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Q & A with Unsigned Music Competition

Story Published Tuesday 23 March 2021
L-R: Sahara Beck, Casey Barnes, Gordi have all been honoured by UO

As artists look for new opportunities to get their music out there in 2021, we thought it was a good time to check in again with our mates at Unsigned Only. Over the last nine years, the Nashville-based global competition that has become increasingly influential at discovering new artists.

UO is accepting submissions now, so we've asked the organisers seven questions about this year's comp to help you out if you're considering entering.


How can UO help grow an artist’s profile?

Unsigned Only’s mission is to help artists get more exposure and recognition for their music. Since Unsigned Only launched nine years ago, many winners have gone on to sign record, publishing, licensing deals, and more, making Unsigned Only a leading source for the industry to discover emerging artists.

Previous winners include Ingrid Andress (Warner Nashville) who was nominated for three 2021 Grammys -- and was a guest at SongHubs on the Gold Coast in 2019 -- including Best New Artist, and Faouzia (Atlantic Records) who recently released the single "Minefields," a duet with the iconic artist John Legend. Other entrants have included Gabby Barrett, Tenille Arts, BélO, Goodbye June, Anna Wolf, Wes Mack, Eric Ethridge, and more. The fact that these artists all entered Unsigned Only is a testament to the value they thought entering the competition would bring to their music careers.

Additionally, just going through the entry process is a valuable learning exercise for any artist early in their career. It requires organising your body of work and learning how to best represent yourself as an artist. This is a skill that translates to every other aspect of making connections in the industry.

How does UO put music in front of key industry pros?

Every year, Unsigned Only assembles an esteemed panel of judges that includes celebrity recording artists and industry executives. Over the years, judges have included iconic artists such as Iggy Pop, Aimee Mann, Kelly Clarkson, Robert Smith (The Cure), Linda Perry, Cyndi Lauper, Carly Simon, The Killers, Chris Daughtry, Kenny Rogers, Bow Wow, Grouplove, and many more. Industry judges have included reps from Rolling Stone, Yahoo Music, Pandora, Summerfest, JazzTimes, iHeart Radio, Complex, Paradigm Talent Agency, The Breakfast Club, Blues Music Magazine, Guitar Player, and many more.

These judges are exactly the kinds of people that can have a direct impact on an artist’s career. Additionally, our finalists are shared with thousands of A&R, licensing, and publishing executives in an effort to garner more recognition for their music and help them move forward in their careers.

Besides prizes, how does Unsigned Only support artists?

In addition to the prizes that include guitars, microphones, drum kits, and more, the recognition and exposure we generate for our winners through press and outreach to our partners is invaluable.

We are constantly fielding inquiries about our winners - whether that be potential showcase slots, festival performances, licensing opportunities, publishing outreaches, you name it. We are always looking for additional opportunities for our entrants to help them with their music careers.

What kinds of opportunities does Unsigned Only present to Australian and New Zealand songwriters?

Unsigned Only provides artists the opportunity to get more exposure internationally and in the USA. Becoming a winner in the competition is a verified acknowledgement of their talent, and this success is often used to apply for grants and travel visas, whether that be for touring, conference showcases, co-writes, etc.

Conversely, with travel being so restrictive at the moment, this is a great opportunity to get more international exposure from the safety and comfort of your own home.

Aussies and Kiwis have a long track record of doing well in the competition. Past entrants have included Kaylee Bell, Imogen Clark, Gordi, Casey Barnes, Sahara Beck, Du0, Jared Porter, and many more.

Can you tell us about the prizes that entrants can win along the way?

Unsigned Only awards over US$150,000 in cash and prizes to First and Second Place winners in each category. Additionally, we also host a series of special promotions throughout the competition, each with its own unique opportunities and prizes. Having both category and promotion winners allows us the opportunity to recognize even more artists for their talents.

If you enter UO are you ready for International Songwriting Competition?

Unsigned Only is looking for talented unsigned artists, whereas ISC is looking for great songs and songwriters.

Since the focus of Unsigned Only is on the artist, original music and cover songs are accepted. However, ISC only accepts original music, so all artists who perform their own original music are eligible to enter ISC.

A lot of artists enter both competitions, expanding the possibilities of winning prizes, recognition, and furthering their careers. It is so difficult to forge out a career in the music business that it is important for all artists to take advantage of all legitimate opportunities - and entering music and songwriting competitions can definitely be a productive path to help artists achieve their goals.

Last question – when is the deadline?

Unsigned Only’s extended deadline is approaching fast on 28 April 2021 (still open as of 29 April!) This is a great opportunity to enter your songs and get more recognition for your music. To learn more and to enter your songs, please visit the Unsigned Only website.