Why I Hate Contests

“Losing feels worse than winning feels good.” – Vin Scully

contests1000It seems like such a good idea doesn’t it?

A chance to see where you stand in relation to other artists and songwriters! For only a small fee! Sure, the odds are low, but what if you won? Wouldn’t that be just the thing to take your music or songwriting to the next level?

Surely God has put this contest in front of you for a reason! He wouldn’t have had you find that website, receive that email, or hear about the contest if He didn’t have a grand design in mind (well He actually might, but not the way you think when you enter! More on that below.)

Plus, you reason, even if you don’t win, think of all the valuable feedback you’ll receive! It’s a no-lose scenario!

While these all seem like great reasons to jump into the next American Idol, The Voice, or other singing or songwriting competition, here are the reasons I wish you wouldn’t.

1. It’s a Lottery

Competitions aren’t always based on talent. So you’re paying the fee to put this thing on with not much chance of winning. Some part of you knows this when you enter, but you don’t care.

But what if I won!?

Yes, then we start having the dreams, the fantasies about what could happen, and where this could go. Just like when you pay that dollar for the lottery, and dream about how you’d pay off all your bills and what you’d do with the money. But in this scenario, everyone whoever doubted your talent and drive would be wrong, and everyone who ever loved and supported you would be so happy (and oh yeah you could really do good work for God too.)

2. It Must Be God’s Will

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

You know you probably won’t win when you enter, but if it’s a Christian competition, or something just seems to magically happen that allows you to enter, you feel like it must be God’s will that you get involved. Then you get in, and something happens where you just know it’s God’s will that you were involved.

Then maybe you do well, or move to a second round, or the finals and think, yes, this is God’s will.

Then you don’t win.

Everything stops making sense. Then comes the letdown, the sense of failure on this stage, the thought that maybe even God’s will is for you to do something else, that you’re not good enough.

If you get nothing else from this post, get this! Losing a contest that you entered (even if you feel it was God’s will) does not mean that you are not good enough to make music or minister for Him. It’s a specific contest looking for a specific thing that is predicated on the specific likes and dislikes of those who put the contest on, and “judge” what is good or bad. It has nothing to do with why God made you, gave you your specific talents, and put you on this earth.

Now, could it be God’s will that you went through this experience to direct you away from some things you have put as idols in this? Sure! Part of the reason you are reading this blog right now could stem from some of the contests I was involved in when I was starting my music career. Eventually getting told “No” enough pushed me to create my own music business focused on consulting and producing Christian artists and songwriters.

“If anything, you know, I think losing makes me even more motivated.” – Serena Williams

3. Feedback Isn’t Always Helpful

“Critics only make you stronger. You have to look at what they are saying as feedback. Sometimes the feedback helps, and other times, it’s just noise that can be a distraction.” – Robert Kiyosaki

This is likely a whole other post, but while constructive criticism can be helpful, especially in songwriting, other words meant to help can be brutal and sometimes devastating. Even well-meaning godly industry people are only human, and in a moment of wanting to move on from a conversation, or even just being tired, or had a long day, can say something that scars an artist or songwriter forever.

I’ve had actual industry people tell artists I know and work with that they should just give up and do this as a hobby. NO ONE has the right to say that even in love. NO ONE but GOD can know who can improve with hard work and dedication to a craft. I have seen songwriters start with very meager songs, and turn out to be very good writers with cuts on their own and many other projects. I have known artists who weren’t very good singers, that have amazing music ministries. We all know some songwriter or artists we don’t care for, but many others love.

So the final word on contests? Well, I don’t like them very much.

If you have entered and won, then good for you. Has it changed your life? Maybe. But even lottery winners never envision the ways it will change their life for good, and bad.

If you have entered a singing or songwriting competition and lost, I’d like to hear from you in the comments below. I’d like to hear your story. How did it make you feel initially, and what have you learned from it?

Have a great week, and don’t forget to leave us comments below!


Eric Copeland lost a lot of competitions, had doors shut, and was told “No” many times, but God had a plan for him to work with many Christian music artists and songwriters and help them grow. For more on this start here!

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