So You Want To Organize A Piano Competition? Part II

Amateur pianist and competition planner, Sally Olson, lives in Chicago (US) and is on the committee of the Chicago Amateur Piano Competition 2016. This competition, which began in 2010, is steadily growing in popularity, with entrants hailing from many countries.

Few realise the tremendous amount of planning, fund-raising and marketing behind such an enterprise. Last year Sally wrote her first post for my blog about the competition (you can read it here), and in today’s post, she discusses the marketing campaign.

Comp 1

Marketing your competition.

In September 2015 I wrote about the necessary first steps when planning a piano competition.  I fully anticipated that I would write Part II a couple of months later, but this didn’t quite run to plan.

So what happened?  After the venue was set and the judges selected, we focused on a marketing plan to attract competitors.  It consisted of placing advertisements in music or piano based magazines, diligently posting information on our Facebook page, and writing blogs on our website.  What I didn’t expect was those wanting to apply for our competition would not do so for months.  By February we had about 12 applicants and we needed 60!  With this level of interest, would there be a competition at all?  People were most definitely noticing us because our website averaged 100 hits per day.  With that in mind, we kept our fingers crossed, and moved on to planning an “Event Calendar” which was designed to create interest and anticipation for those considering applying; these attractions, which are essentially a mixture of festival and competition events, certainly caused a buzz.

When May 1st arrived (our deadline for applications) we were inundated with over 70 applicants, and by this time, had also achieved 1,413 hits on our website!  Much to our surprise, the two-round competition (intended for 20 competitors) had as many applications as the three-round.  So we expanded the two-round event to accommodate 29 competitors.

The advertising campaign had been a great success, with two out of three applications coming from pianists who had never previously attended the competition.

Statistics about our competitors:

  1. We attracted people from 9 countries (Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Russia, Italy, The Netherlands, France, Canada and USA)
  2. We have an almost equal number of men and women competing
  3. Those competing have already competed in over 150 other competitions – so they are a very talented and seasoned group of competitors.
  4. Over ½ of the applicants requested master classes.

Our conclusions at the end of the marketing campaign? Both printed publications and social networking (including a website) have proved crucial. The organisation of other ‘extra’ events has also helped to cultivate greater interest, readership and create a following too.

In her next article, Sally focuses on the planning of extra events and customer relations.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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