All roads will lead to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday as local bands battle in hopes of being crowned The Next Big Thing.
Revolution Live will be the South Florida stop for The Next Big Thing Tour, a show that brings together the best local and unsigned talent to battle at one of the area’s premier venues.
Judges will award the winning band with a choice between studio recording time or a cash prize, which was $1,000 last year. However, most of these young bands would agree that the ultimate prize is exposure.
“It’s much larger than most of the other venues we regularly play, so we have the opportunity to reach a much larger audience than we normally would,” said Jake Strunin, bassist for local indie band D.V.N.O.
Strunin said that the caliber of the venue is also a draw for the bands.
“Playing a show like Next Big Thing really helps because we get exposed to some of the people in charge of booking shows,” said Strunin, who aspires to play shows at Revolution. “Breaking into that caliber of venue isn’t as easy as you’d think.”
Alternative rock band Marvlec, champions of last year’s South Florida show, were able to build off the momentum of winning the contest.
“After we won the battle, we kept entering in others and continued to win first-place,” Marvlec guitarist Gustavo Lombana said. “We just rocked out and played our best.”
However, there is some controversy surrounding a band’s eligibility for the show. The event utilizes a “pay-to-play” system, which means bands need to sell a minimum of 30 tickets to play. The number of tickets sold also determines a band’s slot in the line-up. More tickets means a later slot, which typically means a larger crowd.
“It may not seem like a lot for bands that have been around for three-plus years, but for new, upcoming bands it’s difficult,” said drummer Stephanie Delgado, who will be performing with Miami artist Quietus. “It seems some of the better venues are turning to the ‘pay- to-play’ mentality, and it’s almost like they’re trying to weed out the new bands.”
Melanie Dewey, a sophmore in the Frost School of Music, said that she would enter her band in a pay-to-play event.
“The prizes are worth it but even if you don’t win it’s a great way for a new band to start up,” Dewey said. “If you want it, you’re gonna make it happen.”
These kinds of situations come up often in the industry and it’s important to recognize the role of the promoter, Frost School of Music professor Christopher Palmer said.
“Promoters and bands need to be closest friends,” Palmer said. “Don’t discount the fact that these promoters are gambling with thousands of dollars hoping that somebody shows.”
Those participating agree that these events provide some of the best opportunities for new local artists to perform and establish a following.
“We learned to never take any gig or competition for granted because you never know what will come of it,” Lombana said.