On April 7, Arseniy Strokovskiy, a participant of this year’s YSAYE International Music Competition, exposed shocking information through a Facebook post about the validity of this well-known international competition for musicians. This controversy, also reported on The Strad, brings into question the validity of not just YSAYE but all online music competitions.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the YSAYE International Music Competition decided to hold this year’s competition online, through YouTube pre-recorded video links.
Strokovskiy and his duo partner applied to the Chamber Music division of the competition, and his duo partner also applied to the Solo category. After paying about $166 for the Chamber Music application and about $130 for the Solo application, they waited for the results to be released at the end of May. The results of the first round were published, and neither their duo nor Strokovskiy’s partner’s solo made it to the second round.
Since the videos were uploaded via YouTube, YouTube Analytics has the ability to track how many times a video was opened, how long it was viewed, etc. When they first uploaded their videos, YouTube displayed their video analytics as 0 views, 0:00 seconds. After the results of the YSAYE competition were released, they found that they did not advance to another round.
The duo checked the YouTube analytics of their videos and were shocked to find that each video they submitted was only opened once and each view was only 22 -23 seconds in length, according to The Strad, which means none of their video submissions of their performances were fully watched by any of the judges.
Viewing only 22-23 seconds of each of their performance videos is equivalent to watching only about 2% of their performances. Furthermore, Strokovskiy’s partner’s solo videos displayed a shocking 0 views, basically indicating that none of the judges watched any of his performances before rejecting his advancement to the next round.
The YSAYE International Music Competition jury consists of 10 renowned musicians. Strokovskiy wrote an email to the organizers of the competition, hoping to get some answers regarding his unviewed performance videos.
YSAYE’s response only emphasized that the results are not disputable and the fees will not be reimbursed and they mentioned nothing about the unviewed videos. Strokovskiy has filed a lawsuit against the competition, demanded a refund, demanded that YSAYE cancel the results of the competition and asked for the initiation of a fraud case against the organization, according to his Facebook post.
Under normal circumstances, musical competitions would be held live. Like Strokovskiy states in his Facebook post: “an applicant pays a fee so as to be listened to. In other words, he literally pays for the jury job, and the jury ought to listen to each participant’s video fully. It does not matter if a participant plays badly or very well, whether they have chances for victory or not. There is no competition in the world, members of the jury of which have the right to stop a participant if he does not exceed the time limit of their performance. It is a basic principle.”
Many musicians depend on competitions to launch their careers in music. Although the current situation asks for competitions to be online, judging performance based on solely 2% or even 0% of the entire video completely ruins the chances of many people working their entire lives for this moment to compete. The jury wouldn’t do this under live competition circumstances, which makes it completely unacceptable online.
After Strokovskiy brought this story out to the world, musicians like myself became increasingly skeptical of the reliability of any online competition.
The YSAYE International Music Competition will be facing legal accusations and we’ll soon see how the competition will justify or admit to its unethical judging practices. The future of online musical competitions hangs in the balance.