Dubious composition competitions, episode 263: Amadeus Composition Award Vienna
Dubious composition competitions, episode 263: Amadeus Composition Award Vienna
When I wrote my article “The Tuscan Curse” about dubious composition competitions for the NMZ many years ago, I had no idea that the topic would remain relevant for so long. What’s more, it has actually become even more relevant as the Internet offers completely new distribution options that are significantly cheaper than sending flyers and posters out into the world.
The model of such composition competitions is always similar: an unreasonable participation fee is charged, which is disproportionate to the prizes awarded, which are usually small or non-existent. The whole thing is advertised as widely as possible and the application threshold is made very low, for example by allowing you to submit existing works (we all have some of those in our drawers). Some competitions even go particularly far and find all sorts of reasons not to award the prizes at all, so that a nice sum can be made from the participation fees alone, for which you don’t have to do much more than set up a website.
“There’s a sucker born every minute,” PT Barnum supposedly once said, and unfortunately that also applies to us composers. Most of us dream of more attention for our music (yes, even those who actually have enough to do – most of us are longing for more fame), so the number of possible adressees for such a scheme is quite high. Thanks to the Internet, you can now reach composers from all over the world.
I myself was once a victim of such a competition (as a student, I was young and stupid). The participation fee was 150 DM, the location was a small village in Tuscany. Months later I received a letter saying that I had been awarded first prize for my composition. I immediately opened a bottle of champagne, but then read the participation fees more closely and realized that the first prize was only 250 DM (in lire, that somehow looked like more at the time when I read it cursorily). Well then, I thought to myself, at least a profit of 100 DM and maybe a performance.
After writing to the competition several times asking when my money would come, I eventually received a letter. In it I was informed that although I had actually been given first prize of all the compositions submitted (99 out of 100 points), unfortunately I had not received the “first absolute prize” (primo premio assoluto, 100 points), and only that would give me money. Of course, I quickly discovered that no one had gotten the “first absolute prize” at all, and I was one scam experience richer.
A month ago I received an email that immediately brought back memories of that unpleasant Tuscan competition. An “Anastasia Stefanovich” asked me to be on the jury of an “AMADEUS COMPOSITION AWARD” , which worked according to exactly the same principle. High participation fee? Check, 75 EUR. Existing compositions in absolutely every conceivable category (orchestra, chamber music, vocal music, electronic music, film music) can be submitted, although it is not even required that you guarantee that the works are your own (as is usual in many serious competitions)? Check! Strange points system for evaluation, as if you were at a car check and not at an art competition? Check.
As a juror, I should receive EUR 20 per score reviewed. That seemed strange to me, because in which competition do you get paid like that as a juror (if any, it’s often voluntary)?
These two statements, which were found on the website and in the cover letter to me, made the difference:
- „Those who took 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th place will receive a Certificate. It is possible that some special Certificate will be awarded.“
Aha, 1st-7th Place gets a “certificate”. But what? No money? Really now? Instead, the website whispers ominously that they want to “celebrate the participants’ success with them and give them the chance to work with renowned orchestras and ensembles.” This is as vague as it gets and doesn’t commit to anything.
- “The competition will be held every month (sic!) until June 2024”
Wtf? Is this competition held EVERY MONTH? I sense a business model…
If you research past winners on the competition website, suspicions are confirmed. A first prize was never awarded in June 2023, not even an “absolute” one. For this, a whopping 6 second prizes and 8 third prizes (!!!) – none of which have any other effect. The fourth to seventh prizes appear to have been forgotten (or not enough people applied). After all, pictures of the winners are even shown, presumably so that they somehow get the feeling that something is actually happening. But of course putting pictures on a website (or giving out “certificates”) costs nothing and, given the not exactly world-famous site of the competition, has about as much effect on the careers of those involved as a sack of rice in China.
The whole thing seemed so suspicious to me that I didn’t even answer. Apparently the competition had contacted several colleagues (e.g. Gordon Kampe) and the first discussions about it slowly began on social media. And people began to ask themselves who could be behind such a competition, which deliberately gave itself a name that could be confused with other, much more serious competitions (competitions with “Amadeus” or “Mozart” in the title are a dime a dozen by the sea).
The email to me came from an “Anastasia Stefanovich” (also known as “Anastasia Stefany”), but if you do some research, you also discover the name Goga Giorgadze and a diffuse network of various sites on the Internet that are either PR or management offers, including other competitions for every instrument imaginable. There is even an “Artfex Maintenace” (whatever that is is probably supposed to be called “Maintenance”). In a legal notice, a fictitious “City Conservatory of Music and Performing Arts Privatschule GmbH (opening date August 1st, 2024, sic!) even appeared, with the address Krottenbachstraße 33/10 in Vienna. However, there are no rooms to be discovered there in which one could ever (and not even in 2024) accommodate a “conservatory”, it is simply an apartment building.
All of this gives the impression that they are trying to attract aspiring musical talents using various attractive and promising websites (awards! certificates! management! PR!), although it is reasonable to assume that this is not done for altruistic reasons, because behind it all There is no institution or foundation associated with this, they are private individuals who live in a Viennese apartment building. Maybe even just one person, and maybe their name isn’t Anastasia or Goga, who knows. Unfortunately not Grogu, at least that would be Baby Yoda, and he’s cute!
After a while, a not-at-all-cute user named “Shu Li” started joining in on our discussion with malicious comments, and things actually got even more bizarre. Because now Wendelin Bitzan, Gordon Kampe and I were called “Wenderlin Trottelle”, “Gordon Krampus” and “Moritz Deppertie” (it’s insulting in German and not translatable), and it was assumed that we must be a “society of order lovers” just because we asked critical questions about a competition like the “Amadeus Composition Award”. The whole thing then quickly degenerated into insults like “sick psychopath” and increasingly rambling and increasingly confusing comments, so that it quickly became clear that it wasn’t “Shu Li” but Anastasia or Goga or someone else who was behind this.
My only comment was “They just asked me for their jury,” I hadn’t even written anything critical yet, but whatever… You can read the whole completely crazy comment thread here:
What should we think of a competition that engages in such business behavior? Everyone can probably answer this question for themselves if they don’t want to be a “sucker”.
Perhaps, contrary to all assumptions, the “Amadeus Award” only has good in mind and is a purely altruistic undertaking that wants to bring love to humanity. Then they would present it much more coherently and better, not with websites that immediately set off alarm bells.
And if the whole thing is a scam (which I strongly suspect): then why are you looking for young composers of all people as victims? A group of people who usually don’t have enough money anyway and usually struggle to make ends meet?
But unfortunately it’s like that all over the world, the idea of a Robin Hood who only steals from the rich and evil has unfortunately always been just a fairy tale, in reality the poor take it from the poor and the rich take it from everyone.
Oh yes, the story of the “Amadeus Composition Award” (Mozart has certainly turned over in his grave several times because of the misuse of his name) goes on: a few days ago I received another email from “Anastasia” (?) which said succinctly : “ We regret to inform you that we have made a mistake and have decided to revoke your invitation to participate as a jury member in the AMADEUS COMPOSITION AWARD.”
Well, , I’m about to cry now.
Moritz Eggert (thanks to Wendelin Bitzan and Alexander Strauch for some background research)