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With so many 'dodgy' songwriting contests, publishers, labels, promoters etc. what services on-line do you think are genuine, and a good opportunity. Do you have any experience with any? Are ther ones you would definately warn against?

Lets take it that all Songstuff support is genuine and present lots of good opportunities, so you don't need to mention them! ;)



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I notice that you replied to one of these things in Artiststuff.


I went to look at the site and didn't get as far as you did before I ignored it. I suspect the lack of response to the post is an indication of the contempt that ss members feel about it!

It is very difficult to know what is and isn't a genuine gig. Even the BBC are are suspect in there conditions of entry. I was looking at the BBC south west competition to find new talent. I figured I would post a song. But then I started to read to the rules and came across a few things that didn't sound right! Being a member of the ISA, I asked them to have a look and give me some feedback. This was their reply. (These are just the points that were raised.

Thank you for contacting International Songwriters Association.

Frankly, some of the provisions, though probably well meant, are


For example

3. No Material will be returned and shall become the property of

the BBC. It is therefore advisable for all the artist(s) to

retain a copy *

What exactly does "shall become the property of the BBC" mean?

6. The artist(s) will indemnify and keep the BBC indemnified from

and against all and any claims, costs, damages, expenses, actions

suffered or incurred by the BBC arising out of any breach of the

warranties hereby given

Are they joking?

7. The artist(s) permit the BBC to edit or change the Material in

any way that the BBC may in its sole discretion consider

necessary for the purposes of use in the BBC's internet services

Who is going to make the changes? Will the writer be asked to

agree? And will changes made affect the division of royalties

subsequently, or ownership in the future?

And finally......

8. The artist(s) by supplying the Material and entering into this

Agreement hereby irrevocably and unconditionally waive in

perpetuity any so called "moral rights" in respect of the

Material and grant any consents required under the Copyright

Designs and Patents Act 1988

The BBC in Londo already agreed to remove the "moral rights"

clause from their own Radio 2 contest, so what is it doing here?

I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Ray Coleman - Weekend Duty Officer


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John - I would warn against all of them.

There are usually two big signals for suspicion:

1.      the “send me your money” bit

2.      the “sign over (some of) your rights” bit

Now, admittedly, without 1 + 2 the business model for all these talent-search-song-contest-promo-stunts falls right over. Even if they have established a reputation for being “genuine” or “a good opportunity” I just can’t imagine them being able to work any other way. Maybe the BBC, being a publicly funded body, may not feel the need to levy an entry fee or a service charge for their contests – but rights have always got to be on the table. Nobody stands a chance of being able to do what they promise with your material without you giving them the right to use it.

You have to weigh up the costs and potential benefit for each – see if it’s worth it – and remember that it’s like buying a lottery ticket with the very large difference being that, in the unlikely event that you are a winner, they still need the right to exploit your success from a purely business point of view.

And what's your chances of winning the lottery?

At the very least, keep your eyes wide open, have your wits about you, and wear protective clothing.

Then again, I am a cynical old bastard.

Steve - None of those provisions are the least bit unusual.

#3 is simple admin policy: they figure to be overwhelmed with entrants and loads and loads of stuff for which they can't be expected to be responsible personally and return every little paper clip and cd and bio to all and sundry – think of the burden - so they state up front that they own the actual physical copies of whatever you’ve submitted – simple – no mention, no suggestion, and no intention to have “rights” in the content – just a reminder you might never get back what you sent ‘em, so better make sure to keep a copy yourself – good advice.

#6 – and no, of course they aren’t joking – this is another quite sensible and normal bit of legal bollocks – it means that if you submit something they end up using, but you’ve nicked it or pillaged it or plagiarised it or otherwise sampled yourself into an infringement of someone else’s rights on the way, then the Beeb’s ass is covered – and quite right, too.

#7 says nothing about division of royalties or ownership of rights – so that’s the bearing this clause has on those areas – nothing! – all it says is they want the freedom to bugger about with your piece explicitly and specifically for use on their internet services.

Who is going to do the buggering? – obviously they are – who else?

Will your agreement be sought? – if you sign it, your agreement won’t be necessary.

Also perfectly normal.

#8 – not that you have to agree to it, but it seems almost everybody expects you to waive your moral rights these days – it’s about being able to bugger about with your stuff again – they just want to be free to do what they, in their infinite wisdom, think they need to do to flog the concept - and they don't want you getting in their way.

Expecting you to waive moral rights is perfectly normal.

It's the basic belt to support the additional braces for #7

We are right not to like it, and right to expect to be consulted about potentially dodgy usage – but it’s still quite normal to be asked to give it up.

So why would Ray Coleman say these provisions are unusual?

Beats me.

At its worst, my cynicism can also extend to the ISA.


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Hi Lazz

Now that you've explained some of these points, I can see the logic in them. But I should think the whole point of these contests is to attract people, not bombard them with a bunch of bullshit that very few understand? Had they put in the notes 'No returns' surely thats going to be more palettable? You explained it pretty well in a few sentences why can't everybody else?

I shall remain a sceptic, it's safer that way...  :-/

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I agree, but I believe there are some cases where there is a reasonable approach to artists rights.

A good comp shouldn't need entrance fees. Prizes and running costs should be covered by sponsors, and advertising.

On the ownership bit. All a pucker contest should really care about is that they will not be charged for playing entered tracks, including letting the public hear the winning entries, and that they can produce clips of that material as part of promotion. The ability to resell the track is not ok. Most competitions, and others, don't clarify it legally. They simply stipulate that they can do anything they want with the submitted track.

Songstuff is very careful in the contests that it links to, and it doesn't really actively push any of them. I've thought about running contests, but aside from the actual overhead I would need to get a lawyer involved to make sure that I was being fair to artists, without exposing Songstuff to possible legal proceedings.

There is a great deal of benefit to be gained for artists in competitions, but a lot of costs, both direct and hidden., On balance there are a few worthwhile comps, that don't overly exploit the artist, and the benefits for even the starting competitor is tangible. Unfortunately these are few and far between.

On the cost to the artist. Many artists are prepared to cede the profit from a recording to a promotion exercise. i.e. if I give this track away for free, people might just notice me and the rest of the Music. But this tends to be only that recording, not the actual arrangement or song.

As you rightly point out, parting with the rights is a whole other issue. But lets face it, these guys look for those who are gullable or desparate.

If a service is free, doesn't place unreasonable restrictions, and truly does provide a tangible benefit, then for me that's cool (Songstuff more or less runs like that)

If it costs, it still shouldn't place unreasonable resctrictions on artists and their material, it should provide a very tangible benefit, but it definately should be endorsed by respected  organisations (preferably by sponsorship), and they should be built on a pedigree of respectable reputations.

That rules out about 99%.

Put it this way. I've never entered a song contest.



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Hi John.

Not that I've ever explored them too much, but I thought they all charged fees. Maybe just the ones I've thrown a cursory glance at.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to start with you listing the ones that don't.

Might also be helpful if you could name those few that are worthwhile, that don't overly exploit, and where a starting competitor sees tangible benefit.

As someone who has obviously evaluated the logistics of running your own contest for all the best reasons, it must have been salutory to realise all the legal bollocks you would have to get sewn up to make it happen effectively.

Basic rule is to follow the sage advice of the great scot George Wiley and "be suspicious".

And Steve - the whole point of these contests - perhaps with John's ambitions and the BBC excepted - is to make money.


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I agree, but I was meaning music competitions in general, not just the online ones. The ones that tend to be better for artists are normally where the competition isn't the main money making vehical, and the main purpose is the sponsors visibility. These can be run by organisations, but more commonly by the media (radio, tv, newspapers, music magazines etc.) but I have to admit many of them now want an entrance fee too. Sad but there you have it.

A tangible benefit for an entrant could simply be to be heard by a suitable panel. i.e. not just the drones.

As far as ambition goes, I'm not really interested in running a song comp. It was one of many ideas I looked at, but ruled it out for several reasons. I am thinking about Songstuff awards though. To be honest there are lots of ways Songstuff could help artists, and a Song comp takes a lot of effort to do fairly, and as you pointed, only really gives the full benefit to the winner.

As for salutory, more a resigned "typical!". ;)

I'll re-check the ones I thought were reasonable and post back the list (probably 3...).

The main purpose of a song contest is, as you say, to make money. Either directly from the contest (almost all on-line contests, possibly all), or from improved brand awareness and indirect sales like advertising. The typical online contest makes money anyway it can. As do most businesses.

As I said, I've never entered anything, apart from a few "battle of the bands" in my youth, and they were free.

The one thing the net has that brings out the greed, big style, is the apparent anonymity. I'm depressed now...

That is of course why Songstuff is so essential to re-dress the balance! ;D

Onwards and upwards!




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