I have a lot of ambiguity with contests. Insomuch as I’m not sure what they accomplish even if you win, and I’ve won a few and I got some cool stuff. When I was twenty or so I entered one of those “shred” contests where you walk up onstage with a guitar and you have 60 seconds to impress the judges. On one hand that was kinda cool ‘cause I won a guitar, and I bested some friends and got some bragging rights. On the other hand I beat out some of my own students at the time and I felt like a chump for it.
It was a long time ago.
I don’t think I entered an official competition again until I got seduced into doing the Nashville Star thing and I started out feeling like a chump getting involved in that and then when it was the regional in Nashville (you’d figure that’d be the hardest one) I won it, and there again were some bragging rights and some thinking that maybe it would kick-start my career and then I got to the TV show and it was “think again,” and I’m back to being a chump.
I subscribe the this web service called sonicbids. Sonic bids is one of the coolest most useful things a self-promoting musician can put to use outside of myspace. What it entails is a site that posts gig listings, publishers looking for music, bands looking for players, etc…and basically everything on the site is a contest of sorts. Some listings are more overtly contest-like than others: specifically they post a lot of songwriting competitions and they send you emails every day (sometime a bunch every day) and if the entrance fee ain’t too high, I seem to have a hard time not dropping my chip into just about everything they got.
And it’s not like it’s a total waste of time—I think. Through sonicbids I’ve gotten accepted to showcase at NACA (national association for campus activities) a couple times, and that’s lead to some gigs and some money and that’s cool. In fact, I’ve gotten a bunch of gigs from the site—a few of them even paid something, I’ve gotten in magazines and on a few CD compilations. Maybe that’ll all lead to something somewhere…I have faith.
I approach the songwriting competitons about the same way I did Nashville Star. I mean, I have made a living as a songwriter (emphasis on past-tense) and I have had a few cuts (not that they’ve made big $$) and most of these contests are for amateurs (since I don’t make a living solely from writing or at least can’t claim more than 20% of my income by their defintion, I qualify) but, like I said, my ego does want to show the next guy that I’m better than he/she is.
That’s the American way. Dammit.
And so far I’ve had some success with the song-competition thing: I was a finalist at the first (and last) Riverbluff competition ( I didn’t go). I was co-winner at Mountainstage NewSong (it was a good excuse to go to West Virginia and they gave me three hundred bucks and a discount on pressing my last CD) I won the Great American Song competition (I think I got an online gigs subscription and some magazines for that) was a finalist at the International Songwriting Competition (got beat by some real pros with big cuts) at the Mid Atlantic awards ( got some strings?) Won November at Song-of-the Year (think I got magazines for that) won the 2006 Independent music awards (got a free musicians atlas for that–I use the thing a lot–and they put me on a sampler…and I think I got magazines) and oh yeah, there’s that chart over at garageband.com…and I was in the top five on that forever and I don’t think it meant a damned thing to anybody.
Really, the only contest (other than the grammys, maybe) that means jack to a songwriter is the contest that goes on every time a producer takes an artist into the studio without enough songs to make a whole record. That contest is won when your name is on the bottom corner screen of the video and the ASCAP check comes in and it buys more than just your groceries.
No one seems to give a damn if you win any of these amateur trophies, no matter how brilliant your song is, but you write a nugget like “Wink” or “Watermelon Crawl” and it goes #1 and your artist sell a lot of records… hell that impresses somebody–maybe not somebody like me–but somebody with a desk on music row absolutely.
(And don’t get me wrong–I would LOVE to be able to say I wrote “Watermelon Crawl.”)
So, the sonicbids thing sends me these emails all the time and one came in a couple months or so ago and I couldn’t resist and I entered a song in it and forgot all about it. Then, maybe a month ago I get an email congratulating me on being selected as a finalist and they’ve picked five people out of I-don’t-know how many and I should be proud….whatever, I’m like “great, maybe I’ll get a box of strings, or better yet some more magazines I won’t read,” And then I get some more emails regarding the thing and it turns out that they get down to me and somebody else and basically I lose by like a vote or something to this other person and it’s like whatever, they share the judges critiques with me and for the most part everybody seems to agree that I show promise I guess and it’s nice, but I’m not getting any guitar strings this time, no magazines, no 10% discount on my next CD….no the winner of this one get’s to FLY TO FREAKING LONDON TO RECORD WITH THE DUDE WHO PRODUCES STING.
I lost by ONE lousy vote!
I’ve been through
“Sorry Mr McGraw, per ( a producer who I won’t name who came on board at the last minute) your song (which a BIG artist had kept on hold for months…telling my publisher that it was a “career” song for them) has been passed on (the day after the session on which they kept on swearing they were going to record the song)”
“And the first contestant we’ll be sending home is” (my name)
“Sorry guys (insert name of mega star county dude) had decided to jump over to this label and that changes our budget at the label, so regarding that deal we offered you….”
“Boy, go fetch me a godamn drink will youins?”
And now this!!
Tommorow’s another day.
BTW. I’m up for the Independent Music Awards again
click here if you’d like to help me out with a vote:
That Musicians Atlas is pretty cool….