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Are songwriting contests worth it?

are songwriting contests worth it

So you just finished a new song, and you are thinking about submitting it to a songwriting contest. And you are probably wondering if songwriting contests are worth entering or not. Let me share my thoughts about this topic.

It’s obvious that the winners can score big cash awards and other incentives, and you may think that your chances are very small for winning, but that shouldn’t discourage you.

I think you shouldn’t think of this as a lottery ticket. A songwriting competition is not a lottery, and you have much more to earn besides the first prize. Here are some of the benefits.

1. Motivation

Sometimes we need motivation in order to be more productive. You know I’m right! We want to write more songs, and we also want to write better songs, but sometimes it’s hard to find the energy we need to be more consistent.

A competition like this can give you that extra motivation which helps you to create more songs. If you are more motivated, you will not only create more songs, but you will also learn more about songwriting. Both can help you become a better songwriter.

2. Feedback

This is probably the best perk of a songwriting contest – especially if you are a beginner songwriter. Your friends and family members will NEVER be honest with you. Not even if your songs are bad. But if you submit your music to a songwriting competition, then you will know where you are right now in your learning phase.

For example, I entered my songs two times to the International Songwriting Competition, and I got to the finals both times. About 80,000 songs are competing every year, but only the top 2% get to the finals. So I knew that my music is amongst the top 2%, but I still have room for improvement, since I didn’t win the first prize.

And this feedback is useful, not only because of the competition! But because you probably want to promote your music, and you want to grow your fanbase. But should you promote your music if it doesn’t even get to the semi-finals?

And I’m not talking about ethics here, I’m talking about whether you should waste YOUR money. Because music promotion costs a lot of money and work. But if your music is not good enough, you will just waste your money on promotion, because nobody will like your music, no matter how much money you spend on marketing it.

If you submit your music to a songwriting competition, you will get unbiased feedback from the votes of several professional songwriters.

3. You can get to know other bands

It’s always good to discover new music, and it’s also good to know what other bands are doing in our genre. But we all know that commercial radios only play a small fraction of what’s out there. For example, one of my favorite bands is Lawrence, and radios don’t play them in my country. I only know them because one of my friends sent their music video to me. Otherwise, I would never heard of them.

A songwriting contest can be a great place for music discovery, especially amongst the winners!

4. Press coverage

You want to promote our music in all the possible ways, especially if you are an independent musician who can’t rely on the marketing of a well-established record label. Press coverage is a great opportunity for exposure, but what if there is nothing interesting happened with you recently? The media likes to write about things that are “newsworthy”.

A songwriting competition can help you get press coverage even if you are not amongst the winners. The local media will probably write about your music project if you get to the semi-finals or to the finals with your song. This is what happened to me when I got to the finals. Some of the local media wrote about us, even though I didn’t contact them!

5. Exposure

It’s hard to get noticed in the music industry because most musicians want to get discovered and try to contact record labels and managers. Record Labels and A&R representatives are always keeping their eyes on songwriting contests to find new talents. If you win a contest, it can be a great opportunity to get noticed in the music industry.

How can you tell if a songwriting contest is a scam?

Some of the contests might be a scam, so you need to be aware of what contests you choose to enter. But here are some tips to avoid scams:

– Check out how popular the contest is. The most popular contests are probably not scams. You can check out their Facebook page, and see how many followers they have.

– Always read the rules!

– Check out who are the judges. If you don’t see the names of the judges, that could be suspicious.

– Search Google if others are talking about the competition. (Forums or Reddit)

Is it a scam if they ask for an entry fee?

No, it’s not. In fact, I would be suspicious if there would be no fees, and probably wouldn’t enter a contest without an entry fee.

A songwriting competition is a business, just like any other business. And businesses have costs: human labor, marketing, etc.

For example, how would you know about the contest if they don’t spend money on advertising? You probably wouldn’t know about it. Today it’s literally impossible to get known without spending money on advertising. So if nobody knows about the contest, then nobody enters, so there is no contest.

Another thing is, there are many people who work in a contest like this. There is a huge amount of administrative work. If there are 80,000 contestants, and only 5% of them have issues or questions, that’s 4000 emails to answer, and 4000 issues to solve. Would you do that work for free?

You also need prizes and sponsors for a contest, and that also requires someone who gets in touch and makes deals with potential sponsors.

If you want professionals to judge the contest, that will also cost a lot of money. And these judges won’t work for free either. They need to go through thousands of songs – or would you prefer a contest with no entry fee, but with ONE person judging all the songs? Probably not.

In Summary

The benefits of songwriting contests are not only prizes. They can give some extra motivation, which can boost your productivity, you can get feedback about where you are in your learning phase, you can discover new bands in your genre, and it’s possible to get some attention, whether if it’s from the press or from people in the music industry.

An entry fee doesn’t mean that the contest is a scam, it only means that it’s a business like any other. But keep your eyes open and make some research before you enter a competition you don’t know.

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About the Author

Producer, songwriter of the band Barrio Latino Hungría. Author of the Songwriting Essentials.