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The 18th Annual International Songwriting Competition (ISC)

Heads up songwriters! The 18th annual International Songwriting Competition (ISC) is taking entries now and the deadline to enter is fast approaching. Much like Rootfire, the ISC is all about finding new and under-appreciated artists, and giving them some exposure as well as some assistance to reach their dreams. According to the ISC’s Director of Marketing, Shane Whalen, the goal of the ISC has always been to create a platform for songwriters to be heard and appreciated. 

This competition doesn’t happen in front of an audience, however, and you won’t be performing your song live in front of any judges. Anyone wishing to throw their hat in the ring must enter on their website, It is super easy and quick to register and there are no restrictions on who can enter, as long as it’s an original composition. 

Songwriters at any level are welcome, from those who are just finding their craft to successful touring acts with radio hits. This competition is a way you can take it to the next level and expose your music to a whole new audience. You will not be judged by the quality of the recording, vocal ability or performance, but purely on the song you wrote, except for in the Performance Category. The entries vary in recording quality; some are in rough demo-form and some are fully realized, fully produced masterpieces, ready for radio. Some of the entries have already had success with the public. But this contest is all about the quality of the song itself.

There are twenty three categories for artists to enter into, including World Music for the reggae songsmiths, a Lyrics Only category for the lyricist without a melody, as well as Comedy, Rock, Instrumental, Pop and many more. Each entry is competing not only within their own category, but also to win the grand prize. There are typically 15,000 to 20,000 entries, coming from well over 100 countries including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and all over Africa. Entering the ISC is a great way for international artists to get some recognition in the U.S. music scene. Songs can be in any language, and you can enter as many songs in as many categories as you want; you can even enter one song in multiple categories. 

And if you’re a songwriter in a more obscure, less mainstream genre like jazz, reggae, spoken word, or maybe your music just cannot be categorized… there’s still a place for you in this competition. One great thing about the ISC is that it’s not just focused on the mainstream, pop and rock. ISC has had grand prize winners from various genres like the World Music category, and has even had some heavy-hitting judges from the reggae scene, including Toots and The Maytals and Ziggy Marley.

Once the entries are received, a committee from the ISC will go through all the tunes and sift out their favorites. The best entries, or “finalists”  will be sent to a prestigious panel of judges, which includes some pretty big names like Tom WaitsLonnie Liston Smith and Bastille as well as important industry executives from Epic, Republic, Atlantic, to name a few. This esteemed panel will choose the winners based on six criteria: Creativity, Originality, Lyrics, Melody, Arrangement and Overall Likeability which is the ISC’s term for that x-factor that just makes a song great and you can’t describe why. The semi-finalists will be announced in February, the finalists in March, and the winners in April of 2020.

It might inspire you to know that the prizes for this years competition are pretty amazing, and they include not only hefty cash prizes, but all sorts of other gifts too. There are all different tiers of prizes for the various winners, the biggest being the grand prize which includes $25,000 (US) Cash, a fully mastered album, two free releases, microphones, year-long subscriptions to some great services like Gig Salad, Celebrity Access, SongU, Eventric and a bunch of other perks. The Teen Category winner will also win a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music’s amazing Five-Week Summer Program, gift cards for Sweetwater Sound, and promotion on the ISC website and social media channels.

If you want to take advantage of this opportunity, get to their website and enter your songs before November 6th. Some entry deadlines have already passed, and we are getting closer and closer to judging time. If you do miss the deadline though, keep an eye out for special opportunities to enter after that date. It is currently $35 to enter per song and per category; enter as many songs and categories as you’d like. Once you enter, you will hear back from them regularly on how the competition is unfolding.

The main goal of ISC is and always has been to create a platform for musicians to display their artistry, and to present them to people who are looking for new music. It may also give you incentive to keep creating and a little support along the way. People of all levels are encouraged to get involved, from newly blossoming songwriters to internationally renown acts.

Enter now at

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