Many songwriters enter songwriting contests with the hopes of gaining quick fame and fortune if they win. I’m no different having entered several contests myself including being the Grand Prize winner in the Billboard World Song Contest several years ago. The allure of winning big cash prizes is attractive along with the prospect of finally getting recognition for being an undiscovered hit songwriter. While some contests focus on the breadth of their prizes, and celebrity judge panels, others offer alternative incentives like song critiques to help improve you as a songwriter.
But what constitutes a good contest from a bad one? There are many thoughts, pros and cons that can be presented on this issue.
Things like transparency of how the contest is conducted and how the winner is selected come to mind. But first and foremost, every songwriter should ask themselves whether the exposure and prizes of winning the contest are worth the rights that you may be giving up on your song. For example, some contests like the Philippine Popular Music Festival (aka Phil Pop) offer great exposure for your song. If chosen as one of the twelve finalists, your song will be “interpreted”, recorded and performed by one of the Philippines top music stars on a gala awards ceremony that is televised nationwide. This is awesome if you are not a performing songwriter yourself and are looking for an artist to help you complete your vision of what the song will sound like when performed and produced by professionals.
Following is a lyric video of the 2014 Grand Prize winning song, Salbabida, written by Jungee Marcelo and interpreted/performed by Philippine R&B queen, Kyla.
Following is the lyric video of the 2015 finalist song, Edge of the World, written by Johann Garcia and interpreted/performed by Josh Padilla and Yassi Pressman.
But if you look closely at the Phil Pop contest rules, these are some of the rights that you give up if you are selected as a finalist in their contest:
“Agree that PhilPop shall have the sole discretion to designate, name or engage the services of the performers who shall interpret the Song Entries for both recording and broadcast performances.
Agree to execute a Deed of Assignment assigning all publication rights over the Song Entry to PhilPop, or a Foundation it may designate, for a period of at least five (5) years from the date of execution.
Agree to execute a License Agreement granting to PhilPop a worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free and non-exclusive license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, synchronize, publicly perform and publicly display the Song Entry and all its recordings and performances for any and all purposes relating to the promotion and other non-commercial activities of PhilPop.”
After reading the above, do you believe that the exposure you get on radio, TV and within the Philippine music industry is worth the rights that you give up as a songwriter?
In all fareness to Phil Pop, the finalists of the contest do receive an incredible amount of exposure compared to other finalists of other well-known songwriting contests. But I just have to wonder, how much money do the finalists actually make from their songs after assigning some of their rights to Phil Pop?
I guess as with any marketing or promotional opportunity, sometimes you have to consider your song as a “loss leader” for the exposure and networking contacts that you’ll develop after winning or placing in a contest.
But as they say, keep writing songs because the next song could be better than the one you have now.
Following are some of the more well-known songwriting contests.
- Great American Song Contest
Participating songwriters receive a written song critique from the contest judges — PLUS a chance to win $10,000 in great prizes & awards in 10 songwriting categories.
- International Songwriting Competition
ISC is designed to nurture the musical talent of songwriters on all levels and promote excellence in the art of songwriting. Amateur and professional songwriters and musicians are invited to participate. ISC has the most prestigious panel of judges of all the songwriting and music contests in the world, offering exposure and the opportunity to have your songs heard by the most influential decision-makers in the music industry.
- The John Lennon Songwriting Contest
The JLSC is open to amateur and professional songwriters who submit entries in any one of 12 categories. The JLSC is open year-round and features two Sessions — with 72 Finalists, 24 Grand Prize Winners, 12 Lennon Award Winners and 1 “Song of the Year”.
- NSAI Songwriting Contest
Prizes will be awarded to 1 Grand Prize Winner, 1 Lyric-Only Winner, 10 Runners-Up and 10 Honorable Mentions. NSAI takes pride in that their contest offers the opportunity for winners to connect on a personal level with industry leaders and writers/artists.
- The USA Songwriting Competition
The USA Songwriting Competition, the world’s leading international songwriting event, has been honoring songwriters, composers, bands, and recording artists everywhere. Winners are selected by a Blue Ribbon committee of music industry judges including record label publishers, producers, A&R from Universal Music, Warner, Sony Music, and other distinguished professionals.
In closing, songwriting contests are one of several opportunities to gain exposure, feedback and networking contacts for breaking into the music industry. But don’t go overboard by entering as many contests as you can. It’s best to focus on your songwriting craft first and get involved in songwriting communities to get critiques or evaluations on your song. There are many free discussion forums and paid song evaluation services that can help you get a better idea if your song is the best it can be. You’ll save more money and heartbreak in the long run if you know what’s ready to submit to a contest or not.