First, let’s talk about this idea of a “big break.” Because that’s what these singing competitions promise — a ton of exposure and long-term success to the winner of the contest.

But is this idea all it’s cracked up to be?

Here’s what I think: making a living as a singer or musician requires hard work. It requires you to show up every day, practice, and get your name out there. Little by little.

Today’s music industry is much less about getting signed to a big label and way more about living the DIY musician lifestyle. Yes, record labels are still signing artists, but they’re also dropping them at an astounding rate.

According to music business veteran Moses Avalon, 99% of artists signed to a major record label don’t even get to release their first album because they’ve been dropped or shelved. Only about 0.2% of signed artists stay signed and fulfill their contracts.

So don’t put all your eggs in one basket (like a singing competition). Even if you win The Voice or America’s Got Talent and get a record deal, that’s not a guarantee of success.

What will get you to reach your picture of success is working hard. Build a career yourself, don’t let someone else control it.

All that aside, I’m not saying you shouldn’t compete in a singing contest. You should. I’m just saying don’t base your entire music career on a singing contest.

Why Enter a Singing Contest?

So if your success is up to you and not dependent on performing in a singing contest, what’s the point?

I’m so glad you asked. Here are four reasons why you should enter a singing competition.

1. To Challenge Yourself

Maybe the most important reason to try a singing contest is to try something new.

If you never challenge yourself or put yourself in uncomfortable situations, you won’t grow. That’s true as a person and as a musician.

The biggest reason you’ll improve by competing with other singers is because your area of improvement will become crystal clear. It will give you the motivation to give your best performance.

Sometimes, a little competition is healthy for us as musicians.

Plus, you’ll be able to get feedback from the judges and other competitors. Feedback is usually difficult to hear, but, again, friction can push you to succeed.

2. To Get Some Exposure

The amount of exposure you’ll get as the winner of a singing competition would be great for any artist. Regardless of the size of the event, any press for winning as a singer is good press.

But even if you don’t win, you can get some exposure at a singing competition. Industry professionals go to these events — Managers, Singing Coaches, Agents, and even record label people if the competition is well-known or in a music city.

At the very least, local press will go to these contests, so you could catch screen time (especially if you have a compelling story).

3. To Get Practice Performing Under Pressure

Performing in front of judges and in front of your singing peers is a lot of pressure. You usually get just one shot to impress the people who can advance you to the next round or send you home.

This is good practice for you as a singer. If you’re able to sing well in front of people who are actively and intentionally judging every note you sing, every vocal run you do, and the tone of your voice, you’ll do fine wherever else you perform. It will make you a better performer, which is a good thing for your career.

4. To Network With Other Singers

It doesn’t matter how well you do or how far you advance in a singing contest, you have the chance to network with other singers. If it’s a local competition, you could stay in touch with singers you meet — and who knows where that type of professional music relationship could go.

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Have What it Takes?
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The Best Singing Contests to Enter

You might have the vocal chops to win a contest, but if you have trouble finding places to compete, it can be frustrating. So here are the best places to find singing contests.

Start Local

The best place to start is in your town or city. Ask fellow singers if they know of any good contests. Or you can simply go to Google and search “singing competitions near me” and the year.

Go Big

If you think you’re ready to get on the big singing competitions, you could start with an online singing contest, like TalentWatch.

But once you’re ready to hit the big stage, here are some well-known singing competitions to check out:

How to Prepare for a Singing Contest

Once you find the right contest for you and go through the submission process, there are some things you can do to prepare.

Get on YouTube

By posting YouTube videos of yourself singing, you can get real people’s reactions, which will help you gauge if you’re ready for a singing competition. Plus, it will give you the incentive to sing and perform (online) on a regular basis.

And remember, lots of big Singers have been discovered on YouTube (like Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepson, and Soulja Boy). You could be next (maybe).

Choose the Right Song for Your Voice

This one is obvious. You’ll need to know your voice and what genres and ranges it works well with. You can also sing the song for a friend who will be honest with you.

Singing the wrong song for the judges can ruin your chances of advancing.

Practice Your Song…A Lot

Forgetting lyrics is unacceptable. Forgetting the melody is even more unforgivable.

Going into a singing competition, you have to be so prepared you could sing the song in your sleep. You should be able to sing the song without even thinking about what you’re doing. You should know the song so well, you can daydream while singing it.

So practice. A lot.

Warm Up

This one is pretty obvious, so this is just a reminder. Warm up your voice.

Your car needs to warm up on a cold day, right? Treat your voice like a car. Don’t let it overheat, just get it warm enough so it can perform like the well-oiled machine it is.

Eye Contact

Eye contact with the judges is essential. Smiling also helps. Just have a good time and let the judges know it by your facial expressions. If you’re submitting a video audition, look into the lens like it’s the eyes of one of your fans.

Whatever the case, the judges are your audience — treat them like it.

What to Do After a Singing Contest

Regardless of how you do in a singing competition, don’t lose hope. Don’t lose that passion, that love for music.

If you win, great. But don’t lay down, thinking you’re guaranteed success for the rest of time. You’ll need to work your butt off.

If you lose, remember that’s it’s okay. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of other people also “lost,” but you’ve only lost if you let the loss defeat you.

You should also ask yourself if you enjoyed it. Did you have fun? Did you like the people you met? What was the whole experience like? If you give it a thumbs up, try another!

Just keep going. You build your music career, it doesn’t fall from the sky. Your success is found in the notes you sing today, not whether or not a judge behind a table says “yay” or “nay.”

Final Thoughts

Entering a singing competition can do great things for you. Aside from the benefits of winning, they can also offer you a challenge, you can get exposure even if you don’t win, and you can meet other singers in your area.

Once you’re ready to enter a contest, start posting singing videos on YouTube for feedback and practice. Then after you enter a contest, make sure you choose the right song for you and then practice it until you can sing it in your sleep.

And then continue, onward and upward.

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