Song writing is a huge part of being a musician and we want to be recognized for that ability. We have some tips to win a song writing contest as well as just to use for your every day song writing experience.
1. Win money, not fans People enter contests for the chance to win prizes, and song contests are no different in this regard.
As indie artists, we’re conditioned to think of every performance as an opportunity to reach new fans. But song contests are a horrendous vehicle for promotion. Most people in the audience cheer for their buddy’s band, secretly hoping the other acts screw up so their friend looks better!
Success in songwriting contests, then, requires a different mind set than regular music promotion. Some of what best helps a band connect with new fans has no place in a contest entry – most notably: improvisation, like extended drum solos and guitar solos, and excessive story telling. You don’t need to make a lasting impression when competing for a prize. Rather, you need to sound (and look) great just long enough for the judges to give you their vote.
In short, be forgettably brilliant, rather than memorably unique.
2. Popularity contests depend on votes Some contests are judged, while others involve audience voting. In the latter, you’ll only win if your fans and listeners actually vote for you. So leverage your network, be it a mailing list, the audience at a weekly gig, or Myspace and Facebook.
Of course, it should go without saying that you need all your friends to vote. Still, one band in the contest I just entered finished the two week online voting period with zero votes. Why bother entering if you don’t at least vote for your own song?!
3. Image matters Public consumption of music has always depended on presentation as much as the music itself. And every judged song contest in which I’ve particpiated has included a “marketability” criteria for that reason.
Case in point: 3 of the acts on Tuesday clearly put some thought into their physical appearance on stage. And the other two bands finished 4th and 5th.
4. Bring your own fans The winning act on Tuesday night packed the house with their fans, and there’s no question it factored into the judges’ final decision. Even if audience response wasn’t a judging criteria, I’m sure the venue feared a riot from the mob who turned out to watch their friends win.
5. Err on the short side Submit and perform your best material, of course. But if you have a choice between a 7 minute opus showcasing your lead guitarist’s love of Stevie Vai, or a 3 minute rock song with choruses and a beat, go with the short number every time.
People in general, and jaded music judges in particular, have short attention spans, so it’s best not to overstay your welcome. (And remember, the main goal is to win money, not fans.) Two of the bands performing on Tuesday night exceeded their allotted 30 minutes, and while they weren’t explicitly penalized for this, the audience’s restlessness can’t have helped their standing with the judges.
6. Highlight your differences While it’s generally good to focus attention on what makes you different, with a song contest entry it means drawing attention to your differentiators often at the expense of other elements in your music.
For me, this required downplaying the instruments, and working the “pop” elements of my songs: Lyrics, vocals, and a strong back beat. I had Kev and Clif (my lead guitarist and bassist) underplay their parts, and asked Jan (the drummer) to put everything he had into the snare drum.
Your music might demand a different focus, but the same guideline applies. Find a way to highlight whatever makes your songs unique.
7. Work the hometown angle if you’ve got it When all was said and done on Tuesday night, the local band won. This makes sense: A local radio station held the contest, ostensibly to promote local talent, so it’s fitting that a local band got to hoist the giant novelty winner’s cheque.
But the winners didn’t turn in the best performance of the evening, not by a long shot. And 3 of the bands (mine included) had everything else that matters: Fans, an on-stage image, a short set, and a unique sound. In the end, their hometown won them the prize! So while you don’t have much control over where you’re from, this at least suggests a good reason to focus on entering contests in your area.
[Reprinted from: http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/]