What We Have Learned About the American Idol Songwriter Contest

UPDATE – APRIL 27: Big, huge, fun American Idol liveblog + discussion happening on our new discussion boards.

Our readers kick butt. Seriously, you guys, you rock. The discussion has been great and my inbox has been full of really insightful stuff.

The American Idol Songwriter contest seems like the kind of poke our working musicians’ hornet’s nest has needed for some time. In some ways, it feels like validation for a lot of musicians that toil at an often thankless craft. At the same time, we have been bombarded by so many crummy contests over the past decade, that it’s natural for so many people to be suspicious about the intent of the producers.

Perhaps I sound like a Pollyanna when I say that I honestly don’t think these folks are out to screw anyone over. There’s a lot of discussion here and elsewhere about whether it’s a good idea to enter. For some folks, this contest is perfect. For other people, not so much. It’s up to you to decide what’s right for you.

Here are some things we’ve learned about the American Idol Songwriter competition that weren’t so clear a few days ago:

  • A close reading of the rules makes it appear that EVERY one of the Top 20 writers selected will enjoy a one-song publishing option with a $10,000 advance against royalties. This is not a “publishing deal” in the traditional sense, but its terms are similar.
  • As with all song options, there is a danger that a song you write could make the Top 20 and never get used by anyone. That’s a risk that all songwriters take, and you remedy that by doing what Dolly Parton and Diane Warren have done — write something EVERY DAY. If you’re going into this contest with only one completed song under your belt, it’s unlikely you’ll win.
  • You can enter more than one song. The rules were a little confusing here, but the intention of the producers is pretty clear — they would be more than happy to take your $10 again and again. Is this the right strategy? Probably only if you have a huge songwriting range and you want to try to submit songs from different points in your spectrum. If all your songs sound alike, you may be better off going with just the best one.
  • You can enter only unpublished material. If you’re collecting ASCAP or BMI royalties from a song, you can’t enter it. I’m betting at least one song will end up getting disqualified because of this.

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80 responses

  1. Hello. I read the rules pretty carefully, and I disagree with you on a couple of your points. First, it said pretty specifically that each person who enters the competion can only enter ONE song. Also, the $10,000 prize is awarded ONLY to the winner, not all 20 finalists. I just wanted to clarify so that no one is mislead. : )

  2. Brad,

    I thought that was the case, as well. However, readers in an earlier thread have pointed out these two pieces of the rules:

    “3.1.b. [In order to enter the Competition you must] submit one Song for entry into the Competition.”

    At first, I read this the same way — thinking that you were limited to one entry. However, this rule only stipulates that you must enter *a minimum* of one song to qualify for the contest. It does not actually limit you to one song, and the “submit another song” button in the entry application itself shows the producers’ intent to allow multiple entries. Nowhere in the T&Cs does is say that you are limited to one song.

    “3.5. If the Song is selected by 19 Entertainment as one of the Top 20 Songs, you (and all Co-Writers) will be required to enter into a further agreement… in return for an advance to you of $10,000 against a royalty to you of 75% β€˜at source’ worldwide.”

    When I first read THAT, I must have just assumed that they couldn’t possibly mean ALL TWENTY. But readers pointed out that, on close reading, they mean all twenty. And that makes sense, because running any of these songs on national television would burn through a hefty chunk of that advance, anyway. Remember that this is NOT prize money — this is just an advance against some royalties that you would be entitled to anyway. That’s why they are very careful not to promote a “prize.”

    What’s even more confusing is that there is a separate set of terms and conditions for the site in general that applies to the “Fantasy Games.” The T&C for the contest is in the tiny mice-type box on the actual registration page, here:

    http://songwriter.americanidol.com/Registration.aspx

  3. Hi,

    There’s been some great discussion and information here. However, I’m not clear on how the $10,000 advance would work. Can someone explain this in detail and offer an example?

    Thanks!

  4. Great question, Dave.

    Normally, when you enter a publishing agreement, your publisher’s job is to collect royalties from any of the entities that use your song. That could be anything from a label whose artist wants to cover your tune to a film studio that wants to put your song in a movie. In exchange for handling the paperwork and, in the case of better publishers, using their connections to get your song more exposure, a publisher keeps a share of the royalties — typically no more than half.

    Many royalties are “statutory,” meaning that unions and guilds have negotiated set rates for the use of your music in various formats. Other royalties are negotiated on the fly. For instance, a publisher might negotiate a smaller fee from an independent director than from a blockbuster studio. Either way, it all goes into the publisher’s accounting pipeline.

    Here’s where the advance is interesting. Many publishers, especially when dealing with newbie songwriters, will hold royalties until they reach a certain ceiling. $1,000, for example. So any quarter or year when you have earned $1,000 in royalties, you get a check.

    In the case of this contest, the producers are advancing $10,000 against *future* royalties. They get exclusive rights to publish the song for ten years. You get a check for $10,000. Think of it as a loan.

    You pay that loan back over time by earning royalties each quarter. They keep the first $10,000 you make, and start paying you again with the first penny you make after that. However, unlike a record company advance that leaves you still owing any outstanding balance from that advance, your clock resets at year eleven and you regain the right to exploit your song again, even if it never clocked $10K.

    It’s a VERY unusual and surprisingly generous deal for a first-time songwriter. Putting that aside, I think the bigger benefit is going to be exposure to a group of producers who traditionally rely on outside songwriters to help their artists. Advance or no, getting some attention from the 19 hit factory is the bigger prize here.

  5. Mr. Joe Taylor Jr.,

    I scanned (rather quickly) through the last thread we had going, and I thought I remembered seeing a direct link to the T&C’s that people are so skeptical about. I no longer see that. Is there a way you could post that URL again? I believe it was you that posted it originally. I no longer have any questions about any of this, intent is clear to me based on the information at hand from the producers and the website (i.e. that button to upload another track), but this may save a lot of posts from needing to be posted.

    Thanks so much!

  6. I recently learned about the contest and have been trying to learn more. I’ve read through all these posts, and I have a couple questions:

    1) If, perchance, a person lands one of the top 20 slots and signs a deal with them on that one song… what ramifications will be present if this top-20 songwriter tries to get signed with another publisher and/or record company on the other material that they might have? Those are usually “exclusive” deals, and I’m wondering what happens when you already “have a deal” with this entertainment company, even if that deal is only for one song? Can they somehow “own” you and prevent you from signing with other companies, keeping your career tied up for 10 years unless you also go through them on the rest of your material (which would undoubtedly allow them to leverage you badly, I think)??? Would you be in breach of your top-20 deal and at risk of lawsuit of some sort if you did sign with someone else for your other material?

    2) If they archive your song, does that entertainment company have ANY rights whatsoever on your stuff? Can you go ahead and try to push it to market elsewhere?

  7. Thanks! Funny thing, my last post is one of those posts I was referring to that didn’t need to be posted…I didn’t catch that you had already linked the T&C’s on this thread. My apologies, good sir. πŸ™‚

  8. Ugh.

    First, here’s item number 4 under “Eligibility Requirements” at the top of the terms and conditions:

    “You may only enter one Song.”

    That seems pretty clear to me, and if in his haste, some website programmer included an “Add another song” button, I can’t see how that supercedes the actual language in the terms and conditions.

    Secondly, here’s item 5 under “The Competition”, which describes the publishing agreement the top 20 finalists will be required to sign to continue in the competition:

    “The Publishing Agreement will grant to 19 Entertainment … the exclusive right to publish the Song for a period of ten years … in return for an advance to you of $10,000….”

    This is badly written but also (I think) quite clear: it is saying that the 20 competitors grant the exclusive right to publish the song for an advance of $10,000. The songs that aren’t published, don’t get the advance. After ten years, they relinquish their publishing rights, and you get your song back.

    Please, find me a dang lawyer to tell me I’m wrong, but, that’s how it looks to me.

  9. You’re right, JC. Rule 2.4 does say “you may only enter one song.” However, the fact that the “upload another song” button is in there leaves things very open to debate. I’m going to restate my original advice: assume it’s one song, and make your one song the best one you can enter. If we hear otherwise directly from the contest organizers, we’ll post it.

    The rules about the publishing agreement are kind of a shorthand version of what you would see on the agreement itself. However, the statutory royalties alone for the plays that these songs will get from the show itself would amount to nearly $10,000 on the open market anyway, if not more.

  10. Some very important information I have learned while reading these T&C’s is this:

    1. Any information that any of us receive while in this competition shall not be disclosed to any third parties.

    That means that this website is a great forum to discuss our interpretations of things like we are doing, but if we are contacted with any information from 19 Ent or other representatives, we may not for any reason disclose that in this forum or any other…if we are in the competition. I am in the competition, so as in an earlier post where you heard from me that I would respond if I was contacted by the Idol site representative, I apologize, I cannot do this.

    2. They reserve the right to make “…all decisions regarding the Competition, including but not limited to rules, eligibility, song selection, voting methods, voting results, disqualification determinations and the awarding of prizes”.

    That means if the best song doesn’t win in their eyes, in theory, they can select what they feel best fits the winning artist. That is actuallly the least of what that means. That means they can change the rules to fit whatever they want, so if they get a multiple entry songwriter, and there is still question as to the legality of this since they stated that we may only submit one song, they basically reserve the right to change that rule to read “you may submit one song at a time, for a 10 dollar fee per entry”.

    Basically keep in mind that any of the rules you think you have figured out, you don’t. They have reserved their right to change rules to fit themselves, the winning Idol, etc. This can work out swimmingly for people that haven’t built up a huge fan base that are entering this competition, that already would have votes before the voters would listen to the other songs (from their fans)…because if your song is actually better, then 19 Entertainment can say, “Hey, you win, forget the votes”.

    In the end though I feel confident that the most talented out of all of us will win. Best of luck to everyone, and best wishes to you all in your endeavors.

  11. Hi Joe – well thank God for your site – It seems to be the only thing online that’s even addressing any of this!

    I don’t really understand how statutory royalties apply here. I don’t see anything on the site or the terms and conditions that says the competing songs will ever be played on the show itself, only the winning song. Of course I guess it’s possible but I wouldn’t assume that’s going to happen – I think they’re leaving that intentionally open. But, if they do, what are the statutory royalties – how do they work? I don’t really know anything about them. Thanks.

  12. Here’s a great resource that covers the basics about statutory music licensing, especially relating to video:

    http://dvinfo.net/articles/business/copyrightfaq4.php

  13. Hi everyone

    I visited the AI site and I couldn’t seem to locate the detailed “Rules”. Are they burried somewhere on the site or do I have to request them? Can anyone direct me to the link please?

    Thanks!

    A

  14. See comment #6, above.

  15. I agree with JC’s interpretation of the rules in Item #9 above.

    Since the rules state that “you may enter only one song,” I would hate to get disqualified for exceeding that.

    I think his interpretation of the advance is probably correct too.

    However, as Eric pointed, ANYTHING can be changed by 19 Ent.

  16. Did my two comments above get answered specifically? I couldn’t tell– didn’t look like they were, specifically. I am pretty clear on what happens with the one song that you sign with them, but my questions pertained to other concerns should you sign that one song with them. Anyone know?

  17. I’m no lawyer, but I think the agreement applies only to the song submitted. A songwriter’s other material is not affected.

  18. Due to the number of entries I would expect to be submitted for this contest, I look at as entering a lottery with a song attached. It’s certainly a long-shot. It also makes me wonder if they will actually listen to each and every entry.

    Think about it… It will take take (probably) hundreds of hours to listen to each entry just once. I hope they have a LARGE staff!

  19. As far as listening to every song for the abundant number of entries there is likely to be, I agree, this would take a very long time. If I were running this competition, what I would do is have my A&R team listen to a portion of each entry to get a feel for the song (possibly 45 seconds to one minute), and then dump the song and move along to the next entry if it wasn’t “good enough” to be in this competition. If the songs did appear as if they were “good enough” to be in the competition after listening to that length of time, I would have the A&R team move them to a folder to be listened to on a second, complete, run through. This would save time, as well as meet a specific certian need that if the song doesn’t catch an ear to want more after a minute or so, it doesn’t matter if the rest of it sounds like Beethoven’s Fifth with lyrics…it should have had a better beginning so people don’t tune out on TV (and on the radio). That is just my theory on how they are solving this time issue in listening to the songs. I would expect they are handling it similarly.

  20. Regarding the wording as it appears on the contest website , that is, “you may only enter one song”, I think that means something quite different from “you may enter only one song”, as some have misquoted it here. Plus, “English” words in Britain sometimes carry a different nuance of meaning than here in the U.S. Here’s what I think the rule means…

    This rule appears underneath the “eligibility terms for the contest, with regards as to what comprises a “song”. It says music and lyrics together comprise a “song”. To be eligible to enter the contest, a person may (translated “must”) only (translated “at a minimum”) enter one song (to be eligible in the contest). A person may not enter just a lyric alone nor a melody alone. A “song” is the only valid way to enter.

    Eligibility in the contest, therefore, requires “only” the submission of one song (translated “at a minimum”). This would not preclude the submission of additional songs by the same person.

  21. Question for anyone– the rules state that the song must be written 100% by the songwriter…would including drum loops in garage band violate this rule?

  22. I’ve been trying to register online for the American Idol Songwriter contest for the past four days. I have yet to receive the verification email that’s required in order to proceed with submission. I’ve tried registering with different email addresses, on different acounts, different ISPs, and different computers, and still nothing. I’ve also sent several email inquiries about this problem to the contact address provided for 19 Entertainment and to the Idol website itself, and have not received a response. Has anyone else had this problem? Does anyone know of another way to contact these people?

  23. I’ve been having the same problem. With only 5 days left to submit I hope someone fixes this problem. I’ve made several attempts to log on and submit under several different e-mai accounts its been 3 days and still no e-mail from anyone.

  24. I;m having the same problem for the past 5 days I’ve been trying to get a confirmation e-mail so i can send my mp3. has anything changed for you or are you still having the same problem

  25. @ Trista,
    It is my understanding that they are very clear about the song being 100 percent yours, besides all cowriters listed. If you are including something in the song you did not write, you most likely must list the writer(s) of what you are referring to for the entry to be valid. More importantly, you most likely must have their consent to include these “drum loops” since you did not write them. Until you hear anything definitive from someone that is a representative of running this competition (because I certainly am not one, and I believe that none of us in this forum are), I suggest that you use discretion with great caution as to what you enter.

    @ Bob J. & Terry Lynn,

    Have you checked your Junk Mail folders? That is a popular destination for things like this, depending on your settings. If it is not there now, it might already have been dumped. Try getting a new verification email sent and see if it shows up there. If you have both already checked there, I have no idea as of right now where your verification emails would have gotten sent to.

  26. Terry Lynn:
    Still no resolution to my email verification problem. In a way, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one with this problem. If it’s not an isolated incident, then they may be more likely to fix it. In fact, when I went to the website this morning, the “Submit Your Song” page was down, replaced by a message saying that they were working on some technical “hitches”. So perhaps this will be resolved. In the meantime, I called the Fremantlemedia North America corporate office, and a very helpful person gave me the phone number for the American Idol production office. However, when I called there and explained my problem, a not-as-helpful person told me, basically, that it was not their problem and there was nothing they could do about it.

  27. Hi, Thanks for having this discussion on your site. The rules loosely state that 19 Entertainment will store those songs that don’t make the top 20, when all is said and done. Does anyone know how this affects the songwriter’s rights to sell or record and release the song after this AI contest is over?
    I wouldn’t want a good song to just be filed for 10 years.

    Thanks,

    Paul

  28. Danette McMahon Avatar
    Danette McMahon

    Please clarify for me—not great with alot of the legal stuff here. If the song is not in the top 20, do I have complete freedom to do with it as I please after this competition? I get the feeling that is not the case.
    Thanks!
    Danette

  29. The T’s and C’s of the registration agreement clearly state that you are granting them the right to make use of your song only within the context of the competition (e.g. post the mp3 on their site for people to hear). You are not granting them any rights to commercial use (publishing, recording, licensing, etc.). Until the finalists are selected, you would not be able to enter into any publishing agreement with another party. (Actually, you can do so, of course, but it would be grounds for disqualification.) If your song is not selected as one of the 20 finalists, and you do not enter into a publishing agreement with 19 Entertainment, from then on you can do whatever you wish with your song, as you are still the copyright owner. They have no legal claim on it. They do reserve the right to keep the song materials on file, but without a publishing agreement with you, they cannot legally make any use of it, or prevent you from doing so.
    Bob

  30. Bob,
    Thanks a lot for the clarification. I don’t know your background but your answer is convincing. Common sense and fairness says this is how it should work, but the world often lacks these attributes, especially when there’s money to be made.

    Paul

  31. Paul,
    Well, I am speaking from a strictly legal, and ethical, point of view. The reality of course is that people in this business aren’t always ethical, don’t always obey the law, and sometimes try to take advantage of people they think are novices. The best thing you can do is learn all you can about the legal issues involved. I would suggest the book “All You Need to Know about the Music Business” by entertainment lawyer Donald S. Passman. It contains a lot of good information on copyrights, publishing, contracts, etc.
    Bob

  32. David V Avatar

    If my song is selected as one of the ‘FINAL 20″ by the producers, then the american public will vote online from among those 20 to select the ultimate winner.Question: What version of those 20 songs will the public be listening to when they decide who to vote for? The original mp3 files submitted by the songwriters? Re-arranged versions? Who would sing these?

  33. The early reports of the songwriting competition had AI producers saying they wanted to air a television special where former idol contestants would sing the top songs submitted so the public could vote on their favorite. The TV special isn’t going to happen, but I have to believe that they are going to level the playing field in some fashion for the internet voting process…after all, this is a songwriting competition, NOT a singing competition. I’ve read as many comments as I can find on the internet and it is clear that the producer’s intent is (was) to showcase the songs in an appropriate way for the voting public. Whether this happens…who knows.

  34. stefone Avatar

    where are you actually downloading mp3’s(songs) too? I’ve tried but I’m doing somethimg wrong. Please help
    or call 631 943-6902

  35. David V, I’m looking forward to seeing the answer to this question — because I was wondering the same thing myself. I wondered if all the “don’t worry about the production values” meant that they were going to redo it for the voting. Or if they’re hoping to just get a lot of really awful songs so they can post the songwriting equivalent to the “bad audition” clips.

  36. I’m pulling my hair out. I’ve been registered – I’ve entered all of my info, but when I download the file, it says upload error – check size of file. My file is 3.4mb and the max is 4mb. Argghhh! Anyone else?

  37. Good lord, I’ve been trying to upload my two and a half minute MP3 to that stinkin’ website for four days now with no success! What gives?! And like others in this discussion, can’t seem to find a way to contact anybody. Frustrating! Anybody have any success yet?

  38. Ronny A Avatar

    ……..no upload success! πŸ™ ………
    everyone with similar trouble, please complain to:
    songwriter.contest@19.co.uk
    the deadline is days/hours away, but the site has not worked for (at least) 4 days, straight. does anyone know the secret of getting to page 2 (“your lyrics”)?? my mp3 uploads, but the only page after that, says “Where is Everyone?…technical hitches… pop back later” Aye carumba!
    ronny 770-344-8022, (if you have figured out the secret, plz)

  39. Also, when is the EXACT deadline? Before 11:59 PM the night of the 17th? Or by 11:59 PM the night of the 16th (technically before the 17th)? Also, what time zone! I’ve seen “through the 17th”, “by the 17th” and other variations on news sources on the web, but is it just me or is that confusing – I would think they’d be more exact for the cutoff. I will try to get mine in by the end of Monday the 16th Pacific time and if that’s not good enough that’s ridiculous. Anyone?

  40. Here’s how to submit successfully: Go to Yahoo and open a free e-mail account. Register for American Idol Songwriter using your Yahoo e-mail account and you will get your verification e-mail back almost immediately. You can then submit your song easily. The Songwriter website says that AOL and Hotmail may block the e-mail. I have MSN, so I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting an e-mail. But we found out that Hotmail “drives” MSN, so if you are using MSN, the return confirmation e-mail gets blocked. Good luck!

  41. I never had a problem getting my verification e-mail, I use Google’s Gmail and that step in the contest process went smoothly. MY DANG SONG JUST WON’T UPLOAD! The most popular tv show in the world, reaping zillions in ad bucks and they can’t get their poop together with the stupid website. Whatever

  42. Those of us having upload problems – are you using DSL or dialup? I tried to upload some other misc. files thinking it might be a problem with my MP3, but nothing works. I have dialup at home. I am wondering if I use DSL access if it will make a difference.
    There are a couple of people on here that have succeeded in uploading – their input would be appreciated…

  43. American Idol Songwriter:

    Answers to many of your questions:

    1) You may enter as often as you like. There is a $10 entry fee per song

    2) Songs will NOT be re-recorded prior to posting the final 20 for public voting. We will take the source files (aiff, wav, etc) where available and perhaps clean it up and check for volume parity but that’s about it.

    3) The upload process is working. In the last 9 hours alone we’ve received well over 500 songs and that’s simply a random sampling.

    4) Every song is reviewed by an A&R staff member. There is no advantage whatsoever to submitting one song multiple times.

    5) You must include both music and lyrics to participate. You do not need a full band or professional recording studio. A&R staff can recognize a good song. That being said… is there an advantage in the public voting phase to having a professional mix or accomplished musicians accompany you or perform your work? Perhaps.

    6) Your song entry must not be encumbered of a publishing deal in order for you to participate in the contest as the contest winner will receive an exclusive publishing deal for the winning song.

    7) All writers must be noted and able to legally participate according to the rules. You are legally attesting to such upon entering. Do not misrepresent yourself as you will be disqualified.

    8) Voting closes at 11:59 pm pacific time on April 17th, 2007.

    9) Online voting begins May 2nd.

    Good Luck!

  44. PLEASE someone respond about the actual exact deadline – I might have to go up to the last hour here and would appreciate any light shed on the subject. Thanks!

  45. Larry L Avatar

    Umm, I gotta agree with Ted and Ronny A – I’ve tried uploading my mp3 via broadband cable, my mp3 is 3.6 megs (128 kb) and it won’t take it – 2 nights in a row now. HELP! Tried 2 different browsers too.

  46. Larry L Avatar

    I keep getting this message: Upload error – ensure the file size is less than 4MB and try again. The file is 3.6 megs!!! Have tried mutliple times, tried different mp3 converters too. I’ve gone over the guide on the site as well and can’t figure out what I could be doing wrong on my end. Sad that we’ll have to miss out because of this.
    Is there an alternate way of making a music submission?

  47. posted @ 11:30 AM Texas time

    Well, I’m glad some people are getting it to work. I’m not one of the lucky ones. I just tried it again 3 minutes ago and got the same error message, “the document contains no data”. That always happens when using the Firefox browser. When I use IE or Netscape I get the same error message Larry L talks about. I’ve been wondering the same thing, Kami, because I too am staring at the monolith with bewilderment with my fellow neanderthals out in the prehistoric desert (i.e. I still have dial up). This blows.

  48. sue wynne Avatar
    sue wynne

    If I was selected as one of the 20 finalists, how and when would I be contacted?

  49. marjorie Avatar
    marjorie

    Does anyone have a srtaight answer yet if more than one song can be submitted? In the above comment on April 15th by Jessie A it says that it can but the American Idol website’s official rules refutes and contradicts that. Is this Jessie A from the American Idol web site or is that just an assumption and interpretation?

  50. Ronny A Avatar

    LARRY, and others…
    i finally had success (on my MAC) by not using Safari, or such, but by downloading Firefox/Mozilla from the Apple site (for free). was day & night difference, and my frown turned upside down, once page 2 of the upload process finally appeared. my song was 3.8 megs. hurry. see you in hollyweird.

  51. Marjorie: Jesse A. is the same person who directly responded to an e-mail I sent last week to askfox@fox.com. He is legit…an American Idol Songwriting Contest representative. Submit more than one song and don’t worry about it! I submitted two songs yesterday. They ask for $10 per song.

  52. I talked to Jesse at 19 as well. He was quite clear that you can enter more than one song and that ONLY the winner gets the $10,000 advance.

    What he would not answer is what happens to the publishing rights of non-winning songs. In one email he seemed to indicate that 19 keeps the publishing rights to them as well. In a follow up, he advised having a lawyer take a look at things and refused to comment further.

    Interesting and confusing.

  53. I’m glad for Ronnyand his upload success (on a MAC) How about for those of us on a PC?

  54. And Carla is back. FIREFOX browser. Just think Firefox browser. I didn’t even know what a fire fox was until about 30 minutes ago. I downloaded it onto my PC and had no problem uploading my 2.8 MB MP3. That’s FIREFOX. Thank you Mozilla or Mozillo or whatever you are.

  55. I finally got my song to upload – but it definitely has to do with internet speed. I tried it at one girlfriend’s house who has regular DSL and it didn’t work. Moved onto another’s and she had high speed – worked like a charm!

  56. BonJoeV Avatar

    For those of you still struggling with submitting MP3’s (that are under 4MB) – take a look that the name of your MP3 file. If you have spaces, dashes, or certain symbols within the file name, the AI site may not accept it. There is also a lot of shareware/freeware on the NET that can compress MP3 files if you are struggling to hit the 4MB (iTunes doesn’t compress WAV to MP3 files too well — files are still pretty big).

    I’ve submitted a couple of songs successfully without issue over the past week.

  57. Can someone who has submitted already tell me what kind of bio information they ask for? Do we need to write up a whole bio to be ready to submit after uploading the song? Or does it just ask for basic information like name, age, location? My co-writer went to check in and saw that it has bio questions but couldn’t read the actual questions until uploading the file which we’re not ready to do. So once you upload the file, what does it ask for exactly in terms of bio? Thanks!

  58. Howard – it’s pretty much a blank form giving you 100 words to talk about yourself, your songwriting, etc… It specifically says that you have 100 words and “use them wisely.”

  59. Ta-Da! Finally got it to work, followed your lead Kami! Went to a friend with DSL’s house and that did the trick. What’s the deal with that, not everyboydy has DSL? What a pain. I can’t wait till my song is ignored so I can get on with my simple life. Good luck guys.

  60. BonJoeV – thank you! I had underscores _ in my file name, I removed them and it uploaded fine. Wish me luck!

  61. Randal Dewey Avatar
    Randal Dewey

    Bio answer – they bascially ask for a brief bio – and you only get 100 words, which is nothing. So, basically, you have enough space to mention how old you r are, a line or two about your history in songwriting, influences, etc., and a mention about what your current situation is….that alone takes 100 words…

  62. Heather,
    In response to your question about publishing rights:
    If your song is selected as one of the finalists, it appears that you will have to enter into a publishing agreement with them in order to continue participating. Even if you don’t win, that publishing agreement will still be in force. That’s probably not a bad thing, and may provide you with additional opportunities. But if you are offered a contract, definitely have it reviewed by a qualified attorney, specifically an entertainment lawyer. And if you’re not selected as a finalist, or you are but decide not to accept their contract and continue, then you retain all rights to your song. You are still the legal copyright owner, and they have no claim on your song or any rights to do anything with it.
    Bob

  63. Having problem with size of your submission? I was too, and kept reducing my file until it was about 3 megs, and then it worked. My 3.7 meg file wouldn’t go through, even though they say anything 4 megs and under will work. Don’t know if I was an isolated case, but it eventually worked with 3 meg file.
    Good luck all!
    J

  64. bonjoev Avatar

    Larry – you’re quite welcome, but I’ll only wish you luck if I’m eliminated and you’re in the Top 20. πŸ™‚
    Howard – you’re asked for a 100-word or less writeup on yourself as a songwriter (and you are limited to 100 words). Influences, first song you wrote, etc. I simply cut-and-pasted from my band website and then wordsmithed.

  65. Dee Dee Avatar

    I’ve been trying to pay with my valid credit card and it keeps says “card code is invalid” I’ve check many times and I am doing it correctly. Is anyone else having this problem?

  66. Question for Mac users – after getting a satisfactory recording thru GarageBand, I got as far as getting the song to iTunes and thru the ‘Convert Selection to MP3’ without a hitch. The hitch came when I looked at the size of the file on iTunes – 34MB! I saved the song again thru GarageBand as a compact/small and then AGAIN as a compact/micro. I repeated the process to get it to iTunes, but it still claims it’s 34MB. Am I missing something?!?!? I have read about the downloads for compression but am not sure what the best choice is for a Mac (OS 10.4.9, with – groan – dial-up). I have left word for my brother, who knows such things, but I thought I’d ask here as well. What a terrific forum this has been for a greenhorn in the truest sense!

  67. Back again! Found success with compressing the song file; I am attempting to upload the version that is 3.1MB, but as soon as I click on Upload Track, the file disappears and ‘No file selected’ pops back up. It LOOKS like something is happening, but I can’t see how if ‘No file selected’ is all I see. Any ideas?

  68. Dee Dee, I had the same problem. I re-entered it 5 times and it kept saying “invalid”. One of the numbers in my 3-number code was a zero and just for giggles on that 6th attempt I punched in an o (oh) and voila – it worked! So if you have a zero, try an oh. This is so confusing.

  69. Melissa Cash Avatar
    Melissa Cash

    To all mac/garage band users. I successfully submitted my song last week. Here’s how I did it. I recorded in garageband, went to “export to iTunes” in the file menu. Then went to iTunes and “convert selection to AAC” from the Advanced Menu. That only converted it to mp4. I then downloaded jhymn http://hymn-project.org/jhymndoc/. And converted to mp3. jhymn worked great for me.

  70. Has anyone had problems with actually submitting a song….I can’t get past the MP3 upload stage. I continue to get a “technical diffuculty” message from their end since yesterday.

  71. Not clear on what “moderaton” means?

  72. Dee Dee Avatar

    Ted, you dear man! I do have a zero in my code. Tried your zany method and it worked! Pas de probleme. I have been so frustrated and had finally accepted that I would not be able to enter. Thank you for your creativity. I bet you have a great song. I hope to “see” you in the top twenty. Dee Dee

  73. About the American Idol song writing contest, do you absolutely HAVE to have a musical accompaniment before they’ll accept your submission?? I have written a great song and have the lyrics and melody with my voice recorded singing it and downloaded it to an MP3. I am not musically inclined and cannot find a musician in such short time frame. I only found out about the contest 1 week ago. Do you know if they will still consider it if I don’t have an instrument on it? I don’t see why it would matter that much since they’re going to do a complete arrangement for it anyway. Please let me know something ASAP. THANKS!!! I’m sure I’m not the only person wanting to know this!!

  74. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    I had no trouble last night uploading my song. I use a PC with Internet Explorer 7 and I have FiOS (optical DSL). The only issue I had was on the BIO page. I did not have one typed out ahead of time. Me and my friend that I wrote the song with were making our BIO and editing it and it took 15 min, but when we tried to go to the ENTRY FEE page it reset and we had to retype it again really fast. So you really have to move fast on the submission website or you will have to start over again.

    Also, I had trouble using my hotmail account to register with. I had read the statement that it might cause trouble, but I figured it would go to my junk folder, but it never did. I created a Gmail account and had no trouble at all with that.

    On another note, I am a bit perterbed about them using the original song files for the voting process. I mean, in the guide on the site, they say it would make no difference on the quality of the recording as to the choices they will make to get into the top 20, but they never said that the file you uploaded would be used for voting. Then general public won’t recognize how great your song is…all they will hear is a half recorded version, which is what most people will have entered in this contest because that is what the rules on the site talked about, just using a voice and an instrument. So I think they really should have had their guy that always plays piano on the show play it and have one singer sing the songs and they could do a basic production to show off your song without worrying about the stupid public. This was not a singing contest or a recording or a producing contest, it was a songwriting contest, and the dumb general public at large will not be voting on the song, only the singing. So this might really create a problem for this contest. I truly hope that when they choose the top 20, that they do not choose overly produced songs, and just stick to the basic voice/instrument type of entries.

    The one thing I am not sure about though is who can vote. I don’t believe they are going to do the voting over the phone. The site says you have to be registered to vote, so maybe that means only the people (you might say peers) that registered for song uploads can vote on the top 20? I am guessing that anyone can register with an email address to vote on the website, but that will limit the number of people voting. The number of votes on the song will be very small compared to the phone votes that the singers get. Who knows, maybe they are going to make the song voting on the phone as well? I am tending to think not. They aren’t even going to do a TV special on it like they had originally planned, and that would have been the only way to do phone voting. I think it will be web only, and that will mean less people able to vote for the songs. Maybe that is a good thing?

    What do y’all think?

  75. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to Jeanie in response to #73….

    that is sort of a gray area. i believe they want a “song” which is “music and lyrics”. it could be argued that lyrics are just words without singing and that the singing of a melody is music, so if you did not have an instrument playing the chords of your song then that might be just fine. melody implies chords, so you might get away with it. but most demo songs written by songwriters have the chords playing on a piano or guitar (instrument) and the melody and lyrics being sung (voice). so that might make the A&R staff throw it out because they don’t want to have to be a writer and determine the chords for you. if they did that, they would be co-writing the song with you and they can’t do that. so my thoughts are 50/50 on your situation, but sort of slightly leaning towards the fact that what you entered will probly not be good enough. really hope things work out for you though….good luck πŸ™‚

  76. Jeanie:
    You might want to reference the 4/15 posting from “Jesse A”, who claims to be a representative of this competition. If it is a good song with a strong, distinctive melody, and you sing it well, it just might impress their reviewers, who will know a good song when they hear it (or so Jesse A claims). However, if you do make it into the final 20, you could be at a disadvantage. The average listener will most likely be more impressed by an entry that does have instrumental accompaniment and a good arrangement than by something sung a capella. But if can’t find musicians to work with on recording your song with accompaniment…well, it only costs you 10 bucks and a little time and effort to enter, so why not give it a try? If selected for the top 20, then at least you’ve gotten the attention of some professional A&R people, and that could lead to something, even if you don’t win.
    Bob

  77. natalie Avatar

    I can’t seem to be able to complete the transaction because I keep getting error messages about my credit cards. They are all good cards, but nothing is working. Anybody have any advice?

  78. Folks,

    Going to move discussion to the new thread to keep the database happy, and because some common questions are answered:

    https://spinme.com/2007/04/more-questions-answered-about-the-american-idol-songwriting-contest/

  79. […] We’ve had a really vibrant discussion going on in my previous post about the American Idol con… If you haven’t had a chance to poke through the comments, here are some more key points. […]