More questions answered about the American Idol Songwriting Contest

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

Half of the songwriters I know are busy filing their taxes. The other half are working hard to get their entries into the American Idol Songwriter competition. The deadline for both is the same: tomorrow.

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

First, Jesse from 19 Entertainment, who has worked very hard to answer questions from our readers (and from other entrants) made a great summary of the most asked questions about the contest:

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.

A few other technical notes:

  • Folks on Macs seem to have trouble making entries with the Safari web browser. If that’s the case for you, download Firefox and give it a whirl. That seems to do the trick for most folks.
  • Make sure you’re uploading your song on a broadband connection. Most folks trying to use dial-up to upload a 3MB song are getting timed out. If you have to drop your songs to a flash drive or a CDR and upload them from Kinko’s so be it.
  • The songs will not be re-recorded for the contest, so submit your very best recording. You may want to recruit some friends to help you with this. Even though it’s a songwriting competition, online voters will definitely be swayed by good production.

Good luck!

Technorati Tags: , ,

60 responses

  1. […] Blog Posts More questions answered about the American Idol Songwriting Contest The other half are working hard to get their entries into the American Idol Songwriter competition. […]

  2. David V Avatar

    I agree that Idol’s decision to post the top 20’s original version for the public’s vote REALLY changes the equation on this whole contest. That they didn’t tell us officially is kind of cheesy, too, in light of their “recording quality is irrelevant” language. Would your average person say that a demo of , say, the Who’s “Love, reign o’er me” was equal to the version we all know. Of course not. The public will not be able to distinguish the song from the production in those final 20 songs, either.
    I happen to be a terrible singer and have the recording capabilities of a caveman. I went to a professional studio and had someone who sounds like a cross between Sara McLachlan and Kelly Clarkson sing my song.
    Good luck to us all.

  3. Well, David V. I wasn’t that fortunate, BUT I DID find someone at the last minute to add some musical accompaniment to my song, but sorry to say it has my singing voice on it just singing through a pc mic with no effects. LOL If you ask me, they should do the arrangement on these songs prior to posting them on the website. That would be the fair thing to do since they keep saying that it doesn’t have to sound professional when we send it in!! Either that, or just let a team of judges pick which 20 songs they like best. They know what they’re looking for and which songs would fit the situation the best! Oh well! Good luck everybody! Thanks for the replies!

  4. OK. I have already heard about numerous people having problems with credit card submission!!! If I have this problem, what am I supposed to do?? There is no one to contact, even if there is, they won’t receive your email in time!! What then???? What if you don’t even HAVE a credit card?! How are these people paying?

  5. Bob Witmer Avatar
    Bob Witmer

    This is the discussion that I’ve been looking for a about a week. I had the same problem with dial up and rejection of my MP3 file, which was less than 1.5MB. I found a broadband connection at school and was able to upload the MP3 file. Now like Natalie, my credit cards are being rejected. The message says that I have an invalid card code. My credit cards are good and I have entered the card numbers correctly. I think the problem is at the Idol songwriting submission web site. If they can’t make their site work correctly before the deadline, then I think they should extend the deadline.


  6. have any of you entered a single song more than once just to increase your chances of someone actually hearing it?

  7. I think anyone in the top 20 has the power to get the votes they need just by emailing everyone they know and having them email everyone they know and so on. Mine is just a simple recording with a semi-out-of-tune piano, but it’s all good. If the song stinks, so be it. If not, I’ve a great email list. 🙂
    Otherwise, I have a decent voice, so yes, I wish it were studio quality; since it’s not, I’m not worried and anyone else with the same concern – what can you do.
    I hope we at least have one from this site that make the top 20. Everyone here has been so helpful – I found another site where people posted their songs and some were so fishing for compliments that I was ready to scream.
    Thanks for the site and the support from everyone! Best of luck!!!!
    By the way – next year – if anyone’s looking for a vocalist – I’m yours. 🙂

  8. peter z Avatar

    i have a mac and was able to use safari to submit muliple entries fine. Good luck to everyone. I hope they listen to all of the entires and then decide instead of just picking the best 20 and not bothering 2 here them all

  9. BonJoeV Avatar

    One thing I haven’t noticed in these comments over the past week is how folks went about choosing ther song(s) for this contest. Did you use previously written material or did you write with the “theme” guidelines the Idol site provided?

    I initially thought of submitting songs that I had written in the past, but I actually wrote 2 songs specifically for this contest with the intent of them being used on the show for the finale. I also tried to write the songs in such a way so that they could be handled/performed by most of the remaining contestants and their respective styles.

    That can either help or hurt me but am curious what others have done.

    BTW – this has been a great reference site for the contest. There’s really been no other place on the web that has the interaction of the songwriters in this competition.

  10. Do you think the top 20 will be notified that they’re in the top 20 before voting begins?

  11. Dee Dee Avatar

    CREDIT CARD CODE ISSUE? — Go back and read #66, #69, & #72.

  12. BonJoeV Avatar

    Sue – look @ #4 from Jessie A’s comments. There’s no advantage to sending the same song multiple times (unless you just want to give away your money to 19 Entertainment!)

  13. The idol website would not accept my credit cards with the message that the code was invalid. I tried the trick listed in this blog of changing the 0 in the 3 digit code to an o(oh), but then I got a message that the transaction had been rejected. Finally in desperation at 11:30 last night, I pulled out an Amazon Visa that I seldom use that had no zeros in the 3-digit code, and it worked. Thanks to posters on this site, I kept trying and finally had success. I feel really bad though for the frustrated songwriters who had no idea why their MP3 files would not upload or why their good credit cards were not being accepted. The problem was definitely due to a poorly designed web page at the American Idol song submission site and not having anyone you could contact when you ran into a problem.

  14. OK. Did anyone else besides me have problems sending in your MP3 last night and because of it, not be able to enter in the contest?? This is an outrage! My MP3 file was ONLY 2.11 MB!! It kept rejecting it. I hope the staff of A.I. looks into their problem and will hopefully extend their deadline for song submission. I have gone through blood, sweat and tears to enter this contest, as I’m sure many of you have and it’s disheartening to have something of a technical nature on their part cause all these problems and disappointments!!!

  15. Jeanie, if you’ll look back a few days ago, many posters had the same problem as you. Most of them if not all were trying to use dial up. I went through an entire frustrating weekend trying to post my 1.5MB song. I was only able to upload the file when I went to a high speed connection at the local community college. Its a shame that the idol website gave the songwriters no recourse when they encountered technical problems. It doesn’t look like the contest organizers have any intention of extending the deadline though.


  16. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to David V, in response to #8…

    My friend Matt and I wrote a totally new song called for this AI contest. We have 8 other original songs we have written over the last year in various demo stages.

    We had thought about the contest site info where they said the song should be 1-accessible by a wide audience range, 2-not to try to write for a specific singer on the show, and 3-to fit the theme of the show and the singers journey to the winning spot. On the other hand, we also thought that because people have widely criticized the past singles from the previous winners that maybe the AI producers were just looking for a good song no matter what the theme. In that case we would have sent in every song we have. But we didn’t.

    We erred on the side of caution and stuck with the contest info they gave us on the website. We figured that they already understand that no matter how many people complained about the previous singles that the singles still all go gold and some platinum anyway regardless of whether it is a good or bad song. That music business attitude is just plain and simple reality, but also complacent too, and the odds are that those big music moguls are gonna stick with their formula that they know works and will sell. We wrote a new song based on that premise.

    I am curious what other people did to record their songs? Did some of you use a personal computer and use recording hardware and software? Or did some of you go to a professional studio or a friend’s studio?

    We wrote, recorded, produced, and mastered everything in my project studio here in Dallas. I built a new computer last summer using a dual core AMD processor, 1GB of memory, and for our recording drive we use a SATA drive that is separate from the OS drive which is running Windows XP SP2.

    The hardware we used was an MBox (original version) by Digidesign. We also used their software, ProTools, to work in.

    I have to say that I read many blogs from many people that did not have a studio. I would highly recommend those people to get the Mbox and Protools. It is the industry standard and all reputable and professional studios use it. The MBox only cost about 400$ so it is really worth what you get. You can also take your session files to a big studio and it will work there too. It is simply the best….

    For making the mp3 of our song, I used a professional program called Wavelab. It allows you to create an mp3 at literally any bit rate and sample rate you could desire.

    On another note, and this deals with the rules and regulations, are we not allowed to talk about our songs on this site or any other site? For instance, I am guessing we are not allowed to mention our song title, our lyrics, etc…is this correct?

    I think it would be cool for us to post our work on this blog if we are allowed to. But I would hate to break the rules by doing so….I guess I am just really curious to read what other people wrote lyrically.

  17. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to Jeanie, in response to #2…

    Glad you were able to get some music on your track. That will make a huge difference should your song make it to the top 20.

    I am assuming you are new to songwriting…One thing though you may not have thought about though…

    When you entered your song on the website, there is that line where they make you put the names of the people who wrote the song. Did you enter that person’s name (whom came up with the chords and accompaniment) in the line along with yours?

    If you did, then you are sure to be ok. But if you didn’t, then you might have broken the contest rules. I certainly do not want to be the bad guy in saying this, but if you did not come up with the chords to your song, then he co-wrote the song with you, and he needed to be given equal songwriting credit. That person could have come up with any number of different cords and keys for your melody and lyrics so he really did play a role in writing the song because he came up with the music. You came up with the melody and lyrics. You wrote together whether you intended to or not. Technically, you can’t claim sole songwriting credit anymore….however….

    The only way you get around that type of situation is to have a legal contract written up called “musician for hire”. They must sign it saying that you hold all rights to the song you wrote, they have no rights to the song, and they they are just being hired as a musician, not a writer. You also have to pay them for their work at industry rates, usually several hundred dollars is common for such work. This is usually verbally mentioned upfront before any work is done, and then signed and paid once the work is done. This is for your protection against being sued for songwriting credits. And believe me, that person WILL SUE YOU should you get into the top 20. Maybe you can type up something yourself and get them to sign it, and of course you would have to pay them something, even if not very much. But they have to understand they will give up their rights. And anyone worth their salt will NOT want to give up their rights and then watch you win the AI contest and get all the fame and glory and MONEY. It’s only human.

    I hate to seem really harsh, because I am not intending to be so, but this way you can write again in the future and protect yourself. If you want to write more in the future, from now on you have to think on a professional level to take care of business. If you get any contracts or deals, there is a lot of legal stuff that goes with the territory and the less legal stuff the better. Going to court is a serious deal and can ruin your reputation as a writer, not to mention in the whole music industry.

    For instance, Paula Abdul had a similar situation with her first or second album (I can’t remember which). Her producers were sued because a backup singer was used to sing the song through for Paula before she ever set foot in the studio. This happens sometimes so that the main singer can have someone to sing along with, usually not so good singers, like Paula was. Don’t get me wrong, I really like her stuff back in the day, but she is not a very good singer overall. But back to my point, that backup singer came up with some of the lyrics or melody or something and she sued the heck outta everyone. I can’t remember how it all ended up, but I think she did get paid in the end, but not sure if they made her sign the musician for hire deal or if they had no recourse and had to give her songwriting credits or something. Anyway, even the best artists, musicians, writers, etc. have all fallen into that trap and ended up in court over this kind of situation. So please be careful in the future….

    A really good book for you to read, if you are serious about the music business, no matter how small or big a part you want to play in it, is called “All You Need To Know About The Music Business” by Donald S Passman. Everyone should read that book for good measure.

  18. Danette McMahon Avatar
    Danette McMahon

    I got a little freaked yesterday when the site would not accept my entry. I just kept pushing the submit button—no response. Finally, I shut down my computer and started over….first time I hit the button, it went thru. (I won’t go into the calling my pastor for prayer part—-but it worked!!) My heart goes out to all the hopefuls that could not get their songs thru.

    I went against what has been done in the past. I don’t write commercial/pop music…that was my first challenge…and I don’t write that much. My step-daughter wouldn’t let me back out this…it was her idea….I had to do it. The whole process has made me realize I need to take my songwriting seriously.

    I didn’t go with the POWER BALLAD formula they have used in the past—-my tune has an Al Green “Let’s Stay Together” feel. I figured they were looking for a new approach to finding the song, so why not go with a new groove. If the song receives no recognition, I’ve had fun dancin’ to it and I won’t let it die with American Idol.

    I invested in some studio time—-and did my own vocal. I would have hired another singer if I’d had more time, but glad I didn’t….I had so much fun. They’re looking for a great song, not a great singer.

    Funny thing about this—I’ve never entered a competition before—thinking the odds would be so outrageous to win. Could the odds be more outrageous than in this situation? How many thousands are we talking about? Makes me laugh…………and still so glad I did it.

    Best of luck to all of the entrants. I have no idea what happens next…or how soon…….just glad I have something so cool to wonder about!

  19. Of course I want to recruit my friends and family to vote for my song if chosen into the top 20, along with my community. I wonder how much time before voting begins we will have to do that????

  20. Melissa Cash Avatar
    Melissa Cash

    In response to Jeffrey…

    I used loops in garageband, a micropone, and my own piano to record my song/s. I’m not the best singer in the world, but manage ok doing stuff like this.

    I sent in one song that fits what they say they say they are seeking. Then I went ahead, paid another $10 bucks, and sent in one that was more of a pop/rock upbeat tune, just to see what would happen.

    I am also curious as to what other’s have sent in. I don’t think it would be breaking the rules to say at least the title of your song. It is yours, and I didn’t read anything in the terms and agreements about not discussing what you wrote with others. Anyone else with thoughts on this?

    Anyway, good luck to all of us who submitted =-)

  21. This site is awesome. Who wants to join me in posting links for the song(s) they entered. good luck to everyone!! You can hear mine here:

  22. Due to various technical problems and the lack of assistance from the competition sponsors, I was unable to submit an entry in time. I suspect that the same is true for many other people. Oh, well, c’est la vie. My career is no worse off than when I started. And my thanks to all the good people on this site who tried to help each other.

    I would like to say that this has been a very poorly managed event. During my years as an IT and management consultant I’ve seen my share of poor planning and bad execution. This may not be the worst, but there is certainly very little here of which the American Idol people can be proud. Among the many problems…

    1) They failed to develop and implement processes and systems adequate for the task. It seems like the whole thing was haphazardly slapped together at the last minute. (I would love to see their testing plans. I wonder if they had any?)

    2) They implemented an automated verification process that was incompatible with many of the major commercial email applications used by a significant portion of the public. That’s like developing a software application that doesn’t run on either Windows or Mac. Stupidity, or negligence? Probably a toss-up.

    3) Explanations of rules and procedures were often confusing, contradictory and incomplete; e.g. the issue of whether or not you could submit more than one song.

    4) They did not publish any clear and comprehensive technical requirements and guidelines for using their online systems. In the “real” world, providing this information is a commonly accepted practice for any technology offered for sale or public use.

    5) Little or no response was provided for reasonable inquiries and requests for help. I myself tried numerous times to make contact with 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia, American Idol, and Fox TV, and never received a single reply from anyone.

    6) Though they must have been aware that many people were having many of the same problems, they never bothered to publicly post any information addressing these issues. (Were they under-staffed? Did they hope that the problems would just go away? Or did they just not care?)

    All of this amounts to an unacceptable degree of incompetence, negligence, and bad faith on the part of the competition sponsors. (Maybe their organization is like the weather forecasters on TV – you can get it right only 50% of the time and still keep your job.) Perhaps the best we can hope for is that Sanjaya wins the singing competition, and the resultant shame and outrage causes them to rethink the whole American Idol process.

    In any event, for all of you who did manage to get your entries submitted, I wish you luck in this and all your future endeavors.


  23. Bob W. Thanks for your reply. The problem is that I WAS using high speed. I was using DSL Cable, which is supposed to be 3 MEG!! I hope they improve the contest by next year and make it more fair to everyone involved. I’m disappointed, to say the least!

  24. I didn’t see anything about not discussing what we submitted in the comptetition, with other people. They were just specific in making sure we created no secret agreements with one another that would be a surefire result of disqualification. While I still don’t submit the titles of the songs I entered in public forums, I do link the URL to some of my music as others have been doing in previous threads, by clicking on our name if you see it in blue (this means we have linked our name to a site, most likely with our music). Jesse from 19 Entertaiment most likely saw people doing this in this forum as he was obviously here to drop by some rules, and he did not comment on this being against the rules.

    I entered three songs. Going by what they are asking for, to reflect some emotional journey (or what I understood this to be), I feel that at least one song has a strong chance, while the other of the first two has a fair chance. The third I entered, I waited til the very last day on purpose because it was just for fun (upbeat pop song having nothing to do with an Idol’s emotional journey) and I read people were having trouble with their uploads. I had no trouble with my final upload whatsoever, it ran as smooth as day one. Maybe this is because I wasn’t on dial-up, as some of you have mentioned this caused a problem? Either way, I hope you all got your songs in, I can imagine it might be frustrating to encounter such issues so close to the end of you getting your song in.

    Good luck to everyone who entered!

  25. Melissa Cash Avatar
    Melissa Cash

    Mitch, WOW! Love the song! I posted mine here…

  26. Melissa Cash Avatar
    Melissa Cash

    Mitch, WOW! Love the song! I posted mine here… Keep in mind, I’m not a singer, but an aspiring songwriter =-)

  27. David V Avatar

    While I agree with Bob that AI created a very flawed system, I gotta say my chief reaction to Simon Fuller( the creator of AI) is: Thank you!!!!!
    Let’s face it,folks. This contest is the Holy Grail of songwriting contests, one that pretty much guarantees that if you win,your song, YOUR song, will be the number one song in the United States of America. For an unpublished songwriter (or any songwriter, for that matter) can it get any better than this?
    So yeah, I have complaints about some of the details of this contest but c’mon,man, if you want to have a career as a songwriter and you really think you have the ability, how can you not give this thing a shot and thank your stars for this chance to land at the top of the songwriting world?

    On another point, it appears that the on-line voting for the top 20 has been designed to limit people in how many times they can vote(as opposed to the AI phone-in voting system). You have register your email address and it appears you only get one vote per email addres

  28. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    I too think this first time around of this songwriting contest from AI was very flawed and rushed. They admitted it from the get-go that this might not have even happened this season because of all the prep for the charity shows next week that they have been planning for for several months–the logistics of pulling off something that big in such a small amout of time must be staggering, not to mention time-consuming, which took time/energy/resources/attention/planning etc away from the songwriting contest and the shows that would have been centered around the songwriters too….would have loved to have seen this been done the right way for the first time, but it wasn’t…

    But I agree with David V completely. This is an unheard of opportunity that can’t be passed up, no matter what you feel about the AI empire.

    Things that are great about this are:

    1-You get your song heard by professional active music industry A&R reps. You can’t even get in touch with these kind of people unless they are seeking you out, and why would they seek you out? They will hear your song and give it the same listen that everyone else will get, whether you are a pro or a novice. You never know, there might be other contracts offered from this even if you don’t get into the Top 20. This is really remarkable.

    2-If you get into the Top 20, you will get so much exposure you won’t know what to do with yourself. I mean, millions of people will hear your song and vote on it. That could lead to contacts you would never dream of. This is really priceless and once again, a major chance to get into the industry in a way you never could otherwise. And also, even though no one is 100% sure, it has been hinted that everyone who makes it to the Top 20 will get the 10,000 + 75% A.S. deal.

    3-The contest only costs 10$, so that is really cheap. Just don’t go to McDonald’s for dinner and there you have your 10$. You won’t miss it…

    4-You wrote another song (if you wrote one and didn’t cherry pick from previously written material). Another song in your portfolio is always a good thing.

    5-You are alreayd way ahead of people for songwriting for next seasons AI7 songwriting contest. It can only get better. I am betting that next time they will offer more money, devote 3 or 4 shows to the songwriters to showcase them, and make it more competitive and possibly pair you up with the singers, sort of like how they put a model with a designer on Proj Runway. This will get bigger and bigger each year so many more opportunities are coming with each season.

    6-You have nothing to loose by entering this contest. It is a win-win situation even if you just get into the Top 20, and of course a miracle if your song is the winner of the whole contest, not to mention a career in the music biz virtually guaranteed if you want it. It could chanage your life. But nothing will change if you don’t participate.

    Things that suck about this contest:

    Well, really only a few…

    1-If your song is one of the Top 20, it probly won’t get released unless AI decides to make an album out of all the tracks with singers from the shows. But otherwise you can’t do much with it at that point. You won’t get the publishing rights back for 10 years so the song MIGHT sit there unused.

    2-If you win the whole contest, AI gets your sync rights for payments from all media play of any kind, and that might not come back to you after the 10 years is up. That should be your money, but hey, after you win you are gonna get tons of people wanting you to write songs for them so I doubt you would even look back and worry about the winning song when you will have money rolling in from other work.

    3-The voting, if I am not mistaken, will only be online. So there won’t be any phone voting for your song (per se) until the final episode. I am thinking they will have each of the two final singers sing two different songs, so depending on who sings which song better, that could make a big difference. But who knows what they will do. In seasons past, they had two songs, but maybe this time they won’t.

    Overall, I am so happy to have been able to be a part of this contest. I am working on an album with my singer and this happened to be in the middle of a big creative streak for us, so the timing was perfect. I really think the song we did could be a major contender for a spot in the Top 20, but who knows what the A&R reps will think.

    I also never saw these songwriting forums before and didn’t know they existed until now, so it is cool I have finally found them. Maybe my singer and I will put up a link soon so you all can listen to and critique it.

  29. It was fun finding a website where we’re all talking about what we’ve all been thinking about for the past week!! I submitted a song…and I too am thinking…..”Oh my…..what IF my song made it to the top 20…..and they post it just as it on the website.” I’d be MORTIFIED………….my voice is really “stinking” lately. I wouldn’t want to call any of my friends to tell them to vote…cause I”d be embarassed about my voice! But…if they think it’s a good enough song…I guess I could live with it.
    I do wish they would have made that clearer though. I would have worked a lot harder on the recording.

  30. In response to what the producers of AI are looking for in a song — I read an article of an interview with one of them and they said the songs from past seasons have indeed gone to #1 in single record sales, BUT they have bombed in radio. Radio would not play them because they didn’t have a strong enough hook. And radio play is the more desireable benchmark for the success of a song. From all the research I’ve done, including on this blog site, having a great hook is key to radio play. So…I wrote my two song submissions based on that. I developed a strong hook for each song and built lyrics that supported that hook. Radio is the game and the prize!

  31. Mitch Townley Avatar
    Mitch Townley

    Decided to pull my song from the net till after the contest


  32. conductorchik Avatar

    I went to upload last night, and there I sat….watch the line move back and forth…..until it told me my file was too big, try again. AARRGH!!!! It was 4.1MB……So I went back and removed the strings. STILL 4.1!!! Then I had to cut 8-12 measures and I was able to get it down to 3.8. WHATEVER.
    I only found out about the contest this past Thursday….so I had NO TIME to teach someone the song and get them to sing it for me. HENCE, I entered my song with my sucky singing and all. Regardless of who is Top 20, I doubt America will pick a song with a SUCKY singer!!!!! No offense America, but since when do they know good content and writing as compared to singing?? I think they should have a 2 hr special where the contestants sing the songs of the Top 20.

  33. bonjoev Avatar

    I think that’s wise, Mitch. I’d love to share my songs as well as hear everyone elses, but am being very cautios regarding the “contestant collusion” section of the contest agreement (section 6.2).

    I send an email to “” last week asking for clarification on this and if songs could be posted on websites (i.e. myspace, blogs, personal websites, etc.). Still haven’t heard back.

    If anyone has any clarification on that, please let me know.

  34. “Without You” is an entry – check it out


  35. Trish & Ben Ireland Avatar
    Trish & Ben Ireland

    I think it was Homer Simpson that said, “If it weren’t for the last minute nothing would get done.” I usually live by this philosophy. Luckily I found this website before the final day and was ready for the technical problems before it was too late. I just wanted to thank those of you who posted solutions. You helped my husband get his song entered on time. Now the only hard part is waiting to find out when they’re going to let us all know. I hope if anyone here gets picked you’ll let us know so we can tell everyone to vote for you. Good Luck!

  36. Posting the music shouldn’t affect the “collusion” section – as it should not represent intent to conspire fraud.

  37. David V:

    Of course it’s a great opportunity. That’s why I tried to enter. However, that does not negate the fact that this thing has been very poorly handled, which caused a lot of unnecessary problems and confusion, which in turn resulted in many otherwise eligible people not being able to participate. But, no sour grapes on my part. I still wish all of you who did enter the best of luck. I posted these comments simply to raise a few issues, in the hope that maybe they would somehow find their way to people connected with the competition sponsors, who in turn might be motivated to try and do a better job with this next time around.


  38. I think there may be some misunderstanding as far as what collusion actually means. It’s not a word that means “Don’t talk to anyone, especially if they are in the competition with you”. I can’t think of any active application of the word that would prevent someone from putting some music they write up either. Collusion, if you look it up, is defined as “A secret activity undertaken by two or more people for the purpose of fraud.” This is, in my opinion, in no way applicabale for posting your music online. What secret agreements are being formed? What secret agreements could even BE formed at this point? Who would even WANT to do that risking disqualification?

  39. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to Ann S., in response to #29…

    Radio is dead and dying in America. I don’t know anyone that even listens to radio anymore except for those morning talk shows and stuff. Traditional radio is overly homogenized and they only play the same 20 songs on a tape rotation filled with tons of advertisements. I have not read the interview you mentioned, so I don’t know the context of their words, but I am sure they would love the song to get played more on radio. The more it is played on radio it makes them a ton more money, but it won’t boost sales of the single in any significant way. And I still believe that no matter whether they want it to get more radio play, they will stick to the formula that works for them in the past.

    They might use really hip cool producers or something to give the song a different angle instead of the traditional arrangements, but they will still pick mostly strong ballad type songs. And it will of course also totally depend on who wins this season and if they can really “sell” the song with their vocal style. It is a total gamble for all these things to fall into place, and the A&R guys and gals are not into gambling.

    But in any case, I just hope really good songs get picked for the Top 20. I would love to hear some faster more upbeat songs of course, as well as the more traditional ballads. The only downside I see to a faster type of song for the single is that fast songs tend to be highly stylized and are not as accessible to a wide audience. Slower songs are more easily digested by people from a wide range of ages and will sell more. Also, slower songs are generally harder to sing and can really show off a great singer’s voice, so that also has an effect on how people preceive the idols. Not one idol winner has been chosen on their fast upbeat work.

    Those are my thoughts…what do you all think?

  40. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to Eric, in response to #38…

    I agree. I don’t think they meant that we can’t talk about our songs, or post the lyrics or songs on websites. They are just worried about someone trying to collude with a person connected to the show, or 19 Entertainment, or one of the idol contestants, etc…

    However, they might not like it much if the song was released on the web in a major way before the contest is over. They could see that hurting the release of the single. You could unintentionally shoot yourself in the foot. People could decide ahead of time that they don’t like your song and it could work against you should you get in the Top 20. But I think that is a very slim chance indeed. But I think they want to have control of the song from here on out. Someone could hear your song online, record a new version of it, copyright it, and cause a big stink, not to mention legal problems for you should you get into the Top 20.

    I would love more than anything to post my mp3 and lyrics online for others to hear, but I think I am still going to err on the side of caution just to protect myself from any unforseen issues. I would hate to win the 10,000$ and then have to give it all back over something innocent like posting it on the web.

    Maybe once the Top 20 are announced, and if I am not in the Top 20, I will post my song and lyrics. I always love feedback! But if I were to get into the Top 20, I would definitely not put it online. The vote for Sanjaya websites could find out about it and conspire to ruin yours chances….

  41. David V Avatar

    Jeffrey C.,
    I think your insights are pretty much correct. However, I think there will be only one final song selected. The AI makes it clear that the online vote will produce only one winner.The two finalists will each interpret that song in their own way. That is, I think, why AI told people to write a song that could be adapted by different types of singers.

    I would love to be able to listen to more of the songs entered….. but I personally don’t think it wise to circulate one’s song prior to decision time. I find it interesting that most songs I have listened to have more “production” on their mix than I do even though I spent the money to go into a studio. I have voice, piano and acoustic guitar-that’s it. Many chose strings, drums,etc. but I think too much of these things can take focus away from what should be the nexus of attention: a powerful melody and story that highlights the singer’s range and power of emotion AS A SINGER.
    I realize that an “unplugged” version of a song runs the risk of getting marginalized but THE KEY to these contest entries, imo, is the quality of the vocal performance. If the judges and the public aren’t thinking “I can SO hear Melinda(or whoever) singing this on the finale” when listening to my vocalist, I don’t have a chance.
    Having said all that, does anyone know of a site where people are posting their AI song entries?

  42. Hey have the announced how many entries they finally received? I was sort of expecting far more than 5,000 the first week. I suspect in coming years the numbers will balloon as the William Hung’s of songwriting start sending in material just for kicks.

    I definitely think using the original demos for the vote will be contentious but I don’t know that there is a great alternative. It will be interesting if anything really rough gets selected. More importantly it will be interesting to see the public’s reaction to something rough. I understand though the producers quandry. If they have to re-produce your song who’s to say they do it in the best way…there’s a lot of subjectivity there. If they wanted to make it more even maybe they could force all entrants to do single instrument/voice demos. I suspect some of the entries will be full blown productions with string arrangements and the works. It would be really cool if the entries were all clearly demo quality. I’d hate to see twenty slickly produced mediocre songs from which to choose.

  43. Trish & Ben Ireland Avatar
    Trish & Ben Ireland

    I keep getting depressed by some of these long advice replies and then I remember, these are ALL just opinions. Nobody knows what the company is going to do. I think we’re all just here to give us something exciting to talk about until they announce the top 20. With that said, Tatrix, I loved “Without You.” I’ve played 4 times already!

  44. Mark L. Avatar

    I’m new here and this is the end of a long string.
    Did I hear here that whatever Top20 songs are chosen….the demo’s we sent in will be used….?

    Or….will they take all Top20 and reproduce them for the voting….? Sorry if this has been answered already.

    Lastly….have they contacted anyone yet….?


  45. Melissa Cash Avatar
    Melissa Cash

    After hearing a few of songs that have been submitted, I would say they would have a time only choosing 20 if the rest of the submissions are anything like I’ve heard. I’m also sure that a lot of great songs will be not be chosen due to volume of songs submitted.

    I only submitted my piece with piano in the background. I was going to add strings and drums, however it wasn’t neccesarily the music I was focusing on seeing that by a chance in a million my song is chosen, they will probably put their own musical style to it and possibly change it up a bit. The ones with a full band may get more online votes, but the people voting may be expecting the song to sound exactly like it was online when it is recorded. I will definitely be focusing more on lyrics when casting my vote than musical style. That can always and probably will be changed.

    Anyway, good luck to us all =)

  46. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to David V, in response to # 41…

    The only site I currently know of that has any links to song submissions is called, they are like one of the biggest music communities out there that deals with songwriters and musicians. If you go to the general forums there are some topics that say “what you entered for the AI contest” or something like that….

    I honestly did not hear anything that I felt was very good, but that is of course my opinion. Most of the ones I listened to were not commercially viable, or totally did not fit the American Idol needs. It was interesting though, because some of them seemed to have some good instrument players, but overall the songs I heard just did not move me.

    I think it would be cool, but they won’t do this of course, if AI would not only post the Top 20 for voting, but also post all the halfway decent songs so people could search by state and hear what other people entered. And also vote on those too for a “second prize” and “third prize” or something. But maybe next season….

  47. Good grief. I just found your site and am now horrified that the demos won’t be re-done for voting. The verbage from the contest site made it sound like the recording quality didn’t matter a jot, since the team at AI would be rearranging the songs. I guess they meant they’d do so after the voting and not before.

    I’ve gone from crossing my fingers and hoping my song does well, to crossing my fingers and hoping nobody outside my immediate family and the contest judges *ever* hears my godawful demo.

  48. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to Rob, in response to #42…

    Sadly, they did not utter even one word about the contest last night. I remember last week that they did say they received jsut over 5,000 songs, but they did not say anything else. At least they mentioned it. But this week not one word whatsoever on the show about it. I had figured they would say SOMETHING since the contest just ended and that would take literally 5 seconds to say, “The songwriting contest is well underway with 2 weeks of entries submitted and more than x number of songs were uploaded to the site, voting begins on May 2nd, make sure you vote for your favorite!”

    But no, they sluffed it off and didn’t mention the contest. I mean, they almost didn’t do this thing, so I am very happy they did do it, but it is being swept under the rug and not organized or planned very well, and I find that a little disrespectful to be honest.

    But I can understand that the Idol Gives Back thing is a monster to undertake and they just don’t have the resources to handle that and the contest with 100% devotion. Ce la vie….Hopefully they will learn something this time around and do it better next season.

    I am making my best guess that only around 10,000 to 15,000 songs were submitted. I figure that is a number that makes sense because only 5,000 were submitted at the halfway point last Wednesday, and at least another 5,000 will be submitted the second week, and then there will be lots of people who waited till the last day to submit their song not to mention people who might send in funny crap to try to make it on the show or something.

    If I am right about the numbers, and taking into account 14 days, 8 hours a day with no days off, and the fact that only 25% of the songs will be of any decent quality worthy of the full 4 min listen, and the other 75% will only be lucky to get a 15 sec listen, then they would only need 3 or 4 A&R staff to listen to all those songs. So based on that assumption, the 25% we are all competing against is about 3,750 songs, so if you entered one song then you have a 20 in 3750 chance, or a 1 in 188 chance of making it into the Top 20. I really have to say I like those odds.

    On the topic of the original submissions being used for the voting, the producers are going to interpret your song anyway for the finalist and that is what people would buy anyway, so they should just go ahead and produce the submissions in a really minimal form (professional vocalist and piano or guitar) before the voting begins. It just makes sense. They could post both the original submission and the minimally produced song so people could hear the changes. That would be really cool. People could actually get to see and hear how a song is born and birthed in the music industry. But otherwise, I really like your idea of making it a rule that the song can only be vocal and one instrument for the submissions, that way you don’t get some raw demos and some produced ones creating an inequity in the voting process.

  49. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to Mark L, in response to #44…

    According to some info earlier this week, it was found out that the original song mp3 you sent in will be the one they post on the site for people to vote on should you make it to the Top 20.

    Also, to my knowledge, no one has been contacted about their songs yet. But I think they will start to contact some of the Top 20 late next week. I entered my song on Monday night, so I am guessing that if I were to hear anything back it would not be until the end of the listening period. I know they will have to get you to sign paperwork stating you are the sole songwriter(s) and sign their contract, and you have to send in your original wave file that you submitted, etc…

    So we all have to wait until the Top 20 are announced, which seems like an eternity to have to wait. We all want to know what is going on and how we did and how other people did etc…


  50. This is a great site. I found it after I had posted my song but I didn’t have any trouble at all uploading it.

    I started my song on Saturday and finished it on Tuesday. I took seriously their request that the song reflect the emotional journey the contestant had been through and wrote a song that I imagine an AI winner would sing after winning. Yes it’s a power ballad… but that’s what I write best.

    My demo was pretty bad. I went to Radio Shack and bought a computer mic and recorded it on “Audacity” which I downloaded a few hours before the deadline. The quality was pretty bad but I LOVE the song. I now wish I had taken Monday and Tuesday off work to get a better recording and do it justice but what’s done is done.

    I too thought that they’d re-record the songs but looking at the time that’s left… I can see how that won’t happen. Still, there was that clause that said they reserve the right to do whatever they want so here’s hoping…

    Tatrix: good job…. especially loved the chorous… very memorable.

    Here is a link to a site where others have posted their songs:

    Good luck to all!

  51. I personally like demos. Something honest about them. Anyway, I read somewhere…maybe here…that they’ll take your masters and clean em up. So you’ll send a WAV file and they’ll give it to a mastering engineer to cleanup as best possible. I suppose in theory you could swap a more complete version or better mixed version when they request the master. Though it did say on the AI website that you must make the master “immediately” available if selected. I don’t know how immediate is “immediately”.

  52. Ann…I hear you loud and clear. I keep thinking that if the song made it to the top 20…I would want to call everyone I know and get them to vote….but I know they’d go in a listen to the song!!

    American Idol must know that non musicians do not know how to tell a good song without all the production surrounding it. They should re-think this and record all the top 20 songs…on an equal level. They could make them all very unproduced…but with a decent singer.

  53. Mark L. Avatar

    thanks Jeffery C.

  54. Did you all get any kind of confirmation that your entry had been successfully submitted? I am wondering whether they even received my song and apparently I am the only one worrying (which causes me more worry). I used my mom’s email address since mine is AOL and they suggested using another account. Trying to upload my song with my AOL dialup did not work so I emailed my mom the song and lyrics and bio and I talked her through the entry over the phone with my credit card info and she entered it all on her mac. (she lives in a different town) She said when she had everything entered and hit “submit entry”, it gave her the “this may take a moment please be patient” and then that little message went away and she was just looking at the screen with no error messages and no confirmation- no nothing. She hit submit again and the same thing happened. If I never hear anything I will always wonder if they even got my song! Should I be worrying? Did anyone else get a confirmation message?

  55. to Jeffrey C…

    I listen to talk radio in the car, BUT I listen to music stations ALL day at work, as do my other co-workers, plus my kids download their favorite songs from the net and play them over and over again. My point about “hooks”, as I’m sure you know, is that a good song MUST have a good hook and strong lyrics. The hook makes it memorable, repeatable, singable, playable and long-lived. We all know the reason radio loops certain songs over and over again is because these songs “hook” the listeners so they stick around long enough for the advertisers try to sell stuff to them in-between songs. Radio might be “dead” as you say, but ALL the more reason to listen to what it is playing because it needs the absolute best stuff to keep people engaged in that forum. The reason radio didn’t play the past Idol songs is they lacked great, memorable hooks. The only reason these songs went gold or better is because enthusiastic Idol fans went out and supported their winner by buying the single. I think anyone who wants to write a great song needs to learn from radio. I stand by the premise that if you write a song that gets radio play, you’ve got a winner. The American Idol Songwriting Contest rules emphasized that they were looking for a great song with a strong hook and strong lyrics. Anybody who closely examines the hits played on radio (or the popular downloads or the #1 singles) will learn a great deal about what gets and keeps people’s attention. I think American Idol wants a finale song that, years from now, people will be able to sing on the spot, rather than have one remembered (if they can even remember it) for how “bad” it was. That is their current problem, and thus were the comments from Nigel in the article which I can’t find anymore, since it’s been buried in all the hoopla about the contest. I think Idol was looking for a “formula” song that stepped up to this challenge. We’ll see…won’t we? Also, you tell me…don’t songwriters make BMI/ASCAP royalties off radio play? (By the way, another good “test” of a song is to imagine hearing the instrumental version of it in an elevator (without the words). If it stands up to that test, all the better! Plus, royalties from that, too.) The way I read it somewhere, singers make most of their money off album/single sales and concert touring, not off radio play. Yet, writers also take a cut of album sales? It seems to me the best case scenario is to be a singer-songwriter…

  56. Jeffery Cameron Avatar
    Jeffery Cameron

    to Tatrix, in response to # 34….

    wow, that is one damned good song….is that yours? or someone else’s that entered the contest? i would not be surprised if that one made the top 20…..

    it sort of has an echo of the band Chicago…but also a hint of Keane as well….i really liked it.

  57. taterix Avatar

    It would be possible to re-record each song, vocalist + piano. Unfortunately I doubt they have the time.

    I read the “Guide” and also thought they were going to re-record each top 20 tune. Always submit with the best production you can afford.

  58. Ann is right – it’s about the hook and the lyrics. Sound easy enough but it’s an art, a science and a craft to create these elements simultaneously.

    You can get lucky with a turn of a phrase and a catchy note or two but putting it all together is an intentional act.

  59. Here’s a new thread to keep the discussion going!