The Lure and Heartbreak of Songwriting Contests
Every so often, I’ll be perusing a Facebook songwriters user group or a blog about home recording or the like, and up pops up a newly advertised songwriting contest. The lure is always so powerful. “… at last…. finally a chance for my masterpiece to get the recognition it [I] deserve!” Then, right about the time I hit “submit” or “finalize order,” after I’ve tapped my credit card information into the contest’s online entry page, it hits me that there are hundreds, if not thousands—maybe tens of thousands—of other people doing exactly the same thing. Oy.
So, I spend the next two weeks telling myself in my sensible grown up inside my head voice “I know I probably have no chance of winning, but that’s not why I make music anyway.” All the while my starry-eyed unrealistic teenager inside my head voice is suggesting how I might want to pose in the press picture the contest sponsors are going to want me to provide after they tell me I’ve won. Really pretty sad when you get right down to it.
But if you’re the only kid in your family or circle of friends who likes chess, baking, making sock puppets, writing music—whatever, you can’t help but be drawn in by the hope, unrealistic though it may be, of finding someone… anyone to tell you they like what you’ve done in a way that doesn’t feel like your mom’s putting the picture you drew on the fridge way more for your emotional neediness than her own enjoyment. I think that’s what makes these sorts of contests such a potent enticement for people who make art. Sure, lots of folks paint, sing, write, play, etc., for the simple love of doing it, but there’s not a one of them who wouldn’t also be jazzed if the world also said “that’s awesome.”