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Contests Rule
By Danny McBride - 10/24/2002 - 04:37 PM EDT

By Danny McBride © 2002

I got another one. An invitation to submit twenty bucks to have people I know nothing about judge my best three songs to see if I might perform in front of music industry executives. Yes, I could be the new American Idol- -or not. Ah, probably not.

Now if everyone who has ever written more than "My Dog Has Fleas" sends in the money with the hope of being "one of the 100 finalists", these people running the contest will be set for the year. And what would it get you even if you won? Nada. Not even 15 minutes of fame.

Obviously songwriting contests are popular because so many people are writing songs and are unable to get to a publisher, a producer or an artist. But even if they win a contest, itís just that- -a contest- -it doesnít mean you will have an enduring songwriting career.

And if you enter as a writer- -make sure youíre telegenic- -between 18 and 24 or youíre out. Then get ready to do your Whitney Houston or Michael Bolton impression or no-go either. Nothing original, thank you. (Do they even know that they are really copying Aretha and Ray Charles?)

And thereís nothing original about the whole idea. Why donít you just send me twenty dollars and your demo, and Iíll tell you if itís any good. If I like it I will mail it to a record company executive. You get the same chance either way.

New artists arrive daily- -some on the radio or on TV, some as an unknown opening act getting a concert shot because the headliner (or the promoter) likes them (and they work cheap). Some battle their way up from the slime of uninhabitable bars and coffee houses, where a loyal following has made the cash register ring enough times for the club owner to have them back often enough so they get noticed.

Read the histories of your favorite artist(s). How many of them won contests? Oh, sure, Miss Armadillo of East Overshoe, Texas, went on to be a minor country artist. Or Punkie and the Funky Monkey whipped up a heart full of soul and made it on the chitlin circuit for a while.

But seriously- -How many of YOUR favorites won any of these contests? Or- -how many of these winners went on to wider fame and fortune. Okay- -Star Search produced Britney Spears, Sinbad and country act Sawyer Brown. But that was big-time TV, with many levels to go through to make it, like American Idol now.

Iím talking about these "Exciting Songwriter Contests" which are sponsored by people you almost never have heard of, or if you have, it is not in connection with running a songwriting contest. And if you win (and what would the chances of that be?), what do you actually win? A few bucks? A new guitar? Studio time? And that magic nebulous commodity "a chance to perform in front of Music Industry Executives". Will Clive Davis be there? David Geffen? Tommy Mattola. Don Ienner? I doubt it.

Hey!! Iím a music business executive if I want to be. Iíve even got a satin jacket somewhere in the back of my closet with a logo on it like all the record company weasels used to wear.

And I can talk just like them, complete with a thick veneer of sincere insincerity: Actual conversation overheard on the street outside of the legendary (and now defunct) Palomino Club in North Hollywood: "Hey, Man, Iím sorry I missed your set, but I heard you were awesome- -And I MEAN that".

Go ahead and enter if you like. Itís your nickel, or, rather, twenty bucks or more. But if I were you, Iíd just go out and play my tunes somewhere and hone my craft to a point where the material is the stand-out feature of what you do and you rule!! And there is no contest.

Do it. Theyíll find you.


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