International Songwriting Competition"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview"
International Songwriting Competition

The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) is an annual song contest whose mission is to provide the opportunity for both aspiring and established songwriters to have their songs heard in a professional, international arena. ISC is designed to nurture the musical talent of songwriters on all levels and promote excellence in the art of songwriting. Amateur and professional songwriters and musicians are invited to participate. With a mix of legendary artists and top major and independent label executives, ISC has the most prestigious panel of judges of all the songwriting and music contests in the world - offering exposure and the unique opportunity to have songs heard by the most influential decision-makers in the music industry.

Today we are talking with Shane Whalen. Shane grew up in Dallas, Texas and early on ventured into the Entertainment industry. He started an independent film production company in Venice, CA, and produced a feature film. Focusing on his own music led him back to Nashville and current job as Director of Marketing for ISC.  Additionally, Shane was a Semi-Finalist in ISC 2009. He can speak first hand  from an artist's perspective what it's like to enter the competition and some of the benefits that come with entering.

JazzMonthly: How did the International Songwriting Competition get started and how has it evolved?

SW: ISC was founded in 2002 by Candace Avery, who at that point already had an extensive career in the music industry.  She was the founder of both the Boston Music Awards and NEMO Music Festival & Conference.  From the beginning of her career, her main objective was to help aspiring musicians and industry professionals further their careers and to give exposure and recognition to their achievements. ISC carries on this tradition to this day by striving to be the world's best songwriting competition, offering entrants the chance to participate in over $150,000 in cash and prizes, as well as the opportunity to be heard by some of the industry's best celebrity artists and industry executives.

JM:Your judges really span the gamut of music genres. Tell us the criteria in choosing your different judges.

SW: ISC is looking for artists and industry executives to join our judging panel that are recognizable names to anyone with a passion for music.  Judges have included notable artists like Pat Metheny, Vijay Iyer, Branford Marsalis, Danilo Perez, Boney James, Cassandra Wilson, Mike Stern, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Trombone Shorty, Stanley Clark, Terence Blanchard, B.B. King, Peter Gabriel, Rihanna, Nas, Tom Waits, Lorde, Kelly Clarkson, Don Omar, Kesha, Adele, John Mayall, as well as Presidents, CEOs, and A&R executives from Concord, Universal Republic, Atlantic, Interscope, Sire, Capitol, Sony, and many more.

Music Categories

International Songwriting Competition - Nov 6 DeadlineJM: What are the various music categories, and how can someone enter the ISC? Is there a limit to how many entries a contestant can submit to the ISC? How much does each cost?

SW: ISC has 23 music categories, including Jazz, Instrumental, Blues, Country, Performance, Rock, Pop/Top40, Folk/Singer-Songwriter, and many more.  In short, there is a category for almost any kind of music out there.  There is no limit to the number of songs a person can enter.  Currently, our extended deadline runs until November 6th, and the cost per is $35 (US).

JM: The ISC offers some amazing Cash, Grand, and Category prizes. Can you tell us about them.

SW: We are constantly looking to pool together prizes that can add real value to our winners.  That could be a new microphone, mastering services, guitar strings, recording software, recording time, and more.  The Grand Prize Winner is awarded $25,000 in cash (US), along with other prizes and merchandise.  All category winners also have the chance to be awarded prizes from our generous sponsors, which include Dark Horse Institute, Berklee College of Music, Lurssen Mastering, Celebrity Access, JBL by Harman, PreSonus, SongU, ONErpm, Musician Wellness, Musicians Institute, Gig Salad, Merch Cat, Disc Makers, Eventric, D'Addario, AKG by Harman, CAD audio, Sweetwater, and more.

JM: Shane, you have inspired so many rising artists. How is the ISC's "boost" to them a fulfilling feeling for you?

SW: I am constantly reminded just how much talent there is in the world.  The opportunity we have to help promote our entrants, and hopefully provide a "boost" to their music careers, is extremely rewarding.  Whether that be in the form of more publicity, better gigs, securing publishing deals, introducing music licensing opportunities, or just the validation that their art is worthy, all of these are reasons why people enter ISC and why my job is so rewarding.

Past Winners

JM: Please tell us about some of the past winners and their particular musical journeys and achievements.

SW: Gregory Porter (won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2014 for Liquid Spirit and in 2017 for Take Me to the Alley), Gotye and Kimbra (their 2011 single "Somebody That I Used to Know" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100), The Band Perry (their ISC entered song "If I Die Young" reached No.1 on the Billboard Country Charts, and No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, Other winners have included Vance Joy, Bastille, Passenger, Kasey Chambers, Lindsey Stirling, Kate Miller-Heidke, Kingmu Charles, Gin Wigmore, Andrew Bird, Kehlani, for King & Country, Omar Sosa, and many more.

JM: Who is eligible to enter?

SW: Anyone, from anywhere in the world, at any age, can enter ISC.  The only restriction in place is our Teen category entrants must be 18 years or younger as of December 31, 2018.

JM: Can professional songwriters enter the ISC, or do entrants have to be strictly amateurs?

SW: Absolutely.  ISC offers opportunities to both aspiring and established songwriters to have their songs heard in a professional, international arena.

JM: In addition to the other fantastic prizes, the recognition and exposure alone is so important to people who submit their works to the ISC. Can you tell us more about that?

SW: Given that we typically receive between 15-20k entries per year, becoming a winner in our competition is quite an accomplishment.  Therefore, we try hard to help spread the word about their achievement through all of our channels.  That includes press, social media,  and "word of mouth", to name a few.

JM: Has this "calling" of yours to help songwriters and artists always been a large part of your life?

SW: I have been writing songs since I was 15 years old, and honestly never thought I would have a career in the songwriting field.  It's nice to be able to combine a personal passion with  a career, where the main goal is to help garner exposure for other songwriters.  I definitely consider that a personal "Win Win".

JM: What would you say to someone who might be somewhat hesitant to enter, because they feel that their works are just not quite good enough? 

SW: I would say it's hard to achieve anything if you do not try.  Everyone knows that art is a subjective, and artists can be their worst critics at times.  I would tell anyone considering entering to select what they think is their best song and enter the competition.  Then, you can see for yourself how that song performs.  Additionally, we've had artists who eventually become winners with a song they had entered a number of times.  Judges change, trends change, but it never hurts to keep trying to achieve your goals and dreams.



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