INSIDE OUT is a look from within the Music Industry.
(Editorial note: this editorial opinion piece reflects the views of the author alone)
Part 1 of 2: Recap of the Jammin’ Challenge
The Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of talent, but it’s lacking exposure and radio support for beginning and rising artists. This is why five years ago, Mark and Linda Gordon started Seattle Wave Radio. They’re a friend to all artists, and there are no politics. PNW artists who make good music, will get air time. Streaming 24/7 with seven music channels, artists are played in a regular rotation where they will be heard. Seattle Wave Radio is 100% artist-centric.
What is a Jammin’ Challenge? Well, what it’s not is a pay-to-play Battle of the Bands, and there’s no entry fee, which surprises many. Artists are only asked to promote the show, and with 40% of the judging weight on audience response, it’s only natural an artist would want to make sure their fans were in attendance to support, especially when there are over $18,000 in prizes at stake. Most artists use a Kickstarter for recording, and a good portion of the prizes awarded this year were for recording sessions with some of Seattle’s top recording studios.
This year, was the 5th Annual Jammin’ Challenge and they received over 1,000 online entries. Bands had to submit what they thought was their best song through Reverbnation, and 350 met all of the submission criteria for participation. They went through several grueling rounds of eliminations by separate panels of judges. The first elimination broke the 350 into sections, which were listened to by a panel of judges, who culled the list to 41 contestants. Those 41 were heard by a second panel of nine judges drawn from the local Seattle music community. From 41, 16 went on to the next panel of different judges. All the listening sessions were “blind,” with the artist’s name and song title kept secret. The judges were not instructed to listen for or select artists with the “Seattle sound,” (whatever that is). Linda Gordon described it as “about as fair and impartial of a judging process as can be constructed.” Lastly, a panel of seven judges drawn from the local and national music community had the tough task of having to whittle it down to four bands, who competed live at the Hard Rock on November 20 – and what a diverse group they were!
MC for the evening was Seattle’s own Michael “Wanz” Wansley of “Thrift Shop”- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis The Heist fame. Wansley kept things moving and made for an extra fun evening by sharing some insider stories; from the making of “Thriftshop,” to touring the world with The Heist.
The final four artists were already all winners, having made it to that stage from 1,000 entries. With live performance, anything can happen and usually does. Even the judges don’t know the winner or order, for they vote independently in categories that Seattle Wave shares with the participants ahead of time, but does not want to share publicly. The Gordons said that the scores were very close and were recounted three times for accuracy. Judges and audience eagerly awaited the announcement of the winner. Only 60% of the score was a direct result of the judges, and the remaining 40% was from an audience paper vote. The winning order was:
1st place: Andrew Landers & The Mainstreet Struggleville
2nd place: Megan Wilde
3rd place: Northern Shakedown
4th place: Isaiah Dominguez
1st place: Andrew Landers and The Mainstreet Struggleville from Olympia, Washington. This guy is so darn likable. With 11 albums to his name, and having spent two decades on the road playing what has been called his narrative in the unsung-Americana Folk genre, he was a definite surprise. With a seasoned band of world-class musicians that included horns, Landers delivers the gospel of everyday life with a gutsy, raw, troubadour storytelling style. If the truth shall set you free, Landers has a stack of “get out of jail cards” in his pocket. This guy is the real deal and brought the judges to their feet, and cheers from the crowd. As the winner, Andrew received the following prizes:
• $500 cash from Seattle Wave Radio
• A recording session for one single at the award winning Crash Bang Boom Studio, with an original song professionally produced, mixed, and mastered by David Mark.
• A band photoshoot with rock photographer extraordinaire, Bill Bungard.
• A six-week, $1,250 promotion by Seattle WAVE Radio of the show of his choice in 2016 with a center slide, an interview, and a featured video post.
• Graphics (poster template) that can be utilized for numerous shows from Maurice the Fish Records’ branding expert Jessica Lynne.
• To cap it off, Andrew and The Mainstreet Struggleville will perform at Play It Forward 6, an annual all-star concert with some of the PNW’s iconic rock stars at The Triple Door on March 16, 2016, put on by Music Aid Northwest, an organization that promotes music education in schools. Tickets can be purchased here.
2nd place: The fiery and soulful Megan Wilde proved she is the new queen of Seattle soul. Wilde is a powerhouse with incredible range. From ballad to soulful rocker, she is a multi-talented entertainer. As with all live shows, there can be glitches, even when having done a sound check. There were some early sound issues leaving the opening song or two without a bottom. With bass and keys almost nonexistent, it left the songs a bit empty. But, it was corrected by the third song. That’s live performance. Despite planning and rehearsal for weeks, sometimes things can happen and on a night of competition, it can make the difference between first and second place. Do catch one of her performances and pick up her EP, Wildfire. Second Prize took home the following:
• A recording session for one single at the award winning London Bridge Studio, of an original song professionally produced, recorded, and mixed with producers Jonathan Plum or Geoff Ott. Released ad promoted worldwide by the professional team at London Tone Music.
• A six-week, $1,250 promotion by Seattle WAVE Radio of the show of artist’s choice in 2016, with a center slide, an interview and a video feature post.
• Two-hour consultation by CEO Raymond Hayden of Maurice the Fish Records spelling out specifically his “4S” approach to the current DIY music industry.
3rd place: Bothell quartet Northern Shakedown definitely had some fans in attendance. The crowd was with them from the start. The band blends influences from R&B and classic rock to hip/hop and post-rock. The foursome is comprised of two sets of brothers, Solomon Stewart/bass, Ben Weber/drums, Tyler Weber/vocals/guitar, and Jabreel Stewart/vocals/keys. They’ve been friends for 10 years since they met at church and honed their musical abilities in worship team. Pick up some free downloads here and watch for them at a club. They’ve been playing some pretty sweet lineups. Third place took home the following prizes:
• A recording session for one single at Critical Sun Studios, with mixing and mastering from the talented Bubba Jones, with an original song professionally produced, mixed, and mastered.
• A six-week, $1,250 promotion by Seattle WAVE Radio of the show of artist’s choice in 2016, with a center slide, and interview, and a video posted.
• A $50 gift certificate from Ted Brown Music.
• A one hour vocal lesson from Jessica Lynne
4th Place: Isaiah Dominguez drew the opening slot. Dominguez was one of the youngest artists at 25, and his youthful appearance and friendly candor gave him instant likeability. With raven hair and good looks, he was a definite hit with the females in the crowd. His pop songs were easy on the ears and the potential is definitely there, but he doesn’t have the notches on his belt like Andrew Landers, who has been down a road or two . . . or three. Dominguez hasn’t gone unnoticed however, having been asked to be a part of the London Tone Music Group 52×52 A Year in Your Ear music campaign to support up-and-coming artists. Having spent years as a solo artist, Dominguez is currently working on his first full band record, the Evergreen State EP, set to release in early 2016. Fourth place was awarded the following prizes:
• A professional music video shoot from Utopia Media Entertainment.
• A six-week, $1,250 promotion by Seattle WAVE Radio of the show of choice in 2016. With a center slide, and interview, and a feature video posted.
• A $50 gift certificate from Ted Brown Music
• Q & A session with the staff of Maurice the Fish Records regarding DIY
• 1. Branding: Bill Bungard, Jaci Sawtelle, and Jessica Lynne
• 2. Business: Jeremy Wolfson
• 3. The Reality of DIY: Raymond Hayden
All four finalists: The potential opportunity to be booked for a live show in 2016 at The Hard Rock Café, Seattle. The potential to be booked for other live shows, as bookers and producers were in attendance. There was one well-known producer there, who specifically came to see one of the artists perform live.
Special thanks to the judging panel, a virtual who’s who of music industry professionals, for lending their time and talent: Ed Beeson/Gigs4U, Andrew DB Joslyn/Passenger String Quartet, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Chase Manhattan/lead singer for Night Argent, the 2014 Jammin’ Challenge winner, Raymond Hayden/Maurice the Fish Records, Bob Tomberg/Music Aid Northwest, Geoff & Shannon Connor Castle/artists, and special guest judge Alan White, drummer for YES.
Keep a watch for part two: The Jammin’ Challenge -vs- Pay to Play Battle of the Band competitions. What makes them different? Do they help or hurt bands? Jammin’ Challenge philosophy and history.