I recorded a demo today to submit to various competitions and festivals. I always have problems when I’m preparing material for competitions. If you’ve ever experienced a pre-screening process, you may know what I’m talking about.

First of all, competitions are useless to the advancement of a career unless you can get past pre-screening. If that happens, then can you can start cultivating relationships, perform live for your peers and maybe even walk away with some money!

So when preparing for pre-screening, there’s a struggle. You really want to make it to the next round and so your demo has got to be bold. You want to make it clear to the judges in the first 30 seconds that you can play fast, groove hard, be creative, acknowledge tradition, retain interest and attract an audience. The problem, considering all of these things is that it’s very difficult to make an honest statement that represents you and your musicality. Should you play for the judges, or should you just play?

Competitions are unpredictable. The most deserving doesn’t always win. Sometimes it’s the person who’s the most commercial, or the person with a touching story. Maybe it’s the person who’s the best looking. The point is that you’re never going to know what judges want. I’ve come to realize that you’re best shot is to stop thinking about it, find the zone and do what you do best.

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