Have you written a brilliant melody and some mind-blowing lyrics, but aren’t sure what to do with them? Entering songwriting competitions are great opportunities for songwriters and you can win some amazing prizes.
Find out which songwriting competitions you can enter to be in with a chance of winning cash, air time and industry packages. If you win, you’ll likely advance your career in leaps and bounds, as well as attracting the attention of record executives.
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. Read on to discover the best songwriting contests open to you.
Songwriting competitions you can enter
The idea of writing your own songs for a competition can be daunting. Before you go all the way and win a 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. And if you find yourself 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.
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.
Are songwriting contests worth it?
Yes. They offer opportunities and some amazing prizes. If you win a songwriting competition it may launch you into a lucrative and successful career.
But be sure to enter your song into the category that suits it best. Your piece will be judged on its originality and quality, not its 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.
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 amazing music apps out there to jazz up the instrumental side of your music, too.
UK songwriting contests
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.
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.
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:
This is hosted by Andrson, an innovative A&R platform which enables musicians to deliver their music to industry executives. The Andrson Uploaded competition runs from June 15th to November 11th and invites finalists to perform live in Dublin. A grand prize package includes €10,000 cash, a feature interview with Songwriting Magazine and a Dublin Vinyl Full Artist D2C Package. Entry is £15 per song, with 20% of sponsorships and all donations from the competition donated to the Make-a-Wish Ireland charity.
#2 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. Each entry with original lyrics automatically receives a free entry in The Lyricist Of The Year (LOTY) Awards. The overall entry fee is £15.
#3 BBC Music Introducing
The Beeb previously had its own songwriting competition. However, artists can now apply to feature on their Music Introducing programme. While not a traditional style contests with prizes and first or second place, it is a forum to compete for air time. If your original song is successful, you’ll be played on the BBC. So it’s well worth a shot.
Worldwide songwriting competitions
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.
#4 The John Lennon Songwriting Contest
In memory of the late John Lennon, the John Lennon Songwriting Contest 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. It doesn’t have to be polished. It’s more about artistry and creativity than professional recordings here. Entry is $30 per song, but you could win $300,000.
#5 International Songwriting Competition
International Songwriting Competition is an annual contest that is open to both amateur and professional songwriters. Submissions are judged on originality, creativity, lyrics (they exclude songs without them), melody, arrangement and overall likability. The fee to enter is $25 per song.
#6 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. Past judges include Tom Odell, Imelda May, Rumer, Chris Difford, and Emily Phillips. Entry is just £10 per song.
Songwriting competitions 2021
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 of 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.
#7 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.
#8 Unsigned Only
If you’re an independent artist, then this one’s exclusively for you. Unsigned Only comes from the same team as the International Songwriting Competition. It was designed as a segue for up and coming solo artists and bands to get noticed and it has many diverse categories for entry, including:
- AAA (Adult Album Alternative)
- AC (Adult Contemporary)
- EDM (Electronic Dance Music)
- Latin Music
- Pop/Top 40
- Screen Shot (original songs in all genres suited for placement in Film/TV/Advertising/Gaming)
- Teen (for artists 18 years old and younger)
- Vocal Performance
- World Music
Entry is $35 per track.
#9 Eurovision Song Contest
No doubt you’ll already be familiar with this one. But did you know, as a songwriter, you can put forward a track for consideration as the UK Eurovision entry? Obviously, the winning prize is the chance for it to be heard in front of millions, both live and televised internationally. Check out past winners to get some tips.
Free songwriting contests
Take care when Googling contests, or seeing ads. There are some scams out there. 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.
How do you win a songwriting contest?
Winning a songwriting competition provides great exposure as an artist. With exclusive prizes and the opportunity to receive feedback about your music, songwriting contests are an exciting opportunity. Here are some tips for acing it:
- 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
- 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
- If you’re submitting your song as an email attachment, keep the body of your email short.
- 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.
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.
- How do you get into the songwriting industry?
It may be overwhelming to know where to start and how to be original. But songwriting doesn’t have to be complicated. You can release your tunes online, via streaming or video apps. Enter your music into a library, or enter a competition. Aim for unique, not cliched and professional-sounding songs.
- What skills do you need to be a songwriter?
Try to write your music from the heart. 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. Be prepared to be experimental and original in these areas.
- Can anyone become a songwriter?
Yes. Although it helps if you have some understanding of music theory and song structure. You’ll also need a creative flair and the imagination to tell a story via your music. You’ll have the most success by penning catchy and original songs – so the more hooks you can create, the better.
Have you entered any songwriting competitions? Perhaps you have songs that you’d like to share? Share them in the comments below.