Talent, Popularity or Geography

Posted: 8th March 2012

On Tuesday I went to watch one of the Manchester heats of a national competition for unsigned bands. Beyond the State from Anglesey were competing and a friend of mine is their manager. Beyond the State are the sound behind the Destination Conwy's "Adrenaline Coast" YouTube video.

My fiance and I enjoy listening to new live bands so we went to show our support and have a good night of music. There were 4 bands playing, of which the best would progress to the next round and so on until some grand national final is reached.

To determine the best band of the night, the audience had a voting slip on the back of their tickets, to complete and post into a voting box on their way out, but as the audience was mostly made up of friends of members of the bands performing this meant the voting was more of a popularity event than a straight music talent contest. Each band had been encouraged to sell as many tickets as possible to the event. Bands with greater audience support would obviously gain greater votes so there was a huge incentive for them to bring people along. A band like Beyond the State who had travelled over 2 hours to get there were at a disadvantage over the more local ones who could call on a few friends to pop out to the university bar for a quick drink (and a vote).

I had two questions:

1. If I were the organiser, how could I set the voting system up so that it gave the best bands a chance of winning rather the band who had the most friends present?

2. As a supporter of Beyond the State, which was the best way I could vote that would maximise the support I could give them to get to the next round?

If ticket holders had just one vote each there'd be no point in having a vote system at all, as each person would just choose the band they had come to support. A better system in my opinion would be to have two votes. That way the collective second choices would be a better indicator of the real talent. However, in this scenario voters may choose their favourite band plus the band they thought the audience liked the least to give their band the best chance of progression.

As she introduced the first act, the compere explained how the voting actually worked and it wasn't what I was expecting. You could vote for as many bands as you liked, it didn't have to be just your favourite. You could vote for all of them if you wanted, but what would be the point of that? To give Beyond the State the best chance of progression, the solution here was to vote once just for them, even if I liked the performances of the others. Giving away even a single other vote to another band would have been offering the competition an advantage.

I liked the first band and Beyond the State, but I only cast the one vote (sorry first band). I wasn't so sure about the third band up, and didn't stay to hear the fourth because of the late journey back home. The 'vote for as many as you like' system would have been a disadvantage for them in particular as the room steadily emptied after each act had performed.

The evening's outcome? Beyond the State won the heat by an apparent big margin and are through to the next round. Clearly many people present exercised their right to vote for more than one band - result! I may seem very biased, but I wouldn't have spent 3 hours in the car if I didn't really think they are very good.

The reality? Maybe I think these things through too hard, it's just a band night afterall and shouldn't I have just been there to enjoy the music?



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