It’s every musician’s dream to reach the international stage, to get his or her music into the ears of the people who pull the strings and raise the curtain on the biggest names in the business. 

The Unsigned Only competition is a major opportunity for local music creators to compete on a level playing field with other artists from around the world. It’s a chance to pit your skills against the best, be judged by music superstars and see how you measure up. It also presents the golden opportunity to win the grand prize of $10 000 (about R85 000). Best of all, the winner of this global shootout will enjoy exclusive one-on-one mentoring with members of the music business’s inner circle. 

Unsigned Only is an international music competition for solo artists, bands and singers who are not signed to a major record label or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or imprints. The goal of this global talent search is to seek out an exceptional “gem” that’s out there, just waiting to be discovered. The Unsigned Only competition offers the chance for someone to get on the fast track to success and be mentored by a group of record company presidents, A&R representatives and other industry gurus. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to connect with and enjoy the professional advice, guidance, feedback and networking opportunities offered by a selection of powerful music leaders. 

This year’s judging panel reads like the “who’s who” of the music industry. It includes Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Cyndi Lauper, Iggy Pop, Carly Simon, John Oates (Hall & Oates), Eve, 3 Doors Down, Neon Trees, Brandi Carlile, Hunter Hayes, Manchester Orchestra, Black Francis (aka Frank Black from The Pixies), Ryan Bingham, Faith Evans, David Crowder, Craig Morgan, Robert Smith (The Cure), Darryl McDaniels (Run DMC), Of Monsters and Men, Wynonna, Aaron Shust, Kirko Bangz, G Love, Jason Gray, Dustin Lynch, The Mountain Goats, Anthony DeCurtis (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Josh Jackson (co-founder and editor-in-chief, Paste Magazine), Vanessa Satten (editor-in-chief, XXL Magazine), Christopher Weingarten (senior editor, Spin) and Chris Richards (pop music critic, The Washington Post).

The 2012 grand prize winner, Lara Johnston, is quick to sing the praises of Unsigned Only. “The mentoring opportunities provided by Unsigned Only are nothing short of incredible,” she says. “I’ve had in-depth conversations and meetings with the uppermost gatekeepers and leaders of the music industry. Since winning Unsigned Only, I’ve garnered invaluable advice from a rich variety of perspectives, and I’ve had the chance to start relationships with people who can truly help me in my career.”

This year’s list of VIP mentors boasts some of the world’s most powerful music bosses, including Monte Lipman (president of Universal Republic Records), Pete Ganbarg (executive vice-president/head of A&R, Atlantic Records), Shawn Holiday (senior vice-president of A&R, RCA Records and Sony/ATV Music Publishing), Josh Bailey (senior vice-president of A&R, Word Label Group), Kim Stephens (president, Forward Entertainment and A&R/Capitol Music Group), Allison B Jones (vice-president of A&R, Big Machine Label Group) and Lisa Ramsey-Perkins (senior director of A&R, Sony Music Nashville).

The panel of international judges will be assessing each entry against the criteria of originality,songwriting, vocals, performance and overall likeability. There are 10 categories, which means there’s something for just about everyone. They include AAA (adult album alternative), AC (adult contemporary), Christian, country, folk/singer-songwriter, R&B/hip-hop, rock, pop/top 40, teen (for artists 18 years old and younger) and vocal performance. 

Only original music will be accepted, with the exception of the vocal performance and teen categories, which allow either original or cover songs. All genres of music are accepted in these two categories. 

An entry fee of $30 per entry applies. The deadline for song submissions (via online platforms or mail) is 14 March 2013. For more information and to find out how to enter, visit or email