Twenty years ago I was travelling with a rather well-known chamber orchestra on a European tour. Following a performance in Bucharest, we received the flight tickets to our next destination. There were four cellists, and they all received additional tickets for their instruments. Printed hardcopies, business class (!) and on paper. Those were the days…
The first flight was to Vienna, smooth, comfortable and with champagne, in real glasses – what a great way to travel. But when we arrived in Vienna and approached the Austrian Airlines counter to pick up the boarding passes for our connecting flight to St Petersburg, we received some strange looks. We were told that the booking “did not exist” and the tickets were worthless. A printed IATA ticket? Austrian Airlines? How could this be possible?
Fast forward and imagine you are applying for a competition today, like the famous Beethoven Competition in Vienna. Wait. Was it not called the Beethoven Piano Competition? Anyway, things change so quickly today, who can tell! An all-online competition, how convenient. With a concert at Musikverein for the winners, of course! You apply, you pay your fee, you receive an “official” confirmation, you start practising, and then suddenly something goes terribly wrong. The Beethoven Competition does not exist anymore… the website does not open. Google cannot find it anymore. Wasn’t there an address, or even a phone number? No, there wasn’t. And slowly, you realise that you have been deceived and they have taken your money.
You are not alone. There are now hundreds of people paying to take part in all kinds of contests that don’t exist. The Cleveland Intl. Music Competition, the Maurice Ravel Competition, the Bach Music Competition, the Schubert Music Competition, the Manchester Music Competition, the Vivaldi Music Competition, the Elisabeth Music Competition and many others: they all have one thing in common: no name behind it, no address, no phone number. Only one thing they do have: a credit card payment page to take your money. Better to invest in an airline ticket (an actual one) and travel to the real Beethoven competition in Vienna – the one that has an address, someone that answers the phone and offers a real performance… at the real Musikverein.