By Sheena Metal
Imagine this: you’re a huge rockstar. You’re pool is filled with hotties and your bathtub with champagne. You have a coffee table made out of your signature guitar and your Cadillac Escalade has beer on tap and a flat screen high definition TV. Even with all of the expensive toys and extravagant showpieces in your crib, the thing that first draws the attention of press and partygoers alike: the wall lined with your awards.
Admittedly, human beings, are fascinated with awards. We love to gawk at the shiny trophies, glossy plaques, and framed certificates of any and every kind of winner. And, as a species, we place a lot of stock in the importance, abilities and general "coolness’ of those who've come home "the winner." So, it’s no surprise that musicians are constantly submitting to the many awards and entering the myriads of contests offered to unsigned artists every year. After all, with a couple of awards on the wall of your garage, can a hot tub full of babes really be that far behind?
But what if you continue to enter and never win? What if time and time again you have to send out the newsletter announcing that you’re not the "Best Band Of The Year" or the "Best Songwriter in the Nation" or even the winner of the "Battle Of The Most Mediocre Bands In The Midwest." Will you be branded as a loser? Will your fans abandon you, asked to be removed from your mailing list, line their birdcages with your CDs? It is really better to have entered and lost than never to have entered at all?
The following are a few tips that may help you to fill up your trophy room without becoming the laughing stock of the indie music community:
1.) Enter Contests You Have A Chance Of Winning---Sounds like a given, but you’d be surprised how many new bands enter Billboard’s contests for the first time and are then amazed when they don’t walk off with a room full of accolades. Building a resume of award nominations and wins is very similar to building up your reputation as a gigging band or filling up a folder full of press. Start small, submitting to smaller local and regional contests/ awards that you’re more likely to get a nod for then the national and worldwide events. Then you can submit to the bigger organizations with a list of awards and wins on your resume. Everybody loves a winner and seeing that you’ve already won various awards may inspire the powers that be to nominate you for their particular contest.
2.) Pick The Contest That Will Best Publicize Your Band---We all love to win. But more important than basking in the glory of becoming king or queen for a day, awards are fantastic publicity tools for your band. Nothing shines up a bio, website, email blast or blog like the words "nominated" and "won." These vocabulary heavyweights are certain to perk up the eyes and ears of clubs, fans, press and the industry alike. When deciding which awards/contests to submit for, keep in mind that this organization’s event may well be the flagship of your promotion for months. Sayings like: "vote for us for…", "we’re nominated for…" and "we’re the winners of…" will top every mailer you send out during the run of the competition, so make sure you get something great out of it for your band, even if it’s not the gold plated statue you’d hoped for.
3.) Promote A Nomination As A Win---Even though it sounds like something your high school band instructor would tell you, just being nominated is really a win for you and your band. So, if you’re lucky enough to garner a nomination for your awards de jour, make sure your promo machine hails you as a winner. Start your announcement with, "We’ve been honored with a nomination for Best Pop Band" and not "We’re one of six bands that may win this award if we get enough votes." The nomination itself is an accolade of its own accord and should be included to any list of band accomplishments. If, by chance, you happen to win the award or contest, then promote that as another bigger accomplishment. For example: "We’ve been honored with nominations for the Best Music in the Universe Awards in five categories including: Best Drummer, Best Bass, Best Songwriting, and Best Female Vocals, and were thrilled to take home the award for Best Alternative Band." To fans and industry alike, this looks like five awards and not one.
4.) A Win For A Band Member Is A Win For The Band---As creative people, we all have a need to be recognized for our individual talents, and as such, would all like to be nominated and hopefully win for each of our respective specialties. But awards and contests can be fickle and even though your fans rave about your guitarist or your songwriting, it may be your drummer who walks away with a nomination/award. Remember always that a band is a unit...all for one and one for all...and that without your killer vocals and great songs, your drummer may never have been noticed in the first place. Therefore, promote any nominations and awards for your band’s team as a win for the band. If your singer wins a writing award for his/her lyrics, your band has won. If your bassist gets a pick endorsement, your band has won. If your guitar tech gets nominated for Best Tuning, your band has won.
Awards and contests can be tricky when egos, pride, and the eager anticipation to win, mix in with the already delicate balance of the creative temperaments that make-up a band. Keep this in mind and be careful when entering contests. Sure, it’s fun to get awards and prizes but not if it means your band will break up two weeks later. Enter into contests/award shows as a way to publicize your music and further your career as a band but try not to get caught up in the manic frenzy of seeking award wins like a crack addict in rehab. So, head to the mall, get a plaque engraved that says, "Best Band In The World" and stick it up in your rehearsal room to remind yourself that you’re a winner everyday just for: having the courage to write songs, record them, get up in front of people and play them, deal with critics reviewing your music, weathering rejections from the industry and entering into a very personal creative relationship with three or four other artistic people without murder ensuing. Then, when the time comes that your wall fills up with trophies and accolades from the industry, get a keg of beer invite the groupies and party like the rockstar you are.
Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 1,000 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides. For more info: