it's a relationship


Snapshot: Decca Records Competition DOs and DON’Ts

March 14, 2012

Have you ever heard anyone sing a low E? The sound is both concerning and captivating. Apparently, it is an incredibly difficult and rare note. That’s why Decca Records recently held a competition to find the best singer in the world who can hit the low E.

Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the idea is absolutely brilliant but the execution misses the mark. As a prize designer, I write this not to criticize Decca, but offer some pro bono advice.

Let’s talk about why this prize is so cool. First, the idea of a low E is intriguing because we think we should know what it sounds like, but we don’t, so we want to hear it. Second, Decca Records is a well-regarded music label that many aspiring musicians would love to get in with. Cooler still, the person searching for the low E singer is esteemed composer Paul Mealor, who has composed music for Prince William’s royal wedding and had a number one classical record in 2011. And finally, the best low E singer will be featured on Mealor’s next composition. All this is the making of a great competition.

So, what happened? Decca Records missed the opportunity to create an entertaining experience. The website,, has almost no indication that it is run by Decca Records, and says nothing about what you win. That means a potential entrant has no idea they develop a working relationship with Paul Mealor. The website doesn’t give you access to a sound clip, videos of the world’s greatest low E singers or samples of the competitors to date. And it’s in black and white with a url that is catchy but random. Even worse, the competition isn’t mentioned anywhere on Decca’s actual website.

A few options that would have helped Decca tremendously:

1. YouTube Entries. Get all the entries on video and start the “Low E Channel”. Wouldn’t it be really interesting to see these people who can sing that low and what song they choose to sing? Then run the entire process on YouTube (which would also make it dirt cheap).
2. Call to Action. Classical music isn’t my forte but this guy Paul Mealor seems like a serious player. Feature Mealor on the website with a direct challenge by him and then highlight that he is the reward. It’s a powerful experience for the winner that has hints of increased reputation and monetary opportunity.
3. Community not Prize. Decca could build a legion of loyal followers through this prize. Ongoing engagements and rewards could be given, engaging the community to ultimately become talent scouts, brand evangelists and avid consumers. Remember: a prize is almost never about the prize, it’s about the people.

I hope Decca does find the world’s best Low E singer. But I also hope that others can learn from their efforts and improve the likelihood of success. For more information on the Low E competition you can check out the NPR story where I learned about it.

For those of you interested in competitions and prizes, you can stay tuned to the Context Partners’ blog. We are starting an ongoing series of prize reviews where we critique competitions ranging from Taco Bell’s “Unlock the Box” to XPrize’s range of scientific breakthroughs. Our goal is to help spread the learning and experimentation.

image: NPR

Snapshot: Decca Records Competition DOs and DON’Ts

Charlie Brown

CEO & Founder


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