Free Song Contest

January 3rd, 2010 by We Are Listening

Derek Siver’s idea for a free, open song contest got me thinking.

On his blog, he wrote:

I’m thinking about song contests, what a scam they usually are, but don’t have to be. By song contests, I mean all those ones that want a submission fee to enter, promising big prizes if you win, and whose judges are a small group of insiders.

I’ve been running song contests for more than five years.  Not the free, open kind.

I know what it takes to run a legitimate song contest.  I know what it costs and the human resources involved.  As far as I’m concerned, a free song contest is completely out of the question.

Or is it…

Lior’s Free Song Contest Concept

The following conditions are intended to make the cash prize feasible, keep marketing and administration costs low, and recruit song contest judges without compensation by limiting their duties to just a handful of reviews each:

1. One free song contest per year

2. One song entry per artist/band only

3. One category per artist/band only

4. One winner per category

5. Five categories (i.e. Rock, Pop, Country, Urban, Christian)

6. $2000 cash prize for every winner in each category ($10,000 total)

7. Four finalists per category

8. Judges review the finalists only (company staff review the others)

9. No prizes for finalists and runners-up

10. No honorable mentions

11. Limited promotion for the winners

12. No feedback (song critiques available for a fee)

So what do you think?

You may also be interested in:

Song Contests Are A Scam
8 Reasons Not To Enter A Song Contest
7 Reasons To Enter A Song Contest
10 Reasons To Enter A Song Contest Again
10 Most Popular Song Contests

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  1. Helen Austin Says:

    Great idea! And I like the spirit of it!

  2. Paul Says:

    A free contest is a good idea we have one in Canada the National songwriting contest. 1 category, regional winners,grand prize winner and runner up. Grand prize of 10.000. I recently attended a songwriters workshop and one of the Industry panelists said they don’t believe in paid songwriter contests they should be free! So I too second that emotion (Sounds like a song)

  3. James Says:

    Great idea!

    Might I add a suggestion? On a different topic, I would tweet about many of the great opportunities you present but their is no link short enough to post.


    James Dore’

  4. CDF-Air Says:

    A “no frills” song contest is a great idea. The extent to which some contests deliver on their promise to provide industry contacts and promotion is dubious. At least a cash prize to category winners is tangible. Moreover, I think the practice of having category winners compete for an overall grand prize has been very dubious, given the relatively narrow range of the musical spectrum from which grand prize winners seem to emanate. I’ve never understood how one can decide that my best urban is better (or worse) than your best pop or rock. After all, music (unlike music theory) is not math. There are potentially as many right answers as there are people.

  5. Chelsea Says:

    I love the free song contest idea. Especially for people like me. I don’t work because the working age in India is 18+. Besides my family does not possess the means for me to enter into song competetions because the conversion from dollars to rupees and vice-versa comes up to alot of money for us. I beg of you to have one free song contest! Please, Please, Please.

    Yours sincerely,

  6. Andrea Says:

    I bet you know that I am smiling ear to ear —

    a separate category for Christian music is SO helpful for us strange folks making that sort of music-for-a-limited-audience with a limited-but-strong-appeal.

    THANK YOU — you ARE listening


    for Prayer/Life

  7. Claudette Says:

    It is not really the entry fees that stop me, but rather: 1) the lack of constructive criticism and 2) the cost to obtain that criticism. Each month I determine how many contests and how many songs I can afford to enter. For me to grow, even as a amateur songwriter, I need to get some feedback from folks other than my friends and daughter who love everything I write! I can’t afford to pay for the feedback and the entry fee some months! I think rather than a free contest the offer of a free critique for one song entered, or if you enter 3 songs or some variation of that idea, would get me to pony up an entry fee. And by critique, I mean more than a number and better than three lines of somethin’. The offer could be either a fully checked off form or a paragraph or two from a professional.


  8. Sean Lay Says:

    A free song contest would be a breath of fresh air. As a independant musician and member of a self managed band, budgets are tight and exposure is always needed!
    Citizen Icon

  9. Trevor Krueger Says:

    Thank you Lior for this opportunity to respond.
    A free competition would be an excellent option for it helps remove any thought of a scam. I have never felt that “We are listening” is running a scam, but I have never felt I would get much out of entering either. Competitions are too random and only help the minority. All song writers want is a route to market, we just want to make a living doing what we love to do. Some may not be competent enough of course, but many are very good musicians who simply lack the expertise to reach the buyer. At least winning £2000 in a free competition would enable someone to pay for some studio time or CD Pressings to at least feature their product on CD Baby.
    If you want to be “a legend” help people to sell their work, that’s what we want. Awards don’t pay the mortgage, sales or Royalties might.

  10. Dean Caputo Says:

    This is a no-brainer! A FREE song contest sponsored by a reputable and credible organization dedicated to unheard talent? I am in straight away!
    Thanks Lior!

  11. Paul Grenier Says:

    In a new music world full of opportunists that are just out to take each and every gullible hard working songwriters pennies so that they themselves can make a living off our backs, this is certainly a very welcomed idea, and quite possibly one that will catch on with other reputable promoters. Songwriters spend a lot of money and time turning the music in their head into music in other people’s heads, from either buying equipment for a project studio or renting out time in a commercial facility, to getting songs mixed and mastered, to getting CDs pressed and finally to buying into chances to get their material heard and noticed, that there is little left over for crazy $30 entry fees for worldwide songwriting competitions and all the smaller ones like the kind on Sonicbids (Who I am very distrustful of by the way). But still, there’s always a music company out there that promises they can help bring your music and career to the next level… but it’ll cost ya! And more often than not, these companies never produce worthwhile results because they simply don’t give a **** about you OR your music. They just want to squeeze every last penny out of you with illusions of grandeur and fame.

    It’s time for a reality check everyone. Times have changed and it’s basically every man for himself in this industry now. It’s a sad truth, but a reality non the less. So the better informed you are as an artist and the more research and homework you do before dolling out money to ANYONE, the more successful you’ll be at getting what you want. There are a few very reputable companies and organizations out there that have the capacity and have earned the trust they deserve, such as Wearelistening. Another is Tinderbox Music who went above and beyond the call of duty in helping me get exposure for my music, and with fantastic results. Through them I managed to get my disc on the desk of Mark Berry of Attack Media Group, who called me the moment he listened to my CD. He’s the epitome of professional and knows anybody you’ll ever need to know. Sure, it costs money to do a campaign with someone like this, but as he puts it, the money that will come back through licensing etc will cover my contract fee, CD pressings etc and then some! Of course there are never promises of success in this business because it’s impossible, and if anyone promises you success, as long as you pay them first, then stay as far away as you can from them. But people in the biz that have reputations and credentials like Mark wouldn’t waste their time or want to attach their name to your music if it’s garbage in the first place. These are the ones that will NOT scam you or take advantage of you. But they also aren’t necessarily cheap, but you do get what you pay for! It’s the best money I’ve ever spent in this biz.

    Now… first of all, your songs have to be good, and unless you start with that, then there’s no point in continuing because the only guarantee will be a dark dead end road. If you can hire a professional that believes in your music and your talent and has a proven and honest track record, then by all means, this is the best way to go. I’ve already signed 2 major deals through Mark in the first 6 weeks of our 12 month contract. The campaign has already paid for itself and the rest is going to be icing on the cake.

    Anyway, all this to say, trust your instincts and make sure you get constructive, valid reviews and assessments of your songs before a shark takes a bit out of you and your wallet. So a free contest is an absolutely awesome way to go. But get as many independent critiques of your work as you can before you jump into a very cruel and cut-throat business. A lot of scammers will say they love your stuff and that you have huge potential, and that they want to help bring you there, but click the Paypal button first. Jeeze. in that case RUN. I mean come on. Would you buy a car before test driving it and researching the reviews and features?
    Another excellent music service is Music Xray, a concept developed by Mike McCreedy. They’re a very unique concept and well worth looking into!! I highly recommend you take at least a look into it. They’ve helped me quite a lot with some of their opportunities and i’ve gotten everything from single song reviews to complete album reviews. And submission fees range from FREE to upwards of $90 for a full blown song critique by top of the ladder industry pros that know their stuff. It’s free to join and create your Xrays for each of your songs, and each song Xray has a unique url that can be sent to anybody and your music is presented the way you want it to be with as little or as much info as you want to include about the track.

    Sorry my response to this was so long, but hopefully you got something good out of it. Lior asked me to submit my comments and suggestions, so there you have it. Good luck to all and may it be a creative and prosperous 2010 for all of us!! Now go make some money with your music!!!!

    Andrea Reply:

    Thank you very much for this highly helpful Comment, I appreciate you taking the time to let the rest of us who may be newer to the song contest world some possible ways to spend effectively to get our music heard.

    for Prayer/Life

  12. Gabriella Says:

    Thank you for this information. Yes, it is a very good and viable idea and I’m sure there are many artists who are grateful for your forward thinking.

    There are far too many ‘con-contests’ around, and vulnerable indie artists fall into the hype because of the need for exposure in the industry – its a sad fact that so many organizations take full advantage of artists who are genuinely doing their best to get into the market.

    Wishing all a healthy, prosperous and peaceful new decade.


  13. Daniel W. Hill Says:

    I suppose I’m not used to seeing what I call “open door” possibilities. Usually you get what you pay for. Free is a gift. A gift is picked out by someone else and it’s the thought that counts. So thank you for that.

    On the other hand the other hand somebody has to pony up the prize money. Chances are they want something out of the deal, which is fine, but just a thought I had.

    On a recommendation side, nothing says free song contest like playing impromptu at a public place (bookstore, restaurant, etc.) and getting some feedback from your local scene, and earning a few fans.

  14. Lior Says:

    I expected to get your support for this concept and I thank you for it.

    From your comments, it appears that “feedback” for everyone who enters is still crucial, free song contest or otherwise.

    Am I right?

  15. Zani Says:


    well i’m a bit late in posting my comment here (though i did a few days ago to Lior who suggested i post it here)

    well, i myself think it’s a great idea…except for one little thing:

    as a musician whose music mostly falls under the “world music” umbrella, i was disappointed to see that your idea doesn’t include my genre. i would encourage you to consider a 6th category to include “world/roots/folk” or something to that affect. there is so much talent in this genre and many pop, rock, folk and such musicians turn to “world music” to find inspiration and fresh ideas.

    just my thoughts. i do also write music that could fall under the “pop” umbrella, so i would give it a try…nothing to lose but much to learn.

    thanks for your consideration.