Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Thoughts on Competitions

There’s a lot of discussion about contests and competitions, whether they’re legitimate, whether they’re worth it, etc. Obviously I’m a little biased having won one of the biggest ones.

There’s no doubt that some contests are money-makers. All contests charge a fee for entry, which can be as high as $35/song (and as low as $10). That adds up when you have a lot of entries in a lot of contests. Adds up fast.

And many prizes are usually donations or promotions from music-related businesses. In some cases they’re giving away trial memberships in online services, which is SOP for a business trying to attract new subscribers.

But there are tons of legitimate expenses in running a competition, not the least of which is that they have to pay judges, and if they want good ones (known and respected in the music industry) they probably pay well. And while some contests are simply money-makers, several of them (especially the largest and most prestigious ones) are really about promoting songwriting and giving people a chance to show their best stuff.

Winning a contest does not make you the best, but it does give you a little stamp of approval. It’s a gold star. It gives you a chance to talk to people you wouldn’t ordinarily speak to. You might get someone’s attention for five minutes that wouldn’t have given you the time of day before. It gives you a shot of confidence; like that morning cup of coffee, it may eventually wear off but you have all sort of energy while under the influence.

I decided this year would be the “competition” year – lots of songs, lots of contests, lots of prizes. I have the ISC (and GASC) win under my belt, so I don’t need to prove that I can win the top prize. My goals are to get at least honorable mention, finalist, or similar mention in a few contests, and in a few categories. I am trying to show my range of styles, my ability to collaborate with several people and depth of talent. And I want to get my work in front of a lot of peole.

Goodnight Kiss Music was running a special contest to find material for a singer they’re promoting. The main prize was to get a song cut, so I entered a couple of songs and a few lyrics. One of the songs got an “exceptional merit” mention and two of the lyrics came in second and third. And I got a nice, private note from one of the judges with some very complimentary comments.

So, mission accomplished. So far.

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