The truth, and nothing but the truth about Songwriting Competitions

1 of 2
1
       
 
Nov 03, 2014, 02:19 PM

There are many songwriting competitions each year like the International Songwriting Competition. John Lennon Songwriting Contest, UK Songwriting Contest, Indie International Songwriting Contest or the Song of the Year Songwriting Contest to name just a few.
Entering a competition is a great way to find out where one stands compared to the competition. That’s what a competition is for. You want to win, you want to be the best, you want to be better! But how much of an indicator is a competition? Who actually enters the competition?
We at SongCat still believe entering a songwriting competition is a great way to see if you’re songs are quality. However, we are not sure if it’s a good way to tell if you’re better or worse than other songwriters. The songwriter should put the focus on the feedback he/she gets from the competition. After all, no matter if you win a category or not, there is always room for improvement.
I would like to hear your thoughts. Have you ever entered a songwriting competition? If so, which one? If not, would you enter one in the future or do you think it’s a waste of time and money? Share your story about Songwriting Competitions. The nice, the ugly, and everything in between.

http://www.songcat.biz - #1 value for music production!

Highlight Your Talent

 
     
Avatar
Christian Erhardt Joined Sep 23, 2007
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Nov 03, 2014, 03:32 PM

Christian,

While I have never entered a songwriting competition, I have been a judge in many of the ones you mention, John Lennon,and others like the NSAI (Nashville songwriter’s association International), and a few others. They are essentially a nessasary evil of the songwriting universe. Nothing really bad, but are they going to make you or your song a star? Nope. Hit songs and artists are not picked that way.

They do provide some decent prizes often, trips, some money, instruments, recognition, nice plaques and trophies. and some of them do quite a bit of good. I was involved with one that raised money for battered women. and the NSAI contest helps to send NSAI representatives to Washington DC to lobby Congress on behalf of songwriter’s rights.

They are also limited to amateurs (cannot have had songs with publishers or having been cut by artists) and are against other songs in the contest, which are not always the “top drawer” material. If you are a judge, you go through many many songs. At first you try to listen to all of them, but with thousands of entries, you develop a “sixth sense’ about what they are. Most are dreadful. They plod along, no real point or relation to anything in reality. Many are written by older people whose musical tastes are long gone. Some are written by artists that don’t seem to have any catagory at all, kind of like a free form poetry that doesn’t have a lot of rhyme or reason. Many are very, deep dark depression, that you are sort of afraid of getting around the writer due to feelings of mental disorder.

Many people that enter contests will enter multiple times. It is not unique to see the same name on CD’s over and over and over again. And all of the songs from one particular writer sound pretty much the same. Not very good. There is a lot of that.

Overall, they can bring some decent things. One of the writers I work with, along with two people I introduced him to, won the NSAI song contest this past year. It brought them all to Nashville, featured them and their song on a major show in front of a large Nashville audience, got them a few prizes, a guitar, certificates, and recognition among their peers. And the minute it was over, was pretty much forgotten. On to the next contest. But the by product of it, was to get them around some other writers, and help build their reputations for the future. That song may be done but their ability to find co-writers, artists, and even giving them the basis for a future publishing company they have since started. The song plugger for their company was introduced to them through the contest.

But a big time, hit song on an artist? Nah.

Most will graduate on to other parts of the industry. most hit writers have done them once or twice. I myself won a major “battle of the bands” type national contest in the 80’s. Great time for a while, get some stuff, a couple of press clippings, a few shows, some local and regional fame,  then it’s over. Have to be looked upon as just another step along the way.
Does, as you say, give a feel for being in the competition of the industry, helps feel like you are “doing something”, dictates the need for having professional, good sounding recordings, and being on top of your game.

Take them for what they are. A training excercise.

MAB

 
     
Avatar
MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Nov 03, 2014, 03:35 PM

PS: For an example of contest winners, you might check out AMERICAN SONGWRITER magazine. Once a month they feature the lyrics in their ongoing song contests. The winner usually takes up two pages, and is featured in the centerfold of the magazine. When was the last time you heard a “seven verse, five different choruses, three bridge’ song on the radio?

MAB

 
     
Avatar
MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Nov 03, 2014, 09:04 PM

Haha, very good point. I’m sure that “seven verse, five different choruses, three bridge” song is probably also about 10-20 minutes long and has about 5 guitar solos in it. I think, when entering a songwriting competition, you have to make sure you get something for your money. Admission fees are between $10 and $50 but most of the competitions don’t really give you anything except the promise to listen to your song (and you already explained what that means in most cases).
However, some competitions offer a detailed review of your song. Some memberships on websites that normally cost. Some software that normally cost. Etc.

http://www.songcat.biz - #1 value for music production!

Highlight Your Talent

 
     
Avatar
Christian Erhardt Joined Sep 23, 2007
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Nov 03, 2014, 11:59 PM

There are usually various stages of “winners.” There are usually second and third place prizes, “honerable mentions’ and other thngs. As a matter of fact, most contests approach many studios, producers, record labels, publishers, for donation of time or services for their prizes. I, in fact have been a “prize” on several contests. I have a business that hosts “songwriter tours” of Nashville, which are private workshops for artists and writers. In fact just had two gentlmen from Canada. I do song evaluations, writing, and networking assistance. I do try to offer services when people need them.

But it really can’t be Pee Wee football, and everyone gets a trophy for showing up. the admission fee is part that we all pay in one way or another. Most of us who are actually in this business spend A LOT MORE than $20-$50. We spend that on dinner a night our waiting to play on a writers night in a club here.

So it is actually a very inexpensive way to be involved. But you do have to take it for what it is.

MAB

 
     
Avatar
MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
May 11, 2015, 04:32 PM

I’ve just joined and I had a few questions about these contests. I enter every month @nashvillesongservice ever since November of 2014 and since then I have never won 1st place but I have gotten the message, “Although your lyric was not chosen in the lyric writing contest for a free production, there are several judges and staff who feel that it deserves a demo and promotion. I have received this for 5 of my songs, but I don’t have the $ they are asking for. I’ve heard that usually they have music for songs already in their library and when they get a song that might fit they’ll just send this message to get your money. I’d like to know if there is anyone who has actually paid for these demo’s and it worked out for them or is this a scam?

 
     
Kai Nichole Joined May 11, 2015
  • Rank

Send PM

 
May 11, 2015, 11:41 PM

Hi Kai, while some of those demo studios work with backing tracks already created in their library (that’s why you sometimes hear stories about lyrics have been changed, etc.), many don’t operate this way. I don’t know the service you mentioned well but I’m guessing that the monthly competition is a marketing method to promote their service. One of our clients actually “won” the competition you mentioned a while back and received a free demo from them. However, he never used their service beyond that.
You can imagine, I know a lot of people who have used a demo service (I run one of those) and the question you ask is really hard to answer. Of course most demo producers will tell you how this is the one and best thing you can do in your life but no, this is not true. First of - most of the studios (us and many of our competitors) are honest, hard working and genuine companies. As in every industry, there are exceptions to that, so make sure to do your research. Now, the answer to “has it worked out?”. It has a million times if receiving a high quality production of your song is considered as “worked out”. If you mean if anyone ever signed a deal with one of those productions. Well, this is something that is beyond the production team. Once you have your demo(s), the hard work starts for you. You need to “shop” the song, make contacts and get it in the right hands. I hope this answers your questions. If you have any further questions, just let me know.

http://www.songcat.biz - #1 value for music production!

Highlight Your Talent

 
     
Avatar
Christian Erhardt Joined Sep 23, 2007
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Nov 04, 2016, 12:38 PM

I was led to believe that Nashville Song Service are another name for the two guys

that run the Dreadful Paramount Song Service

Look them up and you will see the thousands of punters who have been seen

off by them

Once upon a time they used to send a monthly demo to my Publishing Boss with

very badly written songs , badly arranged and badly sung

They have no contacts in the real world just fellow scammers

 
     
Avatar
Peter Kristian Joined Jan 11, 2008
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Nov 04, 2016, 01:35 PM

I think I’ll start a song competition. The prize for the winner will be that the new boat I buy from the proceeds will be named after him.

 
     
Avatar
Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Nov 10, 2016, 11:44 AM

Donna, when you have an average of 10,000-50,000 song submissions, (about normal for the John Lennon Contest, I was a judge on that one too), there is no physical way to contact everyone who has submitted. So they put the top five or ten, the honorable mentions and hopefully they will find their songs.

Being a judge, you get envelopes or emails with HUNDREDS of songs. I would usually go through verses and choruses of around 500 over a period of weeks. Most of those you can tell by the first couple of lines and by reading the lyrics, if they are engaging enough to continue. Out of those around 3% are good enough to forward to other judges. It is pretty self evident. Most people don’t realize how many songs are out there, and how many find their ways to contests.

It shows you the level of writing is required to actually advance in this business. Most “living room” writers don’t ever find that. They don’t experience audiences, or get out into other cities and towns, trying to get and keep people’s attention. And of course, as you mentioned, most of music is now FREE, so getting anything out of this is a pretty tall order. While I write and you read this, upwards of 50,000-100,000 songs will be uploaded to the Internet. Along with videos, lyrics, etc. So the task is quite daunting. But that is what we accept when we do this.

MAB

 
     
Avatar
MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Nov 10, 2016, 12:08 PM

That’s the general idea. Instead of going back and forth on these threads, I’m going to bring back one of my older ones and focus on you Donna. It will be in the “Business” section, with “MAB thoughts.”

 
     
Avatar
MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Apr 01, 2018, 05:29 AM

One of my songs received a “Special Mention Award” in the 2017 UK Songwriting Contest.

I know that means nothing in the overall scheme of things, but can someone here tell me whether the competition is at least legitimate?

I’ll grab bragging rights wherever I can find them.

 
     
Avatar
KenDixon Joined Feb 25, 2008
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Apr 02, 2018, 12:42 PM

All contests would have to depend on your definition of “legitimate.” Do they give out prizes, get demos, sponsor trips, etc.?” Usually, yes. They generally have sponsors who donate products or services, music stores donating guitars or keyboards, some form of prize money or possible trips, offers to work with professionals, certificates of participation, etc. So in that case, they are probably “legitimate”. You might want to find out the previous year’s winners and see how they fared in the overall contest.

Do they provide routes to publishers, other industry people, promote songs or songwriters? Yes and no. Many have studios they are trying to promote their business in. This is the type that Kai Nichole” references. That company is well known, and well, let’s just say that many over promise and under deliver. Again, much is going to depend on your expectations.

Even the “HUGE contests” like American Idol or THE VOICE, don’t always churn out stars. A small percentage of those winners, runners up etc, have actually achieved much, past the promotion they got on the show. And usually once the contest is over, it is OVER.

So you should look at them as they are. A way to get a better understanding for your music, chance to meet other participants, an avenue for “Bragging rights”, and some fun to be involved in as long as you don’t expect too much. I’ve been involved in a few over the years and actually learned a lot of things about the business itself by being involved. So I don’t regret anything, but do know to keep it in the proper perspective.

MAB

 
     
Avatar
MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Apr 07, 2018, 09:50 AM

I was feeling a bit down about my chances of songwriting success, the bleak hopelessness of it all.  Then I found this forum with comments like 100,000 songs being uploaded every few minutes and another writer who’s going to start his own song competition and name a boat he buys from the proceeds after the winner.  Well, all I can say is…Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now!

[ Edited: 07 April 2018 10:54 AM by James Stretten]
 
     
James Stretten Joined Apr 03, 2018
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Apr 07, 2018, 11:04 AM

Just to cheer you up, James, I’ll name the boat after you anyway. The “James Stretten” - it has a ring to it. I’m putting the $0.57 cents I’ve earned from Spotify towards its purchase.

 
     
Avatar
Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank
  • Rank

Send PM

 
Apr 07, 2018, 12:38 PM

I would regard that as an honour, Gavin. Now, I reckon that phrase ‘heaven knows I’m miserable now’ could be worked up into a song…

 
     
James Stretten Joined Apr 03, 2018
  • Rank

Send PM

1 of 2
1