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Want to know more about entering Unsigned Only? Get the facts.

Story Published Thursday 13 February 2020
Unsigned Only

Open to solo artists, bands and singers from around the world that are not signed to a major label.

Unsigned Only is looking for great artists with heaps of potential.

Aussie and Kiwi previous winners: Sahara Beck, Kaylee Bell, Amy Shark, The Presets and more.

While it's pretty incredible that we live in a world where songs can be recorded and uploaded for global distribution in a matter of hours, it doesn't guarantee a label or publishing deal, a film or TV sync, airplay or playlisting.

Music creators still need to cut through all the noise. But, how? Well, one way to still get heard by industry pros is the humble songwriting competition.

Australian and New Zealand songwriters are well-acquainted with the homegrown Vanda & Young Global Songwriting Competition, and a lot of you also enter the popular, multi-genre, US-based Unsigned Only Music Competition (UO). For those unfamiliar with UO or undecided about entering, we asked UO's organiser – also the team behind the International Songwriting Competition – for a bit more intel on who should enter and how to get your music heard in 2020.

Who should enter Unsigned Only and why?

Solo artists, bands and singers from around the world who are are not signed to a major record label should enter the Unsigned Only Music Competition for the opportunity to further their careers. Sahara Beck was a first place finisher in 2018, and country artists Kaylee Bell and Jared Porter together took out the Grand Prize in 2015.

No other music competition in the world can match the calibre of UO's judging panel, which includes celebrity artists, heads of record labels, A&R, booking agents, licensing professionals, publishing execs, artist managers and more.

Getting your music heard and gaining access to decision-makers who can make a difference in your career is challenging and extremely difficult. Therefore, UO has created a platform where any artist in the world can enter for the opportunity to be heard by the exact kind of people who can make a difference.

Since launching seven years ago, five Unsigned Only Grand Prize winners have been signed to record label deals (e.g., Warner Nashville artist Ingrid Andress, who is currently on Billboard's Hot 100 chart), making Unsigned Only a leading source for getting record deals. Many other winners have also secured licensing deals, publishing deals, better gigs, press and more recognition after winning the competition.

Sahara Beck - Here We Go Again

What are the differences between your two competitions Unsigned Only and International Songwriting Competition? Can songwriters enter both?

The focus of ISC is finding great songwriters and songs, whereas Unsigned Only is looking for great artists.

Both competitions offer cash and prizes and the opportunity to be heard by celebrity artists and industry professionals, but Unsigned Only also provides the unique opportunity for the Grand Prize winner to be personally mentored by major record label executives. Additionally, Unsigned Only also accepts cover songs.

Are there any trends you’re seeing in terms of UO entries – any new territories bubbling? Genres growing?

We continue to see an increase in international artists participating in the competition. This makes sense given the desire for all artists to be recognized by US-based music industry execs. Additionally, we’ve seen a marked increased in Latin Music, World Music, EDM (Electronic Dance Music), and R&B/Hip-Hop entries. Not coincidentally, you can also see these trends reflected in the global music charts.

Where do you see songwriting competitions sitting in terms of discovery by A&Rs, publishers, agents, etc.?

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you, and both competitions allow artists the opportunity to get known.

UO specifically includes A&R, publishers, booking agents, licensing professionals and artist managers on its judging panel to increase the opportunities for artists to be discovered.

With all the amazing talent in the world these days, artists need to be very proactive and take advantage of every opportunity they can to help further their careers. UO believes the past success of its winners getting record deals, better gigs, exposure to licensing and publishing execs and more, is a strong indicator that UO can help artists get known.

How can someone know if a song is 'song comp’ worthy? And, does it need to be mixed, mastered, released?

All songs are ‘song comp’ worthy. Production quality is not a criteria for our listening committee. Songs entered do not need to be mixed, mastered, or previously released. UO receives both professional and home studio recordings and believes a great artist and a great song will shine through regardless of the production quality of the recording.

Australian and New Zealand songwriters are often well-represented in your finalists and winners lists, what is it that sets the Aussies and Kiwis apart?

UO always looks forward to entries from Australia and New Zealand because the artists are so creative and interesting. The credit is most likely due to the support of organisations like APRA AMCOS and triple j, who actively encourage and promote their local artists through exposure and grants. That kind of support allows artists more creative freedom to find their true self and form, and UO believes that helps set them apart.

ISC has had a long list of successful past winners, including Gotye, Vance Joy, Amy Shark, Kimbra, Kate Miller-Heidke, Dean Lewis, Gin Wigmore, Kasey Chambers, The Presets and on and on. UO hope that more Aussies and Kiwis will also consider entering the Unsigned Only Music Competition so UO can continue to help undiscovered artists get more recognition here in the USA and abroad.

Any other words of encouragement for the unsigned music creators out there?

UO encourages artists to remain proactive in their pursuits and take advantage of any opportunity available to be heard. There are countless examples of artists being rejected and later finding success in their career. Be true to yourself and stick with it!

Amy Shark - Adore