How To Win a Songwriting Competition
Entering songwriting competitions are great opportunities for songwriters and you can win some amazing prizes. Songwriters are the geniuses behind many of the biggest recording artists. If you can win a songwriting competition then you could launch a successful career.
Songwriting competitions want catchy and original songs. If you make your submission professional and get a good hook and chorus in your song, you could win a contest. Trying songwriting tools and lyric contests can improve your chances of winning.
Before you go all the way and win a songwriting contest, you’ll need to understand the art of songwriting and what is expected from a competition first. There are lots of small, easy things you can start doing now to get your songwriting skills competition-worthy.
How to win a songwriting competition
Winning a songwriting competition would give you great credibility as an artist. With exclusive prizes and the opportunity to receive feedback about your music, songwriting contests are an exciting opportunity. Follow these ten tips to hone your songwriting technique:
- Tell a unique story in your song
- Steer clear of cliché and overused metaphors
- Have a catchy hook and chorus
- Choose your song structure before you start writing. The most common is Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Bridge / Chorus
- Avoid common rhymes
- Listen to music that inspires you
- Learn some of the technical basics in music production
- Don’t tell your emotions, show them
- Start your song with the chorus and build your song up from there
- Make your point with as few lyrics as possible
Songwriting for competitions
The idea of writing your own songs for a competition can be daunting. It may be overwhelming to know where to start and how to be original. But songwriting doesn’t have to be complicated. Most songwriting competitions give detailed breakdowns of what they’ll be judging your piece on and the focus is usually on unique, uncliched and professional sounding songs.
Try to write your music from the heart because the judges are looking for emotional pieces. And don’t forget that songwriting isn’t always just about the lyrics. You might need to consider the instrumentation, melodic line and intro to your piece too. The judges will be impressed if you are experimental and original in these areas.
Don’t be too excessive with lengthy intros and extended guitar riff. It’s better to take the approach of less is more. The judges want to quickly get to the heart of your song or they won’t keep listening.
You don’t have to be an expert in music production to win the competition because you’re not expected to know everything. Considering what type of competition you want to enter will help your chances of winning, though. Do you want to enter an amateur songwriting contest or a mixed-level entry competition? Make sure you enter your piece into the right category too. Applying for the competition that suits your goals and style the best will greatly improve your chances of winning.
It’s important you format your submission in the right way to make sure your music gets heard. A submission that doesn’t meet the guidelines or is handled unprofessionally may put the judges off from the start.
Make sure you’re sending your recording to somewhere who’s expecting to receive it. Competitions are a good way to guarantee a willing audience to your song. Sending a recording to random people hoping to get a deal off the back of it will be more irritating than impressive for the recipient.
If you’re submitting your song as an email attachment, keep the body of your email short. Publishers, music executives, and admin staff are busy, and a lengthy message will be dismissed. Don’t be tempted to overdo it with your number of submissions either; less is more and always stick to the number of allowed entries. Check the rules of the competition you’re entering beforehand. Most contests will ask for a recording and an accompanying lyric sheet as part of your submission.
You don’t want to overload someone’s inbox, but it’s okay to follow up on your submission to check its progress. If you haven’t received a response after two weeks, you can chase up your submission to see if there’s any change in its status.
Best Songwriting Competitions
Songwriting competitions may be more lowkey than singing competitions, but there are still lots out there. Some even have big cash prizes and dream co-writing opportunities with existing writers up for grabs. These are the most anticipated competitions for 2019:
#1 The John Lennon Songwriting Contest
In memory of the late John Lennon, the JLSC welcomes submissions in any of the following categories: Rock, Country, Jazz, Pop, World, Rhythm & Blues, Hip Hop, Gospel/Inspirational, Latin, Electronic, Folk, and Children’s.
Entry is $30.
#2 International Songwriting Competition
ISC is an annual contest that is open to both amateur and professional songwriters. Submissions are judged on:
- Lyrics (excludes songs that do not have lyrics)
- Overall likeability
It costs $25 per song to enter.
#3 Song Academy
Song Academy’s Young Songwriter competition is open for those aged between 8 and 18. Entrants receive written feedback from a professional music industry expert to help them with their songwriting. 2019 judges include Tom Odell, Imelda May, Rumer, Chris Difford, and Emily Phillips.
The competition is currently closed for entries but runs on an annual basis.
#4 The UK Songwriting Contest
The international UK Songwriting Contest was launched in 2002 and has a strong partnership with the BBC. Finalists and winners receive BBC Radio coverage and there is a star-studded judging panel comprised of top Grammy, Emmy, CMA, and BRIT Award–winning Gold and Platinum Album producers and artists.
The entry fee is £15.
#5 The Great American Song Contest
The 21st annual American Song Contest is now open for submissions and has a $15,000 cash prize. All submissions receive a written evaluation from the contest judges and all entrants have a judging schedule to easily track their progress.
The entry fee is $35.
Free songwriting contest
Always be careful when entering any kind of competition. If a contest seems like it’s too good to be true, sometimes it is.
All reputable, well-known songwriting competitions have an entry fee to submit your song. It’s worth paying the entry fee for the opportunities that come with it – a lot of competitions will send you feedback and judge’s reviews of your submissions to help you improve your songwriting technique. So even if you don’t win, you won’t come away empty handed!
Make sure you do some background research into any competitions before you enter them to check they’re legit and there are no hidden clauses. Sticking with well-known names will make sure your personal details and original work doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.
Reasons to enter Songwriting Competitions
If you’re unsure whether you’re ready to take the plunge and enter your songs into a competition, these are five reasons why it’s worth entering.
- Teaches you to put yourself “out there”
- Being a finalist looks great on your achievements
- Many competitions give you send you personal feedback so you can improve your sound
- Get exclusive prizes
- Motivates you to finish writing a song
Getting started can be the trickiest part of songwriting. Once you have your inspiration, there are lots of tools and software out there to help you on your lyrical journey.
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide how you’re going to write your lyrics. Google Docs, Evernote or even classic pen and paper are all popular choices to jot down your ideas as they come to you. You don’t have to rhyme your lyrics – a forced rhyme isn’t rhyme worth having. But if you’re looking for inspiration, websites like Rhyme Zone and RhymeBrain offer free online rhyming dictionaries.
If you’re out and about when inspiration strikes, use a voice recording app to take note of your ideas. Android users can access a Voice Recording app on their phones, and Apple users have Voice Memos available to them.
It’s worth thinking about the finished product when you create your song, too. Apps like Dropbox and WeTransfer let you create accounts for free and you can store and transfer your final pieces. If you want to add some extra flair to your recorded songs – or even just to experiment and have fun – there are lots of songwriting tools out there to jazz up the instrumental side of your music, too.
If the production side of songwriting isn’t your thing, there are still lots of competitions out there for you. You don’t have to be able to produce backing tracks, play instruments or be a master of riffs and intros to win a songwriting contest, as there are some lyric only categories open to songwriters.
Lyric contests welcome Lyric Only entries and look for poetic imagery, good song composition, and effective rhyme. Competitions such as the UK Songwriting Contest and the Great American Song Contest have Lyric Only categories that focus on the words themselves.
Lyric contests give you the option to upload some context alongside your submission. You can add a description about how you envisage the presentation/lyricist/style that accompanies your lyric. This is optional but including a description will help the judges picture how you imagine your song being brought to life.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I enter the same song into multiple competitions?
Different competitions have different rules and regulations so it’s always best to check their specific guidelines before you enter a contest. Most competitions allow you to enter a song that you’ve entered into other competitions and some contests even allow you to enter songs that have previously won other competitions.
- What if my song doesn’t fit into an exact category?
Enter your song into the category that suits it best. Your piece will be judged on its originality and quality, not it’s conformity to a genre. If you’re struggling to decide what category your piece fits into best, ask people you know to listen to it for you and give their opinion.
- Can I enter a song that I have released?
The rules may vary depending on the competition you enter, but songwriting competitions can accept songs that have already been released. You have to own the rights to the song – or be able to get permission from the copyright owner – to enter it into a contest though.
When you enter a song into a songwriting competition, that contest does not hold the rights to your music. You can still release that song to a record label and company after entering it into a contest.
Winning a songwriting competition may take a bit of perseverance and time. You might not win the first competition you enter, but don’t be disheartened. Even famous writers like JK Rowling and Stephen King faced a few rejections before their careers took off. The more competitions you enter, the better your chance of winning!
Do you know any other songwriting competitions? Have you got your own songs that you’d like to share? Show us in the comments below!