Having a Battle of the Bands might seem like a fairly modern thing to do, but actually, musical competitions involving two artists going head-to-head have probably been happening for as long as music has been made. Certainly, records of classical musicians gearing up for battle exist going centuries back–Beethoven was known for being a particularly deadly opponent.
One of the funnier musical contests took place in 1717 between J. S. Bach and Louis Marchand–or at least, it was supposed to take place. As reported by Classic FM (note: minor language in link):
The day of the contest dawned and a crowd began to form, with the Royal family and the aristocracy of Dresden all in attendance at Count Flemming’s grand palace. Bach arrived in good time and the contest was ready to begin… just as soon as his opponent appeared. After a long wait, Count Flemming sent a messenger to remind Marchand. Surely he could not have forgotten such an important engagement? When the messenger returned, the assembled company was astonished to discover that the Frenchman had fled.
Realising that he was in for a humiliating defeat, Marchand had left by stagecoach at first light and was now well on the road back to Paris. Worse still, an unscrupulous servant had pocketed the prize money.
At the very least, Bach got to give a great solo concert, so it wasn’t a waste of everyone’s time. Lucky for him–not so lucky for Marchand!