Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

A free, open song contest idea

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.

Doesn't it seem so out-dated, unnecessary, and greedy?

Why not make a totally-free annual song contest done only for the benefit of the art/craft of songwriting? Wide open and community-driven.

It costs almost nothing to set up a simple site where songwriters can upload their best song, and people can vote on them.

The listening, judging, and voting is best done by the largest number of people possible. (Read “The Wisdom of Crowds” if you disagree.)

It'd be double-blind anonymous, so listeners won't know who they're listening to, preventing favoritism or ballot-stuffing. (They can find out who it is after they vote, so they can find more about the ones they loved.)

Every negative vote against a song would have to include a reason, so the songwriter can receive some constructive critique.

Companies that provide services or products for musicians would be asked to contribute something as a prize. Every prize will be listed so that each songwriter uploading a song gets to choose which prize they would like if they win. Maybe you need a marketing consultation, but don't need a ProTools plugin.

With lots of prizes, that means lots of winners, instead of just one.

Companies would get good advertising from thousands of musicians considering each of their offerings, and saying which they want.

Songwriters would get good critique on their song, bragging rights and a prize if they win.

Listeners would be both music-fans looking for great new music, and fellow songwriters who must judge a few anonymous songs for every one of theirs they want entered.

The website interface would be in many languages, so songwriters and listeners from Japan to Brazil to Greece to Russia could all contribute equally.

Have it funded by someone who isn't trying to profit off of this, but just thinks it should exist. (me?)

I love how Just Plain Folks Music Awards does it. I'd say they are closest to this vision.

Seems it'd take nothing but one programmer and one organizer to make it happen. What do you think? Any thoughts or ideas? I'm just thinking out loud. The idea is only a few minutes old, so be as critical as you want.