It’s songwriting contest time!

MerlefestThat’s right, folks. If there’s a chill in the air, that means it’s time to sharpen those pencils and get your submissions ready for the big songwriting contests. The two competitions that hold sway with bluegrass writers are accepting entries now for their 2017 events.

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest will be accepting entries through January of 2017, but there is a discounted fee of $25/song until November 30. After that date the fee goes up to $30. Proceeds from this annual contest, now in its 25th year, support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. To date, they have awarded more than $41,000 to students in need of financial assistance.

The contest also awards $600 to the first place winner in each of four categories:

  • Bluegrass
  • Country
  • General
  • Gospel/Inspirational

A $300 prize goes to the runner-up in each category with $100 for 3rd place. An online entry form is provided, and you can see the complete rules online. The competition is open to any songwriter who receives less than 50% of their income from songwriting or publishing. Instrumental music is not accepted.

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is affiliated with MerleFest in Wilkesboro, NC, and the three finalists in each category will be invited to perform their song live for the judges on April 28 at the 2017 festival, with accommodations and tickets provided. This performance is required to be considered for the prize.

dcbuAlso ongoing currently is the Hazel Dickens Song Contest, sponsored by the DC Bluegrass Union. Entries there must be submitted by January 5, 2017 for cash prizes of $500 for 1st, $250 for 2nd, and $100 for 3rd. There is a $30 fee for each song entered.

Rules for this competition largely mirror those for the Chris Austin contest, though this one is limited strictly to bluegrass music, in honor of Hazel Dickens’ contributions to the genre. Only online entries are accepted here, with full details listed online. Full contest rules and entry details are posted on the DCBU site.

Entries are judged by a panel of industry professionals who will be identified when the winners are announced in February 2017. There is no live performance component to this event.

Proceeds from the contest are donated to the DC Bluegrass Union, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit and all-volunteer organization which supports bluegrass music in and around the wider capitol area.

Both competitions exclude musical performance and studio production from the judging, and songwriters retain all rights to their material.

So get those songs ready, and send ’em in. Fame and fortune await!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.