Lucid Culture


The International Songwriting Competition – Worth It or Not?

Today is ripoff day. A ripoff differentiates itself from a scam by not being downright illegal. The $25K grand prize for the International Songwriting Competition may or may not exist, the latter case which would vault it into the former category. The promoters of the competition claim that the judges include Tom Waits, Kings of Leon, Loretta Lynn, Black Francis, McCoy Tyner and Toots Hibbert, but even if that’s true, and those luminaries voted en bloc, they’d still be outnumbered many times over by a crew of schlockmeisters from the soon-to-be-defunct major labels. Ultimately, contests like these boil down to a glorified lottery. What chance does a musician’s hard-earned $25 entry fee stand? A look at last year’s winners provides the answer – and the organizers’ decision to make this information public may turn out to be the marketing disaster that shuts them down for good.

The grand prize winner was a generic trip-hop song. The production is laughably obsolete – the drum machine shuffle was over by 1996, something you would expect judges ostensibly the caliber of Messrs. Waits, Hibbert et al. to be aware of. Perhaps far more telling is that the song’s writers, fortysomething pop singer Kate Miller-Heidke and her husband Keir Nuttall already had a gold album and a major label deal in Australia when they entered the contest. Is this contest simply a lower-budget version of the Grammies, a major label circle jerk with zero acknowledgment of what the listening public might prefer? In other words, considering its association with the major labels, is the deck stacked against artists who don’t fit the cookie-cutter corporate mold?

The song that won in the rock category, by Kristopher Roe of the Ataris was even worse, an even more cliched emo-pop song. “The only thing that matters is following your heart, and eventually you’ll get it right,” Roe strains, affecting an intensity of emotion that his band’s third-rate Good Charlotte imitation reaches for halfheartedly before giving up. “Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up,” Roe asserts, a tautology for the comfortable upper middleclass children he envisions as a customer base. In case you’re not familiar with the band, they achieved some recent notoriety by recording an earnest Green Day style cover of a Don Henley song. The ersatz emotion recurs with the second-place winner, Quebecois emo-pop band Tailor Made Fable’s A Case of Mistaken Identity. At least the third-place winner, Irish band Chrome Horse’s Reflections of a Madman shows  some passion, even if the verse is a blatant ripoff of the Ventures’ Egyptian Reggae.

A look through the rest of the winners didn’t turn up much of anything worthwhile either. The second-place winner in the World Music category wasn’t remotely exotic: Leni Stern’s 1,000 Stars is a vapid semi-acoustic pop song in the style of the grand prize winner. Americana winner Kevin Meisel’s Cruising for Paradise is a third-rate Jimmy Buffett pop number with a little mandolin overdubbed to give it that down-home Americana flavor. Jazz winners the LeBoeuf Bros. Quartet’s Code Word at least shows some promise, even if it it’s not exactly edgy. And in case cutting-edge lyrics are your thing, for a laugh, here are the winners in the Lyrics-Only category.

In case you haven’t figured all this out by now, the winners here may actually be the best of what the judges had to work with. Consider – would your favorite cool band be caught dead entering a generic corporate talent search like this one? Imagine for a minute a first-class group like the French Exit at Emergenza. They’d clear the room in seconds flat.


September 18, 2009 - Posted by | Culture, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Not sure how being “fortysomething” would add to your case against Kate Miller-Heidke anyway, but she’s 27 years old, born in November 1981.

    Comment by Stewie Blewett | September 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. That why it’s cool to create parodies the like of moi’s works. They’d NEVER win on this lill’ ball of mud.

    Comment by Tor Hershman | September 20, 2009 | Reply

  3. I’m really glad I read this.. As I suspected, this is some kind of spoof. And anyways, who wants to pay to play? It’s a total sell-out, looks very good with “the judges” and everything.. But there is something rotten, and I wonder if they have anything to do with it really!

    I am myself an artist, and there’s really much work in it. You’ve got to be out there all of the time, “pounding it out” – Just too bad these kind of things are going on.. So if you’re lucky, you go through the first round, they want more money – Now how does that work? They must know that musicians don’t have any money. This is a wellknown fact 😉

    I say as Nirvana says.. Pay to Play

    all the best;
    John Ax

    Comment by John | October 6, 2009 | Reply

  4. I really enjoyed your rampage. I love to read or hear knowledgable people offering honest critiques on music and art. I would enter a song writing contest if you were judging it. Standards need to be upheld and if we pull our punches only our culture gets beaten up. Thanks.

    Comment by Bradford Overton | October 27, 2009 | Reply

  5. Im glad to have read your thoughts, however, I think it’s up to the individual to make that decision to enter the competition or not. No-one forces the contestants to enter. Did you think just for one minute that maybe the Musician may just simply want Somebody else to hear their music, that resides on the other side of the World? What an exciting thought!

    Comment by Felicia Marie | November 20, 2009 | Reply

    • Hi Felica, I am so glad you commented. I must admit that my immediate reaction was the site and the contest is a smart way to have songs submitted to a company for licensing opportunities and earn money in the process. (Such as Taxi) But I quickly thought, so what if it is? I’d rather keep an open mind, take this chance and see. I mean, the cost to submit two songs is $70, and I can blow that easy on two dinners and a couple of drinks. Hopefully, something good will come from this. There is one thing that bothered me, and that is the statement, ‘We do not give feedback on songs submitted!” I can understand why and how that could lead down the wrong road. For me, I simply wish they did. I learned to study the music business early and quickly realized that rejection does not mean you are not good or your song is not good. It is simply not what they are looking for. When you have a “name” behind you, you can submit anything, and they will go with it.

      Keeping an Open Mind.

      Comment by Swaine Thompson | November 15, 2017 | Reply

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    Comment by gdubl | November 21, 2009 | Reply

  7. You had me at first. But then I kept reading…the way you cut the artists down makes you a bitter bitter person, and all the things you accuse the judges of being. Not everyone who enters these contests can afford to have their songs produced to your standard. I thought I left this high school music snobism long ago.

    Comment by max | November 29, 2009 | Reply

  8. Although you sound bitter, I checked out the winners of their “Lyrics” award. Sure enough – they are rather poor.

    I was thinking of entering the competition, aussming that it was just a $35 fee. Now I find that it’s $35 a song. I was going to enter 10 songs – but I think I’d be better off joining TAXI for a year for that kind of money!

    Comment by Paul | December 1, 2009 | Reply

  9. any bitterness here was provoked by the major labels’ dominance of this “competition,” ostensibly a showcase for talent but ultimately just another pathetic attempt to get their worthless schlock out there

    Comment by delarue | December 2, 2009 | Reply

  10. My boyfriend played keyboards for The Ataris for one year back in their “cool” days, and we we’re so disgusted when we saw Chris’s pathetic Barney Emo song as number 1 in the Rock section. He already released that song in 2003, and then acted like it was new and not already backed up by a huge record deal ( that he failed at because he can’t write songs ). He reminds me of that one guy in Titanic who snuck onto the ‘Ladies Only’ rescue boat and got away. This should be a competition for people without huge record deals.

    Comment by Tiffany | December 21, 2009 | Reply

  11. Hi everyone. I guess I may as well throw some gas on the fire as we go, but hope this doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings but, this song has been around alot longer than one thinks. It only took me 10 seconds to pin the chord progression in the piece of cheese (midi keyboards, I mean come on or is that normal in Hip Hop, I don’t know. I apologize if that cheesy keys sound is normal for that genre.
    Anyway, here’s is how it’s laid out. Go to youtube and type in “have a little faith” by John Hiatt. Crank it up, let that wonderful piano playing reverberate through your soul. Let it play for minute or so. Get into the message he is singing about.
    Now, put on that winning song and follow the bass guitar, then eventually the main guitar too. Enough said. Same project, different cause. Other than John’s was a gift to humanity about peace, trust and faith.

    Comment by Jim | January 4, 2010 | Reply

  12. i don’t know if my previous comment got posted. I pressed submit and the word “discarded” appeared on the screen. What did I do wrong?

    Comment by andy love | January 6, 2010 | Reply

  13. anyway, what i was saying before is that i appreciate any critical feedback of these online songwriting dealies. If the judges are made up of corporate shlockmeisters, i guess they’re going to pick something that sounds like corporate shlock. And for all we know, the credible artists on the panel could be listening to just one song each to qualify them. It does seem like your argument veers slightly from your ostensive point into personal music taste, but yea, i didn’t hear anything terribly impressive in last years winners.
    I have a song entered into this years competition. You can find it on the website i published here. Would appreciate feedback.

    Comment by andy love | January 6, 2010 | Reply

  14. Being new to the singer/songwriter industry, I was very much enticed by the opportunity to submit one of my songs to this competition. As I read the comments here now, I’m glad I didn’t. It’s not that at the time I didn’t want to submit my song, but I was unable to because of some kind of computer glitch that kept kicking my entry out. I tried 3 or 4 times to submit my entry and it would not go, so I gave up.
    I think God was protecting me.
    Thanks for everyone’s comments.


    Comment by Glenda Jackson | January 24, 2010 | Reply

    • I entered two songs I really worked at. I’m reading this and feeling kinda down but keeping my spirits up.

      Comment by Swaine Thompson | November 15, 2017 | Reply

  15. Anytime somebody is trying hard to induce you to enter a contest means it’s probably not worth it. I’m happy you resisted the urge. If you’re good, you don’t need to enter a contest to prove it.

    Comment by the boss here | January 24, 2010 | Reply

    • Almost everything in life is a contest so that last sentence is not true. A contest gives you the recognition you would not have had based on limited connections and funds. Many singers today got their claim to fame based on that avenue. Sometimes the only thing I can say when I hear a really good singer enter a contest is “Why wasn’t he wasn’t discovered before now? So yeah, I would have to disagree with you on this one. Entering a contest doesn’t mean your trying to PROVE how good you are.

      Comment by Tammy | December 8, 2011 | Reply

  16. the international songwriting competition is endorsed by ASCAP. ASCAP is a union for musicians/songwriters/producers whose primary function is to protect the rights of musicians. however, i do agree that bands with recording contracts and who have established themselves within the industry (the ataris) should be barred from entering the competition. it should be a competition to find a talented songwriter/ performer that hasn’t had his or her break yet.

    Comment by jdawg | February 10, 2010 | Reply

    • well this hits the nail on the head.
      conflict of interest is obvious when companies will use this contest as a form of promotion for their catalogue. they will be able to shop catalogue around that has a trophy attached to it and received some publicity.

      Comment by nicholas | November 2, 2011 | Reply

    • ASCAP role isn’t to endorse competitions or not but to make sure their member writers get paid performance royalties. They are not the authority to decide if a contest is legit or not. Unfortunately until somebody can prove why the ISC contest is not legitimate, sites such as ASCAP can only advertise any contest that promotes songwriters. Also one must realize that it is a competition, therefore as bad as your song may sound you might still win if the rest of entries are terrible.

      Comment by Jacques M Gentil | December 15, 2014 | Reply

  17. My husband entered this contest for 2009, with 2 songs and paid $70 total in fees… processing fees. No scamming, just processing. He’s a semi-finalist, with the winners to be posted in April. They have NEVER asked him for any more money, just a headshot and a bio.

    Comment by Kimberly | February 26, 2010 | Reply

  18. $70 is an awful lot of money to spend on a lottery ticket. They prey on your vanity – they ask you for a headshot (which your husband probably didn’t have kicking around – I’ll bet he had to go out and spend money to get one, right?), they tell you how great you are and how you’re a “semi-finalist”but what they don’t tell you is that they tell that to EVERYBODY. Maybe next time you’ll think twice before you waste that $70.

    Comment by the boss here | February 26, 2010 | Reply

    • @ the boss here… of course it’s a “scam”, but in that way so is SXSW, meaning if you want the good seats you have to know somebody. it’s all well and good for everybody to sit here and bitch about the majors, but frankly.. that’s the nature of the industry and it always has been. it’s a business and as soon as you reconcile that within yourself, the better in some ways. have your press materials already ready. have your radio contacts already. get a respectable booking agent. find a pr agent(s).. online,print,tv /radio. do as much in the interim as possible. there’s no excuse anymore for complaining.. now it’s down to the question: can you sell your music? with or without a label. the majors don’t have money anymore to “develop” artists for stupid amounts of money.. develop yourself at home, home recording has been made super cheap and you can still get industry standard recordings after mixing etc. so go for yours.

      Comment by dante | July 1, 2010 | Reply

  19. I am not trying to belittle or praise you, but rather to ask you a question. I found this ISC offer on what I know to be a legitimate website, but I was still skeptical. I read your entry and it did confirm my suspicions. However, I was concerned by the bitter undertones in it. Also I agree with Max. Production of a song, while important, is not the essence of the song. I know plenty of crappy songs with incredible production. Were the lyrics well-crafted or cliche? Was the music sophisticated or sophomoric? Also, I don’t subscribe to this blog so I have no idea what musical credentials you have. Are you a musician/producer/engineer, etc yourself or do you just rant about things? I genuinely want to know because if you have credentials, this would be a valid source for me to research music queries. Thank you for your time.

    Comment by Brii | March 2, 2010 | Reply

  20. Brii – I wrote that post. I’ve played, toured, produced etc. but what sadly gives me the inside track here is that I once had a day job at a company like that (not in the music business, but in a related field, so I got to see firsthand how those scammers prey on the vanity of clueless artists as well as wannabe musicians desperate for their 15 minutes of fame). I’m not proud of my association with those creeps – I wasn’t there long, thank god, and I wasn’t part of the process of inducing clients to sign over their money for nothing. It makes me feel dirty just thinking about those days – I was just out of college, trying to support my career as a musician and I needed the money, the job came along, so I took it. Hopefully the statute of limitations has run out by now 😉

    Comment by the boss here | March 2, 2010 | Reply

  21. I’m mostly playing devil’s advocate here, as I, an entrant in the ISC, would like to believe that winning or not winning really is based on some sort of objective process. If I win, fantastic, and I’ll milk the benefits for all they’re worth; if I don’t win, I’ll listen to the winners and decide whether or not my song fit what the ISC was apparently looking for. But I’m not gonna go all conspiracy-theory-monger on it…

    My issue with this whole thread: due to the caustic assessment of nearly every artist mentioned, I think the instigator of this discussion could find serious fault in ANYONE’S artistic output, regardless of whether they win a contest or not (though I suspect it would be harsher if they win). He/she would envision ulterior motives in every lyric line, flag hackneyed instrumental performances on every corner of the stage and studio, even demonize someone’s sense of fashion as a cheap wannabe ripoff of so-and-so about which he/she happens to personally know intimately.

    Is the source of your bitterness seriously from your previous job? Or is it that you’ve never won one of these competitions, though you feel you deserved to, and were passed over?

    There’s a difference between this and a lottery ticket.
    …A $35 entry fee, in my mind, somewhat separates serious musicians from the riff-raff. I can’t imagine anyone that doesn’t truly believe in their song and their (at least potential) music career to bother paying that fee and going through the submittal process.
    …winning a contest like this isn’t so much about the prizes themselves, although I’m sure the winner would appreciate them. Again from the pro musician perspective, it’s more about an opportunity for a foothold in a very slippery industry. Do we have any dirt on last year’s winners? How has it affected their careers? Has it opened any doors, given them more confidence?
    …Of course there’s a huge element of chance involved in your song piquing the judges’ interests or not. Can you honestly say that you know so much about this competition as to PROVE your allegations of a corrupt selection process? Or are you just frustrated with their picks, just like I’m annoyed by every (insert industry magazine name here) top ten list that has ever come out?

    Comment by furrball | April 15, 2010 | Reply

  22. aw jeez…here we go again…I get a million inquiries like yours and most I don’t respond to but I will yours because I think you might actually benefit from my kick upside your head you obviously have a brain, although it needs a little reboot. OK?

    Since you put your stuff out there I gave a listen. You know what, you’re a kick-ass guitar player. You have soul, and chops, and a sense of humor. Did you ever seriously think about how far your playing could take you? If not, you should. Trouble is, just when I was really digging what you were playing, you completely lost me when you started singing. See, I didn’t hear YOU: I heard some attempt to fit in, to conform to what the corporate labels are putting out. And that’s not YOU and I can tell.

    When you talk to someone, do you affect an exaggerated southern drawl? Obviously not. You’re from the Pacific Northwest. So why do you Pearl Jam your vocals? Maybe because that’s how all the singers in those corporate bands do it? Did you ever give any thought that YOU might be a hell of a lot more interesting than Hootie, or that loser from Pearl Jam…and that audiences might like you a whole lot more than they like them? And even maybe, that there’s a whole audience out there that DESPISES corporate music and will tune you out, will walk out of your show, hate on your facebook, etc. because you come across as more interested in showbiz success than being a real musician?

    I dunno. The world is full of great sidemen who shouldn’t be allowed near a mic. Maybe you’re one of those guys. But maybe not. Just some thoughts. You might not take these comments as constructive but I wouldn’t waste my time if I didn’t think you had some talent and you obviously do.

    BTW I never entered one of those contests because it never made any sense to me. I never played the label game – the world’s full of great talent who wouldn’t go that route, who don’t want to be screwed. I have too many friends who’ve had to sue their label in order to get paid, who’ve lost their masters to the label, who can’t release their own stuff because the label won’t let them go even though they won’t release the album either, who wasted years of their lives on one shitty deal after another…some of those people I’m talking about are in the R&R Hall of Fame. Who needs a label anyway when we have the internet?

    Comment by the boss here | April 15, 2010 | Reply

  23. I agree with this article…its a scam…i entered a track last year which made it to the finals only to be beat by songs which in no way shape or form even resembled the category in which i entered hahahah


    Comment by kuba | May 14, 2010 | Reply

  24. Good point, Dante. It’s funny/sad to see how much money the majors will charge against the band for promo when, if you have the time and a reasonably functioning computer (time is the key word here), you can do booking, promo, recording, in other words everything the label purports to do better than you can, at virtually no cost. Efficient small business vs. a wasteful corporation wins every time, profitwise.

    Comment by the boss here | July 1, 2010 | Reply

  25. is this really true? coz im planning on submitting 2 of my songs but im still having 2nd thoughts whether i should or not.

    Comment by FRES | July 20, 2010 | Reply

  26. It’s your call. If this doesn’t scare you off, go to their site and have a look at the winners. That should do it. Be aware that the 20o9 winner, Kate Miller-Heidke, already had a major label contract, so winning the contest has nothing to do with her having radio hits in Australia or playing the occasional small club show here in the US.

    Comment by the boss here | July 20, 2010 | Reply

  27. Well i sort of know what your saying ,but, first i want to know if your a bitter person who did not get anywhere in this competition,i tried it twice and had no success,i did get angry ,then realised that someones got to win,i dont know how they judge these things ,but i think a different set of people listen before the main judges ,which really is misleading and should be changed,when you send a song and your hard earned cash you are given the imprpesion that the judges you are shown are the ones who will listen to your song ,not a panel that first wittles it down then passes it on ,if they want a fairer competition they should get a decent panel to listen to all the songs.Song writing as you know is hard enough in regards to those who like your material and those who dont.but what if ,just what if those top judges who never heard your song may have preffered it to the winner.

    Comment by Rob Ash | September 6, 2010 | Reply

  28. I don’t understand why anyone with any sophistication or intelligence would pay to enter any kind of competition, whether this one, Emergenza or anything else. I certainly wouldn’t. To believe that you can get honest feedback if you have to pay for it makes no sense at all to me. If you want to know what people think of one of your songs, listen to how the crowd reacts after you’ve finished playing it. If the audience is into it, you’ve got something. But if they don’t react enthusiastically, that doesn’t make it a bad song – they just might not get it.

    Comment by the boss here | September 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Is this the sore loser website. The problem with music and songwriting is that’s it’s all subjective. we all think our songs are great, afterall our parents, relatives and friends tell us so, then it must be true. 99% of all songs people write are just garbage. And that is the trught. So given that just about everyone on this site has written songs that really suck. If you want to hear really good original compositions so to Mezziniz Promises, All I Know on Youtube.

      Comment by Steve | November 23, 2010 | Reply

  29. I agree Boss man! This industry is extremely tough, every songwriter/musician wants their music to be heard and recognized. It is all about who you know!!! Best thing I was told when I was starting out in the music biz was – If anyone ever asks you for money whether its – a song competition, a gig, a publishing deal, a record contract etc…. RUN RUN RUN!!!
    As a songwriter, ex A&R Exec, and owner of a Artist Management biz, I say this, find your voice – there is a reason you picked up the guitar or mic all those years ago. Do not conform! Find your original groove, getting gigging and go to as many songwriting conventions etc as possible. networking is the key! Peace.

    Comment by Bebold | September 10, 2010 | Reply

  30. Truly, the $35 entry fee is steep and the prize money comparatively miserly, but the PR for the competition makes it clear that the real prize is the chance to have one’s music heard by industry executives and musical bigshots. I emphasize ‘chance’, though, because obviously many many people will enter this contest, and if I enter I can’t expect that the first person to hear my song or songs will be Tom Waits – there will of coarse be a bunch of anonymous pre-judgers who I suppose will use some ordained method for separating the wheat from the chaff. Much of what you or I might consider wheat will inevitably be discarded, and a lot of crap will get through.

    I can’t really understand your objection to the fact that the competition is affiliated with major labels, or, indeed, the objection to big record companies generally – it’s not labels that have killed interesting pop music, it’s the people who would rather steal music than pay for it (i.e almost everyone).

    Pay-to-play is certainly a discouraging scenario for any aspiring performer, but your suggestion seems to be that in order to succeed as a songwriter/musician, I must also become a producer/engineer and subsequently a tireless promoter of my own music. Even if I had the time and energy to do all this (plus my day job), I wonder, what could I possibly hope to achieve? Without the resources of a record label to pay for professional recording and substantial promotion, and without a public who is willing to actually pay me for my wares, how can I make any money? Without money, how can I quit my job and concentrate on making better music? And how can I gain the recognition that I feel I deserve?

    In his recent book, “You Are Not a Gadget”, Jaron Lanier reported his earnest effort to find musicians who were making a living from the internet/self-promotion route that you and some of your posters are encouraging; He struggled to find even a handful. The idea that if the music is good enough it will eventually rise to the top like cream (the dairy product, not the band) is simply fantasy. If Dylan were just starting out today, I don’t think he’d get anywhere at all.

    In a city like NY it might in fact be possible to gain more than masturbatory pleasure through gigs at small venues, but even then it’s difficult to imagine making any kind of progress or gaining a fan-base than doesn’t principally consist of your friends and neighbours. In a city like Auckland, New Zealand, where I am, I think it next to impossible.

    In light of that, a $35 lottery ticket could look appealing. After all, I have almost the most basic recording set-up possible, but it’s still set me back several thousand NZ$’s (US$17.50), and the promotional route suggested above (or below) would cost hundreds of man-hours, even if I was comfortable with relentless self-promotion, which I’m not. After all, I want my music to speak of its own worth. I don’t want to have to wail for attention like a neglected baby.

    I’m not entering the International Songwriting Competition because I have my pride, but for the same reason, I’m not going to kill myself trying to get people to listen to my music. I’ve spent the best part of fifteen years honing my skills as a writer, and two years teaching myself production and engineering and several instruments, and I now realise that my music can’t succeed as anything other than a vanity project and a minor source of amusement for my acquaintances. The proliferation of home-recorded music and the vast numbers of people trying to attract attention to their work means that I am simply buried amongst a multitude. I suppose I will leave it to you to say whether this is for good or for ill, but for me it is sad. I will leave music behind me, and try to find something which inspires me but which might allow me to one day raise a family, or but a yacht, or whatever.

    The ISC despite it’s evident flaws offers hope to large numbers of frustrated talented people who otherwise have little reason for hope.

    Perhaps, since you are so upset by this competition, you can run your own, where you are the sole judge. The prize could be only to be spared from your poison pen and acid tongue.

    Comment by Logan Smith | September 19, 2010 | Reply

    • Logan – I can understand that you would hope that Tom Waits would hear your songs because he’s clearly such an influence on you – a good thing, by the way. I’m sorry you feel so disheartened by the Auckland scene (I’ve never been there) and that you feel your music will never reach a broader audience than it has. However, the assist you’re wishing for from a record label is a pipe dream. If you in fact did get signed, you would most likely have to sign away rights to your publishing, your merchandise, your licensing, touring, in fact every marketable aspect of your music. You’d lose all of it if the label dropped you – and the way the major labels are bleeding money, it wouldn’t be long before you were back where you started – except without the rights to everything you created. Forget that the label would also take creative control – you’d be autotuned, your songs would be rewritten by hack producers, drums would be replaced by computerized tracks – I could go on and on but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the times have changed and that a major label is no longer a viable option for creative songwriters. And smaller labels offer little in the way of help for touring and live performance, which is the primary way that musicians have supported themselves throughout the centuries, and which is now the case again.

      I agree with you that promotion can be a hassle but it’s also a joy to discover that there are people around the world who like the style of music you do. I wholeheartedly recommend Ariel Hyatt’s latest book Music Success in Nine Weeks ( which requires serious commitment and effort, but which at the very least will give you food for thought. For example – I see that you only have 26 myspace friends. This may sound cheesy, but have you ever thought of doing a simple search for Waits fans in NZ, sending out some myspace queries, if they like Waits they might like you…you never know. Palace Bros? Nick Cave? Just an idea.

      Another idea: swap shows with a similar artist in a neighboring city. Do a little sleuthing: is there an artist in Christchurch who would fit a doublebill (or triplebill) with you? Invite them to Auckland even if that means just playing for your friends. Then go play with them in their hometown even if that means just playing for their friends. That’s how you get started. Popularity doesn’t come overnight unless you are backed by a multimillion dollar PR campaign – and as we all know, no record label ever spends millions of dollars on a quality act: the only acts they promote heavily play music for children, i.e. Lady Gag, Nickelback, etc.

      As far as downloading is concerned, anytime someone downloads your songs, that’s a new fan that you didn’t have before. You should be grateful: in fact many artists put all their stuff up for free on their sites and make sure to contact everyone who downloads their stuff and send them a personal thank-you. That can translate into bigger crowds at gigs and much more. You do the math. You can build a site for free on, you can sell downloads for free on reverbnation…the online opportunities you have – and from your post, it doesn’t look like you’ve investigated them much – are practically endless.

      You didn’t think you’d ever get played on commercial radio, I hope. I don’t know how it is in NZ but here in the US commercial radio has been dead for all intents and purposes for 20 years – and has never, repeat never, been a viable option for independent artists. Downloading is how people find out about you: it’s the new radio. And everyone who likes what they download will probably eventually get the cd – after all, who wants a lousy overcompressed mp3 off the internet when they can get something that really sounds good? They’ll also come to shows and buy your merch. Welcome to the 21st century – and by the way, congratulations for being the first artist ever spared my acid tongue and poison pen!!! 🙂

      Comment by the boss here | September 19, 2010 | Reply

  31. HI. Thanks for all of the thoughtful and thought prokoving conversations. I am considering entering the competition because what the hell! I’ve taken a couple different routes. If I win then I have it on my musical resume. If I don’t then it got me back into engineering and recording for the new album. I think you have to spread yourself around. I don’t have a link directly into the biz. I don’t think that entering a contest would look bad to a label. It would look like I am willing to put myself out there and do the foot work. That said, I don’t like to be “had” by scammers and the like so does anyone really know. Speculation is great but c’mon.

    Comment by singsing | November 15, 2010 | Reply

  32. Good Comment

    Comment by Steve | November 23, 2010 | Reply

  33. The point of all this is that these competitions aren’t going to help anyone who writes good music. Look at who wins this. It’s a race to the bottom. And the irony is that whoever wins the thing is left with nothing because there won’t be any more major labels left to put our their schlock.

    Comment by thebosshere | November 23, 2010 | Reply

  34. To be honest you’re looking at this with an extremely negative bias… not sure why you start your article by going half-way to accusing the competition of not giving out the prize money and the judges not really existing… ?? if that was the case the competiton would not have been running like this for 9 years… we’d have known about it… so forget that… I also agree with the earlier comments about your remarks on production etc… it is a songwriting competition, like it or not, production and vocals are being deliberately disregarded… rightly so imo.

    Putting aside the personal choice as to whether someone is going to spend their money on this… you seem to suggest in the unlikely event of winning the competition, getting $25,000 plus all the marketing prizes and exposing your material to all these huge figures in the industry can only result in destroying your career… not following you round that logic curve… the artist still has all the opportunities they had before winning… I fail to see how actually winning this competition can do anything but boost the prospects of someone just starting out.

    You may have some good points but the tone and bias of the article makes them difficult to consider seriously… your article is COMPLETELY one-sided… allowing for no possibiliy that an artist could get any benefit from the competition… tbh that totally lessens any value your words might have.

    Comment by G | November 24, 2010 | Reply

  35. Negative bias? If you want your vocals autotuned…your songs rewritten by corporate hacks…if you’re willing to sign away all your publishing, your merchandise, your touring revenue, in other words everything you do that can be monetized…ok, if you think all that’s perfectly acceptable, we’re guilty of “negative bias.” On the other hand, there’s an element out there who take advantage of gullible artists and we feel a responsibility to get the word out. Caveat emptor.

    Comment by thebosshere | November 24, 2010 | Reply

    • What are you talking about…? None of that is caused by someone entering or winning this competition… you still own all the rights to the song(s) you enter and the rights to do whatever you wish with them… lose nothing, gain a lot if you win… same freedom as you had before entering. You seem to be arguing simply against being part of a big label… that’s a different debate… all that may happen through this competition is you may get OFFERED opportunities to sign etc. You still make the decision, only you might have different options opened up to you.

      Comment by G | November 24, 2010 | Reply

  36. BTW I’m by no means advocating everyone waste money entering the ISC… you have to be as realistic as us typically deluded songwriters can be… but to say that a Grand Prize Winner gains nothing and basically does a lot of harm to their career is clearly nonsense.

    Comment by G | November 24, 2010 | Reply

  37. what do you gain? a record deal with a company that’s just going to go out of business in a few months – but who keeps the rights all your stuff even as they go bankrupt? Do you work for ISC or something?
    Why not save your money and do something that might actually benefit your career. DIY means there’s no middleman, you earn it, you keep it…

    Comment by thebosshere | November 24, 2010 | Reply

  38. This is getting a bit ridiculous… no of course I don’t work for them, just because I’m not thinking like you… I’m planning on entering the competition and I’m using my own brain to decide not judging what to do on an article with ZERO editorial balance.


    The winner would gain recognition, affirmation, confidence, cash, connections… AND HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME FREEDOM THEY HAD WITH THEIR CAREER BEFORE THE ENTERED, IN FACT NO THEY’D PROBABLY HAVE MORE BECAUSE THEY’D OPEN UP MORE OPTIONS! Winning the ISC is not the equivalent to selling your soul to the labels… you wouldn’t have to sign with any of them and probably wont get offered anyway!!! The winner can remain indie and just make use of what they have gained. Not all of us are stupid enough to make a complete balls up of an opportunity… and tbh this is totally irrelevant but not every single person signed to a label loses all creative control, that’s nonsense… there are plenty of big artists who’s labels expect them to deliver the material rather than them being homogenised because their material doesn’t cut it… and every relationship is different.

    Comment by G | November 24, 2010 | Reply

  39. Obviously you work for this scam. Repeat, a scam. You should be ashamed of yourself, shilling for them and posing as a contestant. “Cash connections etc” what total bullshit. Major labels are a ripoff – ask anyone who’s had to sue for their royalties. ISC is even worse, taking advantage of gullible uninformed songwriters lost in the 70s. Wake up folks, this is 2010, you don’t need a label. You don’t need the kind of “connections” scammers like this guy promise. The only connection ISC has is to your bank account.

    Comment by thebosshere | November 25, 2010 | Reply

  40. Wow… you’re seriously paranoid. I DO NOT FUCKING WORK FOR THEM!!!

    Cash is part of the prize, if you have no evidence to the contrary then I suggest you STFU.

    I NEVER SAID YOU NEED OR SHOULD HAVE A LABEL READ MY POST!!! I’m well aware of the advantages of going alone, that is what I will be doing more than likely… being signed isn’t what the competition is offering.

    You’re seriously twisted and jaded to be thinking everything is a scam without even considering otherwise… after 9 years I think some of the prize winners and judges would have let something slip if the whole thing was a scam you tit. But continue repeating your tired assumptions. I think you should retitle your article… ‘not worth it because of my imagination’ because the ‘worth it’ part is not once considered.

    Comment by G | November 26, 2010 | Reply

  41. i think u r stupid, da competition is exciting, its a chance 2 win prizes n be a celeb!!! + u get red carpet treatment n be famous!!! i cant wai! u shld enter 2, u dont have 2 know anyting bout music, if u cant a4d it u can use credit card!!

    Comment by amy | November 26, 2010 | Reply

  42. Here’s something interesting. THEY HAVE REQUESTED NOT TO USE EPK TRACKER which ALLOWS sonicbid members to see WHEN ISC has reviewed their songs, which ones, and how many times. This is the ONLY proof songwriters have that their songs are actually getting listened to and ISC have REMOVED THAT FEATURE. SMELLS LIKE A SCAM. I’m surprised sonicbids have allowed them to remove this feature. Looks like sonicbids have been bought out.

    Comment by amanda bloom | December 28, 2010 | Reply

  43. What I find appaling is that artists already signed to major label deals are allowed to enter. This is appaling. Also WHY do they need a bio from you at all? Why do they need to know how many gigs you’ve played and how many magazines have reveiwed you? This is a songwriting competition, not a who can promote themselves the best competition. I just wish people would LISTEN TO MUSIC these days and not be affected by hype.

    Comment by amanda bloom | December 28, 2010 | Reply

  44. You’re a good songwriter, Amanda, you’ve got an individual voice and lots of soul. There’s a huge audience out there who would enjoy your music if they knew you existed. Just keep writing and singing and people will be drawn to what you create. You don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold so there’s no way that a big record label would have any interest in you anyway.

    Comment by the boss here | December 28, 2010 | Reply

    • Hey thanks for that 🙂
      I’m wondering what about artists like Tori Amos, Bjork and Fiona Apple? They don’t fit the cookie cutter mold and they’re signed to Majors…although I get the feeling majors 15 -20 years ago had more balls.

      Comment by amanda bloom | May 31, 2011 | Reply

  45. Hey all,
    Not sure who will see this – enjoyed the perspective of the original post and some of the comments – no time to read all. After 25+ years in the music – as radio programmer, promoter, A&R, performer and songwriter – it’s a lot of luck and perserverance. I do believe that true talent, applied, will eventually out. But that doesn’t mean everyone who’s gifted, makes it. We all know that. This holds true not only for music, but for art, literature, acting and so on. Rarely does an artist command attention and praise from the people that count right out of the gate. It does happen, but more often a song could be heard by literally hundreds of people (and by “people” I mean people in the biz – radio, labels, studios, clubs, etc.) and not embraced. Later, when that same artist or song “breaks” then everyone’s going “Oh, I knew it all along.” That basically defines the record biz. There were and are record folk with “ears” but they’re the exception. Yes, labels (and publishers, and movie studios and even capital venture folks) have championed true talents, to their credit. But I think it’s mostly a crap shoot or a jump on the bandwagon after the fact. Which brings me finally to the original post about the ISC. While I don’t know for sure if it’s a total waste of time and money, I do know it’s problematic in terms of judging. I have a gut feeling that were Tom Waits or some of the other judges to actually hear all the submissions, they would have the “ears,” love and empathy to pick the really good songs – lyrically and musically. No guarantees, but just a sense. It’s what lies between them and the songs that concerns me. We understand why this has to be because of the sheer number of entries. And I also agree somewhat that many of the truly gifted artists aren’t even bothering with this, so maybe there’s not a lot of quality to begin with (Though if that’s true, it should reduce the competition. But then we have those pesky gatekeepers I referred to who might not know a fart from a whistle.) In the end, it is what it is. It’s not a ton of money in the scheme of things. When one considers that to realistically record, market and distribute music (and tour), we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars, this is a relative pittance to put your quarter in the slot machine and see what happens. Who knows? You might get a mention and it certainly can’t HURT if that happens. At the very least, there’s a psychological boost. And we all need those. But if you don’t win anything here. Or there. Or people don’t take notice…don’t give up! It’s a craft – keep honing it – and your audience is out there for just about anything anybody is doing.

    Comment by Todd Girouard | March 1, 2011 | Reply

  46. “to realistically record, market and distribute music (and tour), we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars, this is a relative pittance to put your quarter in the slot machine and see what happens” Are you serious? You can record on your laptop, market online and tour by taking the bus city to city – or if you have a car, get in the car and go! BTW I think your “slot machine” reference is spot-on!

    Comment by the boss here | March 7, 2011 | Reply

  47. Woe-is-me-musician types: You enter a songwriting competition if you think you can win and if you think it will give you a little credibility in an industry that’s often looking for credibility. Hopefully you already know when you’ve written a great song. You don’t enter a mediocre song and hope someone tells you its great. You enter a song you already know is great. As musicians we have to be careful of crying poor all the time. If you want to do music then you have to sort out your finances even if you have to make your money elsewhere. Lord knows you are going to need money to make music in the beginning. Touring is a money losing proposition at the start. Success becomes breaking even. You cannot sit around crying poor and wining about how sometimes schlock wins. There is always room for quality songs right next to schlock and if you check the winners of these competitions that’s what you’ll find. Suck it up, straighten out your finances and go write some great songs. That’s where the energy should go. Doing something is always better than not doing something. I have never said “I’m really glad I didn’t enter that competition” or I’m really glad I never wrote that song”..Or I’m really glad I didn’t build that house. seriously. Stay positive…that is the route to success in music. The winers never get ahead, sadly.When you enter a competition and people hear your song your name sticks in people’s heads, regardless of whether you win or not. That can be worth the entry fees for some. It’s thinking long term. The music business is a kind of lottery but if you have great songs then you have pretty great odds of building a sustainable career.

    Comment by winning | May 13, 2011 | Reply

  48. Enjoying the exchange here. Listen, the ISC is really a microcosm, I think, for the world and life in general. Not to get too deep here, but it’s neither evil or a savior. It’s like the record companies, promoters, other songwriters, the public – in other words, like people – it’s all very subjective and luck of the draw. One’s song(s), whether truly great or even interesting, are going to be loved by certain ears and ignored by others. When I asked someone at the ISC how critical was it to have my songs well-produced in terms of chances in the contest, she told me that that really doesn’t matter and that a “great song is a great song.” Again, that might be true, but not true for all who hear it. I think it’s entirely possible that a song like – and I know this is a bit ancient, but it IS a classic song – the Beatles’ “Yesterday” with just voice and guitar, recorded by someone at home, could very easily be overlooked at the ISC or any other song contest. In the world of such things, the ISC is probably one of the best. So if you happen to have a good song – and well-recorded, because I think that needs to happen to improve your odds – which just happens to end up with the right pair of ears, good for you as the recognition and validation truly does help. But if you crap out of the game, realize that’s all it is; a game of chance, not talent. You do not control your destiny here. One piece of advice I got from a singer-songwriter who has won or finished in the money well over 40 song-writing contests (yet still has to have a day job, so what does THAT tell us?)which has become more meaningful as time went on, is: “Song-writing contests CAN be helpful, but it’s a lottery. Better and wiser to take your hard-earned, PRECIOUS AND LIMITED money and spend it on: recording your songs well, CD’s, website, promotion, etc.” True dat. This is the stuff one can control for the most part. And if your music is even half-way decent and you pursue it, you WILL find your audience and vice versa. The fine art of song-writing is in a bit of a nadir right now, but no telling how things will cycle in the future. Besides, not much to do if those song “babies’ wanna come out. They’re a gonna, ISC or no! So, remember: it’s not you, it’s just life; and whether it’s the ISC or a talent contest or whatever, learn from it, grow from it, but don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning. . . Good luck to us all!

    Comment by Todd Girouard | May 13, 2011 | Reply

  49. Maybe if that guy who spends his life entering songwriting contests actually spent that time writing songs, he’d be good by now.

    Comment by the boss here | May 14, 2011 | Reply

  50. Kasy Chambers, this years winner, is such a megastar, I’d be surprised if she even knew her songs were entered on her behalf. The three placegetters were all from her new CD -smells of record company PR.

    No record of ISC in the list of persons visiting my Myspace page. Although I didn’t complain, they sent me a generic “Myspace isn’t working properly email” when they realised that some people had trackers that actually work.

    While I may like to think of myself as a songwriter, the ISC is no contest for me if I have to compete with major stars. True, if I wish to enter my songs in their appropriate category and also in an Unsigned all-in generic category, I now can do so for double the entry fee. Add to that the escalating entry fee as the contest progresses and you have a no-brainer in terms of benefit. Spend your money elsewhere.

    Comment by Wyn Auburn | May 24, 2011 | Reply

  51. I like Kasey Chambers. She’s a strong writer and a badass performer who can sell out any small club on this side of the pond. I can only imagine her signing up for this if she was really drunk – or, like you said, somebody at the label did it, probably without her knowledge. Or maybe they paid her to enter – the whole thing could have been rigged…smells fishy…

    Comment by the boss here | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  52. PS where can I hear some of your music?

    Comment by amanda bloom | May 31, 2011 | Reply

  53. You’ve got to admit that it’s a pretty damn sad coincidence that 2009 winner of ISC was an Australian artist with a hit record and recording contract (Kate) and the 2010 winner is also an Australian artist with a hit record and recording contract – there would’nt be many days in a week in some parts of Australia when you wouldn’t hear a Kasey Chambers song on the radio. I’d like to know who really puts in their entry forms – the record company or themselves ?, and either way you can bet they’ve got the full support of the record company too ( and the best studios). It stinks ! Is music going to serve the tastes of people of the world or serve greed ? Do they serioulsy expect us to believe that the best songs coming out on a world-wide level are songs about bullying at school (?) – you can’t dance to it, you wouldn’t waste your time singing it or even whistling it – it’s a waste of space; or a song (Chambers) with a title ‘Beautiful Mess’ – give our ears a break will you ? I’ve seen enough of other people’s mess in my life to know that the word ‘beautiful’ doesn’t apply – I haven’t heard that Chambers song and with a title like that – I hope I never hear it. It makes you wonder ! Why do those aleady high-profile artists even bother to enter ? Would you expect Michael Buble to enter, or Paul McCartney or would Michael Jackson ? Those artists have already got the deals and the money – what are they trying to prove ? Anyway, ultimately my complaint is about the crap music that they’re giving the prizes for – who would have been sitting at home about 3 years ago thinking to themself “Gee, I’d like to listen to a song about bullying at school” – nobody.

    Comment by Geoff | May 31, 2011 | Reply

    • Have a listen to “Beautiful Mess”. I like Kasey Chambers but this is not one of her best. If it didn’t have her name on it, it could go in the ordinary pile as a work in progress. It could be any one of thousands of starting out songwriters – fairly ordinary. I’d appreciate it if someone could tell me, if this song was judged anonymously on its merits, what they are that make it world class?

      Comment by Wyn Auburn | May 31, 2011 | Reply

  54. I recently joined ReverbNation (seemed like an idea at 3am after my third beer) and keep getting these offers to enter various contests and such things, most requiring a fee. I’ve never entered one, assuming they were a rigged rip-off or simply bogus. I’ve been into music for ages and eons, and I have stacks of ancient Hit Parader and other such mags of yore. It’s truly sobering to see ads upon ads of bands that actual record companies spent real money on trying to make famous and successful. . . . that nobody ever heard of after their ten seconds of near fame.

    Great big famous and successful music biz folks are wrong quite often, perhaps more often than not. We remember their successes, not their many failures. Getting the attention, even the approval of music biz insiders might come to nothing at all, and probably does in most cases.

    I don’t know what leads artists to success, it seems like a different story in every instance (aside from American Idol). It looks a lot like getting struck by lightning. I’m a songwriter, but I don’t really want to be famous. I have a band, but we’re just making videos for YouTube these days for the most part while getting our chops together to gig a bit. We did a cover of the Beatles “It’s All Too Much” in Nepali with sitars and things if you’re curious.

    We’re now working on our originals, which I think are great. . . . but success in the music biz is about sooooo much more than good songs. It’s about many things that are largely out of your hands, and even out of the hands of the biz biggies, like whether you are perceived as ‘cool’ by enough of the right people to get support, and to buy your stuff. I truly have no clue, just like most everybody else, if they’re honest. I do music because I can’t Help but do it, like a nervous tic. I think that’s the only sure way to happiness in this field, just loving the work. That’s my two cents anyhow.

    Comment by Lee ~ Chandrama | July 22, 2011 | Reply

  55. Since I entered, I have had lots of email/mail looking for business, latest from Taxi. Seems my details have been sold on

    Comment by Wyn Auburn | August 12, 2011 | Reply

  56. Thanks mate, I knew there was something fishy about this.If anybody likes to listen to my “Candy for free” it’s on youtube


    Keep on rocking folks

    Comment by Casimir Nystrand | September 15, 2011 | Reply

  57. Just noticed the first of the annual “extensions” to Nov 1. Watch for the next one – multiple extensions happen every year (notice that the entry fee increases also). No more dollars from me. And if you have a third party Mypspace tracker keep an eye on it.

    Comment by Wynauburn | September 22, 2011 | Reply

  58. I entered two songs into several categories soooo I hope you all are wrong. ROFL

    Comment by Sarah | October 20, 2011 | Reply

  59. I entered this competition a few years ago and i agree with with this article.. 1st off it is preposterous to think that the “so called” named judges have the time and patience to sit and listen to the amount of songs that are entered . I spoke on the phone to the founder in nashville and although it was a pleasant conversation, I don’t trust the system and marketing in which they display. AN OBVIOUS SIGN OF THE GREED IS THAT THEY KEEP PUSHING BACK THE ENTRY DEADLINE AS TO CUMULATE AS MUCH $$$$ and entries AS POSSIBLE << FULL WELL KNOWING THAT IT WOULD NOT IMPACT THE Competition.. They can defend what they are doing through technicalities ,, but they know full well that the amount of money they are receiving VS. what they are offering on prize is a huge contrast.. 25,000 and some gear is ridiculous when you think about the $$$ they are generating. By pushing back the deadline they are making every last drop of $$$ they can..

    I also listened to previous winners and although i a all for keeping peeps inspired to write, It is always some obscure song nothing edgy or even that hooky . Very disappointing to hear quite honestly..

    ISC can hide behind their legitimacy through technicalities but they know full well how much MONEY they are making vs. what they offer.. They are partnered up through other song attention grabbers through mySpace etc.. I think what attracts songwriters to them are their judges which once again is a very subtle technical aspect. I know one of the judges personally and he had no idea what the heck i was speaking of..

    Comment by alexander | October 26, 2011 | Reply

    • Interesting about your personal friend judge who had no idea about the contest he was judging. One would think the ISC would have to at least have their consent (or agency, manager, lawyers, etc.) to use their names and likenesses, or there would be many a cease and desist letters flying. That said, certainly we all understand that before the celeb judges listen to anything, the thousands of entries are screened by many, many rank and file ears and winnowed down to a handful of entries – maybe a few hundred. Those few hundred are then divided into a few – 10 or 20? – for each celeb judge to listen to. I’m only speculating. The ICS would be well-served and, more importantly, so would all their paying customers – songwriters – to have more transparency here and really explain the process in detail. I think people would really appreciate that. Regardless of who listens to what, I agree that most of the winners do not impress. Voices and playing, yes, in some cases. But the songs? Rarely. Of course that could truly mean we are hearing the best of the best. Consider this: Has any artist of note ever won in the ICS? (Whether or not they entered and never made the winners circle, we’ll never know.) By artist of note I mean Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Beyonce, Wilco, U2, My Morning Jacket, White Stripes, Train, and so – essentially, anyone who’s been on the charts in the last 20 years. While I don’t know for sure as I haven’t researched assiduously, but my semi-educated guess would be ‘no.’ And probably never will. I think the true talents avoid these things and/or if they DO enter, they don’t make it through, despite their obvious and eventually validated talent! Finally, back to the judges: agree the celeb names are the hook to get the rubes into the tent and probably account for the majority of entries. And there’s the sadness of it all. Nothing against the ISC. I’m sure they are doing their best – but my humble advice to all would be to spend your dollars elsewhere; spend them on you! Good luck to everyone following their passion!

      Comment by Todd Girouard | October 26, 2011 | Reply

  60. And once again it reopens to gouge a few more dollars

    Comment by winifred auburn | December 13, 2011 | Reply

  61. I have been entering lyric contest for a while however it never fails, especially american songwriter contest. If it isn’t bee bop don’t bother entering cause it won’t win no matter how good it is. But if it sounds like early Beetles you do have a chance. However, I have only seen a very few intelligent bee bop songs win

    Comment by Mike Smith | February 22, 2012 | Reply

    • Well lookee her “Brought to you by ISC”. Another clone $30 in, one prize of $30.

      Comment by Wyn Auburn | February 26, 2012 | Reply

  62. ISC is a total scam.

    Not one pianist made it anywhere in the competition. NONE. In addition not a soloist of ANY instrument placed ANYWHERE. In addition to that in my category of Instrumental where I submitted 6 for myself and 6 for my girlfriend, Note a piano could be heard electric or acoustic in any of the 15 finalists, EVEN in the back ground!

    Total discrimination against the instrument! There should be a warning at the beginning before I was spending my 12 X $35 – please note no piano will be allowed into the instrumental category.

    Further. we rushed to make it for the contest deadline. Then the left it open for many weeks. Finally the closed it just to open it again around Christmases and offer cheaper entry fees. So others got rewarded for being late. The main point is that every person the allowed in on a stretched deadline made the contest more money and the chanced of me winning less.

    This is false advertizing. The guy on the phone even told me how many people were in my instrumental category (60) before I purchased my 12 slots. Not bad odds. I took those odds into consideration when I made my purchasing decision. To then run extended campaign to round up people after I was told the contest was closing is the same as selling a limited print then printing more after the sucker buys 12 of them!

    As a result of this greedy over extension they brought in a record 16,000 people with the average ticked of $30 (yes i paid more than average) that comes to $480,000!
    This was so much about the money that no wander they did not notice or care about pianists being discriminated against or have concern over the moral question of fraudulent contest closing dates advertizing. But that’s not all!

    What I found out yesterday is that of the 16,000 people that entered, 15,800 plus would never even once have their submissions reviewed by ANYONE of the celebrity judges or movers and shakers of the publishing industry. Yes, that’s right.

    Only the top 12 to 15 people in each category will get judged by that list of people.
    Music school student eliminated all of my 12 submissions, not even letting a single piano note in any form get into the top 15 in the instrumental category, BEFORE a single judge, a single professional, a single insider. even ONCE had the chance to listen.

    Also ISC opts out of the Sonic Bidz program of guaranteeing a refund if your submission was not judged by anyone.

    And to make everything the more ridiculous it just so happens that the very original music that I create from scratch, with no music lessons is considered by many to be just as good and in many cases better than many of the finalists and semi finalists.

    Please check us out and leave a comment in support telling ISC that they should have at least one of the 15 instrumental finalists be a pianist. I am not complaining that I did not win, I am complaining that NO pianist won….anything! Victoria Jaguar Mateus Jaguar

    When you hear how good these piano solo original compositions you will see the fraud of ISC. These songs did not even show in the semi finalists. 860 Semi finalists were all better than these songs is proof of total judging incompetence.

    You decide!

    Oh and i almost forgot, they claim that judging is based on the quality of the composition not on the performance or the recording quality. That is a lie to suck in entry fees from amateurs. In the history of ISC finalists and winners they are all cd recorded professionally performed!

    Comment by Mateus Jaguar | March 1, 2012 | Reply

    • It may be worse than you think. There seems to be no evidence that songs submitted via Myspace are actually listened to by anyone. If you mail off a cd and they handle it, schedule it, listen to it etc it costs $30. If you simply submit an on-line entry form with the myspace URL it still costs $30. The Myspace and 3rd party trackers on my site picked up no ISC visitors when I was stupid enough to submit this type of entry. Many people noticed this also and we received a “Myspace tracker is not working properly” email when the murmurs started to swell.

      To add further insult, when the deadline was extended and I submitted a second entry, I was emailed for an extra $5 because entries after the first “closing date” attract an additional entry fee (for what?). Doesn’t seem to matter that the closing date is extended multiple times every year. Stay well clear. There is only one major headline prize and the rest are donated eg 100 sets of strings.

      The last two winners from Australia were gold/platinum artists with major recording contracts under their belts. Pretty sure the entries were arranged by record label PR as artists of that calibre do not enter songwriting contests – and who knows what other kinds of cosy deals the record companies have with ISC.

      I figure Candace Avery of ISC is picking up at least half a million a year with entry fees and advertising/sponsorship.They have just launched another contest. $30 entry and top prize of $5000 at http://www, It is closing soon but you may be lucky, it may be extended. You have been warned.

      Comment by Wyn Auburn | March 5, 2012 | Reply

  63. Told you you might get lucky – the deadline for entries has been EXTENDED for another month – What a surprise!

    Comment by Wyn Auburn | March 10, 2012 | Reply

  64. Some proof that lyric writing contest are more of a sales technique to get people to pay to have their lyrics put to music. I enter a contest and they respond with lots of over the top compliments and want me to pay to put songs to music. They tell me to first sign a contract so they can promote the demo. However, then when the contest results come in my song didn’t win at all or honorable mentions. If it was as good as they say it was it would have at least placed in their competition.

    Comment by Bob | April 3, 2012 | Reply

  65. So, I guess, ISC is a form of business.. just labeled a contest to attract songwriters, preformers and lyricists so that money could flow in. Worst, is that they even use hopeful amateurs to get their pleasures going. Also, the obvious win of songwriters from record labels is a form of, you know, advertisement, which is paid by ofcourse the label handling them, given that they have talent to prove with. This would look like, “If you want to win, make sure you have the money.” That is sad. really sad. And now all I have to do is write a song saying why contests like this corrupt lives of aspiring songwriters all over the world. It suprising it lasted 10 years already, but I guess when you gained money that was so many times above the prizes at stake, the business will go on, do their dirty jobs.

    In Philippines, it’s a good thing there’s a contest here for songwriters which doesn’t require paying up fees. Hopes are high here. $30 is high, indeed. It’s a mad, and a sad world indeed, people.

    Comment by ISC | May 11, 2012 | Reply

    • Let’s see, 16,000 entrants at $35.00 per entry amounts to a wopping $560,000 total, not including the multi entrant contestants.
      Your grand prize of $25,000 and whatever peripheral awards you may render are a paltry fraction in the face of your profit.

      You and ISC claim to care about each contestant yet admittedly confess that not every entrant is heard by the judges. How can you justify that by any standard after someone pays you a $35 fee?

      Let’s face it, the proliferation of talent contests charging exorbitant entry fees, has become nothing more than a business scheme (scam) to make a profit.

      Comment by George | October 4, 2012 | Reply

  66. As the founder and director of ISC, I want to clear up a lot of these misconceptions. I just saw this blog and wanted to respond.

    Firstly, I invite you to contact any winner (especially the Grand Prize winners) and ask them their thoughts. They will confirm that they received their $25,000. The writer of this blog should have done his homework and asked the winners first before saying that the Grand Prize “may or may not exist.” I guarantee you that every winner received their cash – immediately.

    Regarding the entry fee…ISC offers an Early Bird entry period with discounted entry fees, then the regular price is $30. We always have an extended deadline period in which the entry fee goes up to $35. ISC is less expensive than other major songwriting competitions – check them out and you will see. Regarding the judges – our judges are indeed our judges. However, they do not listen to every entry (that would be impossible). In our Rules it clearly states that the judges listen to the finalists songs. Email the managers or industry executives and ask. Do you really think we could advertise these judges if they weren’t real? I’m sure there’s some sort of law governing this, please. Lastly, when a competition has 16,000 entries, not everyone is going to win. In fact, most entrants won’t. ISC is a competition – you are competing! However, most entrants want to win and hope they will. Some entrants expect to win, and when they don’t, they get indignant and can’t understand how they possibly didn’t win. It is very easy to complain and find reason for not winning, but Instead of getting all up in arms when you don’t win, just shrug it off and keep going. Complaining about losing isn’t productive. Just keep writing songs instead.

    As you may suspect, ISC is a business, and like any business, there is huge overhead that must be covered in order to survive. Entry fees are the only revenues brought into ISC. It is a mistake to think that the mission of ISC is to make money. Nothing can be further from the truth. ISC truly cares about helping artists nurture their careers, and ISC goes well beyond what is expected of a competition to help artists. Everyone at ISC works very hard to help artists achieve their goals and is passionate about this mission.

    Lastly, ISC winners are comprised of artists from all levels. Yes, there have been some successful artists who have won ISC. But most winners are unsigned artists. Gin Wigmore, one of our Grand Prize winners, had never even played a gig before! She was a complete unknown and on her way to becoming a teacher. She was not even really an artist. She had no manager, she had never recorded a song before the ISC entry, she had never played a show, she had never done an interview – she had done nothing. She was not a major label artist. But guess what? She is now. She got signed directly because of winning ISC. Ask her. Ask Motown.

    Lastly, regarding our winners. Whether you like them or not, they are who the judges select. When ISC sends the finalists’ songs to the judges, the entrant’s name is intentionally omitted in order to reduce subjectivity. The judges do not know who they are listening to. They select their favorites based on a list of criteria such as lyrics, melody, creativity, originalist, arrangement, and overall likeability.

    Please feel free to call the ISC office at 615.251.4441 if you have any concerns. We will be happy to answer any questions for you.

    Comment by Candace Avery | August 3, 2012 | Reply

    • Sounds like a desperation move, and disingenuous to the extreme. The disappointment and sense of being ripped off voiced by the many commenters here speaks for itself. Your operation is a Ponzi scheme built on the money paid by clueless entrants in this worthless scam. That someone who had never played a single gig could somehow beat out sixteen thousand other entrants perfectly capsulizes how your operation works – and its unfortunate appeal to the unsophisticated. Your phone number has been passed along to the authorities in the Department of Consumer Fraud in Tennessee, the state Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. No doubt you will be hearing from them.

      Comment by the boss here | August 5, 2012 | Reply

    • Candace, thank you. The author is clueless and sounds like a disgruntled song writer.

      Comment by 6x | March 19, 2014 | Reply

  67. I am a songwriter and what I have learned over the years music is a tough business ,and a dirty business. I know what it’s like to be scamed.
    But I have learn a valuable lesson. NOT EVERYTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS. SongWritng Competition are big business.Let see how big.
    $25,000 dollars to the winner a $ 35.00 entry fee and over a million entrance. Well gents God is Love.
    Who cares who wins! I will never make that kind of money Ladies and Gentleman. I was born with a heart.

    Comment by Oscar Cassanova | October 14, 2012 | Reply

  68. well what if you had a heart and did make that kind of money? you might then make the world a better place… idealistic but true..!

    Comment by Mary Koomjian | December 30, 2012 | Reply


    Comment by Chris | March 6, 2013 | Reply

  70. ISC is pure money scam! If you write a song and a buzz starts around it the record companies will find you. Don’t give these punks a dime. Just like those venues that have pay to play stages in rooms off to the side don’t go let ’em go broke. Just play what you feel and practice practice practice! And besides there are free contests like ernie ball to get exposure.

    Comment by Rich | September 6, 2013 | Reply

  71. I am amazed to see that this conversation has lasted so long, perhaps that is testament to the passion that goes into being a songwriter and the frustration that often circles like dark clouds those that know they have some talent, but just don’t have the answers as to how to get it out there to the industry in a way that wont compromise your creativity and dignity.

    I’m a singer songwriter based in the UK, get good feedback when I play live and entered both;, in the past few years.

    On the former, my experience lead me to believe that is that its a massive fix and clearly not aimed at my audience given the acts that went through, plus you are never going to progress far unless you can talk enough people into paying the extortionate gig ticket fee which will make the organisation some money in the long run.

    I had recently recorded a studio EP so though I’d enter the UK Songwriting contest.
    My song ‘Ol’ Lady’ got to the Semi Final stage, another song entered in another category Drama Queen got a distinction.
    I received some positive comments and to be honest all I was looking for was to take a punt, get some industry feedback and I guess boost my confidence a bit at the time so I dont feel hard done by.
    I also thought that whilst some of the winners were a bit mediocre, most of them were genuinely independent and had talent.

    As long as you go into this with your eyes open I think you wont get hurt too much.
    All the best if you decide to go for it.

    Comment by Davo | November 26, 2013 | Reply

    • Didn’t they used to pay cash to the category winners? Now the prizes are a bunch of junk (a free membership to TAXI!!!…seriously ) and bunch of useless guitar stuff. I play piano so I’d say don’t bother sending it.This really undermines their credibility. Where does the millions they make really go! Very sad this has gobe so downhill.

      Comment by Mia | February 6, 2014 | Reply

  72. I truly believe that all of us songwriters go into these contests with the best of intentions and with our eyes open. We can only hope that the good intentions thing is held to high standards on the competition,listening and judging side as well. Though they make the rules with the expectation that we will follow them, there are too many instances where entrants blatantly and/or knowingly break the rules (in the submission process) and are then promoted through to the finalist or semi-finalist, etc. stages of a competition by an ignorant, mis-informed and sub-standard judging process that then breaks from the very criteria that they themselves established for the competition in the first place. When this happens it creates a mindset of total fraud on both sides especially when it’s allowed to go un-checked. This makes intelligent individuals that are involved in this type of creative process absolutely furious especially when they were attentive down to the last detail in following every rule and criteria set out by the competition. It becomes the most important aspect of the competition in terms of credibility, fairness and equal standing of all submissions especially when an entry fee is required. I have seen a fair number of these types of competitions degrade in this abominable fashion from both sides over the years. AN EXAMPLE…

    Comment by Pete | February 16, 2014 | Reply

  73. Currently there is a contest in Northeast Florida called ROCK THE PLAYERS. It is sponsered by the PGA and the Tournament Players Club for marketing and publicity purposes and in conjunction with the TPC Golf Tournament being played at the Club in May 2014. If you go to this website (PGATOUR.COM/ROCKTHEPLAYERS) you will see four videos of the so called finalists in the competition. Prior to listening to these entries, click on the “Rules” icon above the videos and read that single page of rules listed. Following that effort, here is what you should pick up on after listening to each entry….. ENTRY #1: Let in the Light by The Embraced is a basic “coming of age ” song released on their EP in July 2013 seven months prior to the announcement of this contest, it is 1:56 over the 2:00 time limit strictly established in line 1 of the “rules.” It’s total length is 3:56, it was previously published and therefore not eligble, it has nothing to do with golf, TPC, PGA, Northeast Florida or charitable events associated with the Tournament. It was also published on You Tube on 7/18/13. In other words it was not created for the purpose of entry in this contest and literally breaks every rule and established criteria. Yet there it is. A FINALIST.

    Comment by Pete | February 16, 2014 | Reply

  74. ENTRY #2: Hit the Ground by Flagship Romance is a nice (though run of the mill) basic “boy/girl love song” that is 1:28 over the time limit (total length 3:28), it was published more than a year ago on You Tube and their website and therefore not eligible, it again has nothing to do with golf, PGA,TPC, Northeast Florida or any charitable events associated with the Tournament. It was created more than a year before this announced contest and was not created for the purpose of entry. It breaks all the rules and still, A FINALIST….ENTRY #3: Rock the Players by Billy Buchannon IS a video created for this contest and appears to be only 17 seconds over the time limit as submitted. However in the end portion of the video there are images of other company logos, names , trademarks and credits which was stated as forbidden in the rules. The actual name of the contest was used as his title which, though not very (wholly) creative, may not be out of bounds. It was also improperly posted on THE PLAYERS website prior to judging and subsequently removed by TPC. The musical composition of the verses is a blatant note for note rip off of “Jailhouse Rock” and therefore not “wholly creative” and ineligible or so one would think. YET A FINALIST.

    Comment by Pete | February 16, 2014 | Reply

  75. ENTRY #4: Love the Way You Love by Stephen Carey which was recorded and published more than two years ago (again the rules clearly state that no previously published material is eligible), the original recording was 3:15 long and all he did was cut it down to 2:09 for entry. Still 9 seconds too long. It is a basic country (boy/girl) party song. Including the above issues, it is ineligible for the very same reasons as entry #1. Again it has nothing to do with the required content asked for in the “rules.” Not even close. Yet a finalist. A B O M I N A B L E

    Comment by Pete | February 16, 2014 | Reply

  76. As the manager and father of a former teen artist Tia P. that won in the ISC 2010 Teen category for composition “Music is Fundamental” I can honestly say that ISC is one of the FEW legit song writing competition out here. Not only did she win a slew of prizes, she also won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. As a result, she was offered a “FULL” ride but turned it down because she wanted to major in Psychology with a minor in Music. She’s now a Sophomore at Howard University with 4.0 GPA and has a publishing deal with Position Music. Click the link below to hear her compositions they’ve placed. So, was the $30.00 worth it? What do you think?

    Comment by 6x | March 19, 2014 | Reply

  77. How much did ISC pay you to post this? And your daughter made the right decision: music is not her thing.

    Comment by the boss here | March 22, 2014 | Reply

    • You’re just mad because someone called your bluff. ISC was not even aware that I had replied to this obsolete post. I was doing a search about songwriting contests and ran across yours and felt compelled to put an end to your false allegations. As for your opinion about my daughter’s talent, it’s neither here or there. Her checks from her placements speak for themselves. It’s okay to admit that you were presumptuous with this blog. Next time check your facts. And for the record, ISC doesn’t have to solicit or pay anyone to speak on their behalf. Their integrity merits itself.

      Comment by 6x | March 22, 2014 | Reply

  78. a shill, I see. Too bad your kid has so little talent that all she can do is get her “music” in commercials

    Comment by the boss here | March 22, 2014 | Reply

  79. I dunno, if I enter a song it’s because I can’t afford to pay rent or food sometimes and if it makes some money then I will be able to, so I’ll get the entry money together and hen hopefully make some money!:)( myself, while the big people will also make some money)

    Comment by Lisa | May 19, 2014 | Reply

  80. I was looking over the 2014 judges and I know one of them personally. Nobody in TV will work with this person because they are liars/cheaters…like forging signatures on contracts, etc. I guess those are the kind of qualified judges for ISC this year.

    Comment by judges? | September 23, 2014 | Reply

  81. I have to say that I am embarrassed. I entered a couple of songs in a couple of contests. I was really excited, and told my friends that I got a certificate stating I was a semi-finalist in one of the contests. Now I find that these contests are scams. I was really proud of that little piece of paper. I am not a youngster, but a SAHM of 4 kids, one with special needs. I was doing something for myself that I thoroughly enjoyed – writing. I don’t have any desire to be famous. I just wanted an opportunity to share my creativity and love of music. I feel let down and embarrassed for being proud of a lie.

    Comment by P | January 8, 2015 | Reply

    • Don’t feel embarrassed. You are not alone. So many others went the same route you did – including me. If it makes you happy and fulfills you it’s all that matters. Your life doesn’t depend on it. So just enjoy your talent.

      Comment by simondaniel27 | June 24, 2016 | Reply

  82. Being a musician, I don’t feel as these competitions are worth or not. These are the platforms that offers chance to the people to showcase heir talent. Every competitions may have their own pitfalls. No one forces people to join these contests deliberately. It is just a opportunity that led people to show their talent around the globe.

    Comment by Songwriting Competition | February 22, 2016 | Reply

  83. So are there any legit songwriting competitions out there?

    Comment by simondaniel27 | June 24, 2016 | Reply

  84. I don’t do any song competitions that require you to pay money. the Annual Singer Song Writer Competition with Guitar Center is free to enter and they give away a lot of money and free gear and put you on a TV show and make a four song record with a real producer who has worked with real artists.

    Comment by Tim Janakos | January 27, 2017 | Reply

  85. Without the song writing contests, my YouTube video has over 250,000 views, and on a variety of websites I have about 50,000 plays for my one song.

    So I entered a lot of song writing contests. Not one mention. When you listen to the winners… well, I have to agree, it’s all garbage. I’m being honest, the skills are just not there, the songs aren’t memorable, no emotion on any of the the layers… ect.

    You’re dealing with humanity with these song contests, not experts. They are looking for something specific that they like, not what people want. In other words, the judges aren’t good and don’t know what they’re doing. That’s the truth.

    These contests are making a ton of money and they only care about that, not you or your music. 50,000 song submissions at $35 a song = $1.75 million. There is one song contest in particular that is a total scam – Akademia

    Comment by Cheryl Richards | December 19, 2017 | Reply

  86. There are dozens of online songwriting contests popping up all over the place. I strongly suspect they are all utterly fake. They don’t over-encourage talent – because that would narrow down their entries. So anything goes, including lyrics only, for a substantial entry fee. It’s easy money. One thing I’m curious about; how much are the organisers paying the celebrity “judges” for the privilege of naming them on their sites? I don’t believe for a minute that the stars actually sit down and listen to any submitted songs, but of course they’d be happy to sell the rights to use their name for some easy money.

    Comment by Gus Hill | April 6, 2019 | Reply

  87. All of these song contest organizations with a “pay to play” tag on the end of their selling stick just stinks of *profiteering moguls who have turned the “click your heels 2 times (or is it 3?) and your wish will come true” into a huge,online marketing business. They know there are 100’s of 1000’s of would be pop stars & songwriters out their who think they have the “Red shoes” and are dying to get their material heard and then win the competition, at least 1 category and then ….”Stardom”. All I can say is, “don’t be a donkey, a competition is a competition, the organizers don’t care about your material, they just need you money, $25 and it’s interesting someone on here mentioned that once you’ve been chosen (USA song writing competition)to go through to the next round, they want more money from you….well that says is all dosen’t it? If you’re serious about getting your songs heard you really need to approach the A&R (and I don’t mean TAXI) people who’s business is to FIND the right material for their artist. It maybe harsh to refer to these guys like this (*) but it’s a harsh world, you need be to objective about your own ability to write good, memorable songs, and if you need good honest feed-back you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

    Comment by Batmorph | March 30, 2021 | Reply

  88. Every songwriter wants to be recognised. They will often try entering songwriting contests with the hope of winning, and being able to use the winning experience as a promotion in their careers. Firstly, the chances of winning a big competition are slim. Even if you do win it, what will you achieve by winning it? The answer is nothing. The organisers know this. They promise many things such as songwriting tuition and nonsense prizes. When you go to claim them, it’s almost impossible to do so. You achieve nothing by winning these competitions. Can they name one songwriter that has achieved something seriously major, as a result of winning one of these competitions, bet they can’t. I can think of a few words to describe these so-called competitions, but I’m far too polite to say them.

    Comment by Ant | March 10, 2023 | Reply

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