Did you hit your head or something? Amateurs competing for free? You realize that this is a business? And no one is forcing amateurs to compete it's their choice. Not sure if you were ever involved in organizing a professional event, but the cost of doing a show, venue, lights, staff etc... can range from $20,000 to $50,000 depending on the venue. And before you question the pricing, I know first hand because I have been involved in throwing several professional events (corporate banquets, tradeshows etc). Just renting a simple banquet hall for the night for example, you are not only dealing with paying for the actual hall rental, but if you want music/lights, you are forced to go with their 'in house' service (they will claim due to insurance and because the equipment that is there is their property) and that service for one night, adds a nice $5000 to the bill. Lot's of hidden charges like that.
So as far as throwing amateur shows for free, are you willing to pay out of pocket, out of the goodness of your heart? I don't know too many people that would (except for Jake Wood, and even with his close to 300 million networth, would quickly go broke trying to pay for every NPC show )
Oh and lastly, preps costing tens of thousands of dollars... Not sure what these guys are buying, but if you can't prep for an amateur show on under $1000, your dealer is either ripping you off hard, or you truly are in the wrong sport. It's 12 week prep, so $300 a month should be plenty to cover supplements. Go crazy and spend $2000, but I have no clue what you need to buy for tens of thousands... (food you will be buying whether you compete or not)
The sentiment I express comes from competitors themselves. Current competitors can't express them publicly for obvious reasons, but most feel they are being fucked over in various ways. They feel humiliated when they happen to win and they are sometimes presented with a damn jug of protein powder right there on stage some supplement company gifted for advertisement purposes. You never hear these complaints?
Promotors are free to charge what the hell they want and competitors are free to compete or not compete, and like I said, competitors would pay 10x those fees if they're set on competing "for the dream".
At the same time, the competitors are what makes the show possible in the first place but they are slapped with fees for every little thing. Another complaint is the handing out of hundreds of pro cards watering down the exclusivity of a pro card, which they feel is just a way to make the fed and promoters more money. Surely you've heard this complaint at least? A pro card means much less today than in the past. As an aside, I saw Dennis James do a live Q&A on his IG and a pro called in with Skype saying, "I'm IFBB pro such and such", and Dennis was like, "why is it important to say you're a pro? Like I would give a shit" Lol.
Anyway, the competitor spends a bunch of money, pays all sorts of fees, can't even watch the show for free etc, and the promoters make the money - but the competitor is what makes it all possible in the first place. My point is, the fees are added everywhere and the competitor feels he's not being respected.
As far as costs of competing, say you're someone who wants to spare no expense, and you want to buy 50 pens of Genotropin.
Calculate it. So what do you do? You buy twice as many pens to sell half at mark-up to cover at least part of your investment. Same with the gear, which is dirt cheap in comparison, but anyway. It adds up and you "hustle" and risk legal problems - this is most competitors. Also the "tens of thousands" could be over a longer period, some may have their sights on a particular show for a year or two.
Everything would be cheaper if no one charged for their services, but everyone wants to earn income from this industry, therefore, everyone pays and makes money. That is why new services arise within the sport, as posing coachs, nutritionists, deep therapy massages.
But this is not a bodybuilding issue, it cultural or normal within a "capitalist" society.
Regarding what you say, bodybuilding is not a place where you make money, it is a place where you spend your money, it is like that for most amateur competitors and recreative lifters, it is their hobby, their passion, so they are happy to pay.
Take a look at the Olympia thread. The level of competition is is staggering. Guys try for years because they love this and dont land a pro card until much later. Often times as a masters competitor. People see guys blow up like Dallas Mccarver and think they can do the same thing. This shit isnt easy for 99% of us though. Even if you are gifted, are you gifted like the guys competing on the Olympia stage?
Other guys, like a friend of mine, Nick Antico, start of wanting to be the big guy but realize what that takes, analyze their situation, and do classic or physique instead. Thats where he got his pro card.
IMO there's nothing wrong with any route to a pro card as long as you're honest with yourself. My big dream was placing top 10 in a large pro qualifying show with a plan to duck out after. I never made it that far. After 2 contest preps, I was honest with myself and realized that I legit was not having fun and was not forming any sort of friendships in that community. I was expecting more of a community than the clicks of gossipy dudes and the drama. I was set after seeing that.
I do enjoy this lifestyle though. It has paid dividends to me regardless of my fictional status as a national level competitor.
At this point in my life competing just isn't that high on the priority list anymore... In my case, i did lose some fire after getting my card.. I competed the following year as a Pro and did pretty well (2nd twice in Masters but got bombed in Opens) but after that i was like "Why am i still doing this"??... I, unlike B-Boy DO have to pay for travel and accomodations so even if i place and earn a few bucks i still lose.. Most venues id need to travel to.. Doesn't make much sense. Spend $1500 to win $1000???... and at 51 (in a few weeks) i'm not up for blasting a bunch of shit just to hang with some of these guys... I can walk away with my head held high and no regrets