Songwriting Contest Tips

Should I Enter a Songwriting Contest?woman playing piano

Songwriting contests and competitions can be a fun, relatively painless way of getting feedback on your song. At Music City SongStar, if you place in the top 25, you can earn cash (always a good thing) and prizes. If you place in the top 4, you get a chance to play in our Awards show. For every semi-finalist finisher and above, you can use the graphic we send you to push out on your socials. It’s another credit to your name to put in your parenthesis. It can also keep you motivated, keep you focused and keep you going on the road to your dreams! So, how do you increase your odds of winning a songwriting contest?  Read our advice below:

Have a Short Introduction

Judges listen to hundreds of songs, so get to it. Is it an awesome guitar lick or piano riff? Maybe, but save that for the album version or your live performance. For the sake of time, get to the verse as soon as possible. Try to make sure your intro is no longer than 14 seconds, and shorter is even better. You don’t want the judges to tune out before your tune starts!

You Don’t Need a Fully Produced Demo to Compete

At Music City SongStar, we don’t judge on production value or vocal performance. With that being said, try to present your song in the most professional way possible. You don’t have to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars producing your song, but you want to make it easy on the ears. Plus, you want to be able to make changes if you get some great feedback from the judges, so if you spend a lot of money fully producing your song, you won’t want to go back and redo it. If you don’t have access to a studio or you are not well versed in Garage Band, find a friend or passionate musician who can help you. It shouldn’t cost too much to get a clean, clear version of your song. You don’t need an 8-piece band. A good guitar or piano track with strong vocals will usually work to showcase your song well. If your song is an EDM or a dance song, then you may have to spend some time building the track, but in most cases, simple is fine!

Vocals Up

The guitar player might be smokin’ and you might be the next producer extraordinaire. But for a songwriting contest, let the song be the star, not the producer. The lyrics are half of the equation, so get the vocal out there. If you are doing a demo, do a version with the vocal up and out in front, not buried in the mix. The engineer might look at you like you’re crazy, but make them do it. Or if you are mixing it yourself, do a version with the vocal way out in front. If judges are listening to hundreds of songs, making them strain to hear or understand the lyrics are not going to do you any favors. Trust us on this one.


Good singers are worth their weight in gold! If you can’t sing or are just okay (which is totally ok!), you may want to hire a professional demo singer or barter with a friend who can sing. Great singers can bring out the best in any song! If you know an up and coming singer who is trying to get exposure and attention, getting practice and studio experience is great for them, too. Also, there are many times when we have been in meetings where people say, “who’s singing?” It’s another way to get their name out there! Great singers need great material, so connecting with a great singer is another way for you to get your songs out there, too! Win-win!


Again, judges are listening and evaluating hundreds of songs, so don’t make them listen to a long instrumental. Just do a short turnaround and get on with the next section.


“Don’t bore us…get to the chorus.” The chorus is the hooky part of the song. The part of the song that should pop, soar, sting, move us, etc. It also gets the listener invested and connected to your song. Again, get them involved and try to do it in under 60 seconds!

Title Schmitle

Make sure your title/hook is really your hook. Just because it’s clever, doesn’t mean it’s great for your song. All lines should point to the hook (title). If you wander and meander, the listener will, too. Tighten it up and ask yourself if each line supports your hook. Sometimes, there might even be two songs in one. Go over each line and make sure it is saying what you need to say.


Again, present your song well and make sure the lyrics that you submit match the lyrics in your song. Go over the audio with a fine-toothed comb and make sure every word is the same as on your lyric sheet. You don’t need to list the vocal oohs and ahhs, etc. Are there typos or completely different lines in your audio that are on your lyric sheet? If so, fix them before submitting. You want the judges to be swept up in the song, not confused!

In Summary:

  • Have the written lyrics, without typos, to the song
  • Have a clean and clear audio file of your song
  • Make the intro short
  • Have short instrumentals
  • A short outro
  • Get a good singer to sing your song
  • But most of all, Enter a Song!
    • Stop procrastinating! At the very least, you will get some great feedback and feel like you are taking steps to get better at your craft
    • And while you’re at it, enter more than one song

To get additional songwriting tips and advice visit:


Gain insight on Music City SongStar’s judging criteria here.

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