Jessica Duchen is on the trail of the (corrupt) music competition system. The career stakes for performers in these affairs are generally higher than those for composers, for whom the main problem is that entrants are too often being asked to fund the competition prize through entry fees without clear-cut aesthetic criteria for the judging offered up-front, but the nepotism and abuses of the jury system indicated here are alarming.
Music is not a sport and simply doesn't operate by the kinds of rules that lend themselves to fair judging, so maybe the best solution is to simply recognize that competitions — unless very carefully, ethically, and openly organized, like the "Iron Composer" competition, for one — are by nature prone to abuse. Given that recognition, we can then either ignore them altogether or take them in a much lighter spirit, as a none-too-serious form of entertainment.
The best way for a young musician to establish a reputation for playing is through playing, especially with other musicians, not competing against them. Play lots of different music in informal settings, as a soloist or chamber musician, and cultivate your "works well with other skills" as well as the purely musical chops. Playing for free in such events is far more useful than trying to finance your way into the competition circuit. Organize your own soirees and concerts. The finest musicians I know have established careers in just this way and their independence from the conservatory/competition/agent system has meant that they can play a greater number of concerts with a greater variety of music and have more interpretive freedom than their colleagues who are locked into narrower repertoires with lower levels of interpretive tolerance. The per-concert fee of a good new music pianist, for example, may be lower than that of a good Chopin player, but the new music pianist is going to play more music more often and can more readily establish a niche that looks like a real career than the mainstream player who is always subject to the whims of the current market.