The River's Badge

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dear Songwriting Contest People:


Stop emailing me.

I get enough annoying email as it is.


Let me be succinct (fat chance!):

Songwriting contests are scams.

Well, of course, it's not right to paint them all with a broad brush. Is it?

I will modify that statement with the caveat that, as far as I know, the NSAI songwriting contest is not a scam.

I believe I actually even entered the NSAI songwriting contest one time; you know, when I had money for frivolities.

My past history with songwriting contests is like most people's. I was a young (not in years, but in intelligence), naive songwriter. I posted songs somewhere; anywhere, really; online. That's how they hunt you down. They especially like the naive, stupid people.

That's how I ended up entering something called the Song of the Year songwriting contest. And guess what! I got an honorable mention! And guess what again! I bet everybody got an honorable mention!

You know, the Song of the Year songwriting contest also has a "lyrics only" category. Really? You know, lyrics are not a song. I think they should call that the "Song Words of the Year" contest. But you know, the thing about lyrics are, they don't necessarily even make a good song, even if some dunderhead would decide to try to put a melody to them.

Have you ever read the winning entries in American Songwriter magazine? Ha! First of all, they're all about seven miles long (judge for yourself!) I seriously think they should call it the American Songwriter Short Story Contest. Does anyone ever put these so-called "lyrics" to music? Would they then be considered concertos? Or whatever you call a piece of music that's extremely long and exhausting?

And I mean no offense to the winners, because they entered this contest in good faith. It's not their fault that the magazine is basically pandering.

And hopefully, the prize is something more than a free subscription to American Songwriter Magazine, because let me tell you...I had some issues with that magazine.

First of all, I paid for a year's subscription, and I ended up getting two...count 'em, two issues in the mail. When I emailed them about it, the person (if it was a person) was all concerned and sympathetic, and couldn't understand how that could possibly happen! Maybe my address was wrong, this person suggested. Hmmm....maybe....but then, how did I manage to get the first two issues?

Good point, said Concerned Customer Service Person. Well, let me just put the latest issue inside an envelope and mail it to you! How'd you like that? Fine. Whatever. I just want something in exchange for my money.

So, the very, very nice person did send me a copy of the issue I had already gotten (issue #2), albeit inside an envelope! Then, again, all deliveries stopped.

So, I once again emailed my friend at ASM, and again, he/she was completely perplexed. Maybe my address was wrong? Sorry, but I think we've been down this path before, I patiently replied.

I apparently offended my new friend at ASM, because he/she just refused to talk to me anymore. This, of course, aggravated me, so I emailed again and asked if someone, anyone (it didn't need to necessarily be my former friend) could either make sure I received the rest of what I'd paid for, or else would kindly refund my money.

Well, apparently, my former friend told all his/her colleagues about how he/she was not speaking to me anymore, and urged them to not speak to me, either. (You know how cliques are). So, alas, my relationship with the ASM people evaporated abruptly, as did the money I'd scrounged up to pay for their lousy subscription.

So, okay, I hope the songwriting winners don't just get a free subscription, because the contest entry alone costs $12.00, and a subscription costs $18.00. And if you only get two issues in the mail, well, you do the math. You're losing money on this deal.

It's not that I hold a grudge against this magazine for their abysmal customer service (well, kinda I do), but I think the facts need to be disseminated, so that a conscientious consumer can make up his or her own mind. I don't knock companies just for some kind of sadistic fun.

Back to songwriting contests in general. I wonder about the judges of these things, don't you? Most of these contests will be forthcoming about who their judges are, and in fact, are happy to tout the big names who've signed on.

Again, this is just odd. If you're a big-name musical artist, why are you wasting your time judging a songwriting contest? Are you so mercenary that you will take every little dollar bill that happens to float your way? That just seems greedy.

And you know (you do know, right?) that the bulk of the so-called judging is done by nameless, faceless people who could be the building janitor, for all we know. Although, in fairness, I would trust the janitor's judgment more than I would a whole bunch of people's. At least he is probably a music lover, and listens to music on his ipod while he is emptying trash and vacuuming. I know I certainly did that when I was scrubbing toilets as a motel maid (although, of course, there were no such things as ipods, since this was the seventies, but I did have a radio, and my dad's eight-track tapes).

So, once the faceless people whittle the entries down to about five or ten (just picking them randomly, really, because it's a boring job, and who cares?), they slap them on a CD and send 'em on over to a BIG-NAME judge, who, while driving somewhere important, will slide the CD into their player and do the whole skip-skip-skip thing, after listening to about 5 seconds of each song, and then they'll most likely pick the last song they happened to hear five seconds of, because, well, really it's a boring job, to be honest, but they want to follow the letter of the law and actually pick something, because they're getting paid big bucks to have their 8x10 plastered on a website as a "celebrity judge".

So, there you go. That's how songwriting scams contests work.

And, if you think about it, whether the contest charges ten bucks (fat chance) or $45.00 for each entry, well, WINDFALL FOR THEM! Multiply that entry fee times a whole lot of naive, stupid people, and what do you have? FREEEE MONEEEEY!!

If I was an unscrupulous person, in fact, I'd start my own songwriting contest. It'd be really simple. I could be rich! But, of course, I am not an unscrupulous person, and if I did start a songwriting contest, I'd be an honest judge. And I'd listen to all the songs in their entirety; not just five seconds. But I wouldn't steal from my fellow songwriters, so I'm not starting my own contest. I'm just saying, beware. Anybody can do it, and pretty much anybody has.

So, save your money, please. Take the money you save by not entering songwriting contests, and start a little demo fund for yourself. Every time you get one of those emails telling you it's your "last chance to enter", calculate the money you're saving by being smart, and stick that in your fund. It won't take long before you will have enough saved to get a professional demo made of one of your songs.

THAT is how you advance your career as a songwriter.

Now that my job here is done, I will return to my email account and continue moving those messages into my spam folder.
Postscript: OMG, I just got another email from those Song of the Year people! Stop! Just stop!

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