The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) has announced its 2021 winners. Launched in 2002, ISC is considered the most prestigious songwriting competition in the world, receiving more than 21,000 entries this year from over 150 countries. Renowned for its panel of high-caliber judges, ISC has been called "the songwriting competition to take note of" by The New York Times.
In celebration of its 20th Anniversary this year, ISC has increased its prize package to $225,000 in cash and merchandise to be shared by 71 winners in 23 categories. The overall Grand Prize package has also been increased to more than $70,000 and includes $25,000 (US) in cash, plus merchandise and services.
The overall Grand Prize is ISC ‘s highest honor and this year is awarded to songwriter and performing artist Stephanie Middleton (aka Notelle) from Richmond, VA, USA for her song “Sufjan Stevens.” This award, selected by ISC’s panel of celebrity artists and music industry executives, is given to one songwriter in the competition who embodies the highest degree of excellence in the craft of songwriting.
When Notelle learned that she had won the Grand Prize she said, “There are very few moments that leave you speechless from joy. This moment for me will be one of them. I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that a song I wrote alone in my car would have had this much of an impact on my pursuit of being a songwriter. ISC has given me the kind of opportunity and encouragement that I have never had before, and I will be forever grateful. What an unbelievable experience.”
For much of her career, Notelle has been recognized as an EDM featured vocalist and topliner for many of the genre’s most high-profile artists. Collaborating with DJs and producers around the globe, she has accumulated more than 41 million streams as both a songwriter and artist. Now, however, Notelle is exploring her solo artistry and is developing her own version of innovative, genre-breaking music. Her ISC-winning song, “Sufjan Stevens,” is riddled with inventive literary and pop culture references, encompassing smart and unexpected imagery. Notelle’s fearless desire to push stylistic boundaries and avoid standard structure perfectly aligns with her compelling vocals and melodies into what Notelle describes as “dark industrial pop.” These outstanding songwriting elements are exactly what resonated so strongly with the ISC judges, resulting in her being awarded this year's overall Grand Prize winner.
“Notelle is such an interesting and unconventional songwriter,” said Candace Avery, ISC Founder and Director. “She seemingly dismisses the typical rules of songwriting but still has created a smart, compelling, and accessible song with her Grand Prize winner entitled “Sufjan Stevens.” Her willingness to go outside of the standard boundaries allows her the creativity to write a song that is so fresh – and ultimately this is what timeless songs are made of.”
In addition to the Grand Prize winner, many other deserving songwriters also share in the prestige and kudos of winning their respective categories in ISC. These winners hail from all over the world (56% of this year’s winners come from outside the USA) and represent diverse cultures while ranging from talented amateurs to seasoned songwriting veterans. The 23 categories include all genres of contemporary music, from Pop to World Music to Country to Instrumental, and many more.
In celebration of its 20th Anniversary, ISC also created two special awards this year: the Founder’s Choice Award and the Spotlight Award, both of which are in addition to the regular prizes and awards. The Founder’s Choice Award is selected by the competition’s founder and listening committee and is given to one artist who is awarded $10,000 in cash (US). The recipient of this special award is singer/songwriter Sean Murphy from Cork, Ireland for his beautiful and introspective song “The Troubled Tears Of Drury Road.”
The Spotlight Award, presented by ISC and SOCAN, is given to one Canadian artist who exemplifies excellence in songwriting. The winner is the Juno award-winning Christian rock band The Color from Winkler, MB, Canada for their song "Bigger". The prize package consists of studio time at the renowned Dark Horse Recording in Franklin, TN; one-week lodging at the SOCAN House in Nashville; and a travel grant from the SOCAN Foundation.
Winning ISC is a distinction that has helped many artists go on to achieve greater success. Previous winners have included: Tones and I; Illenium; Vance Joy; Bastille; Fantastic Negrito; R.LUM.R; Gotye; Lindsey Stirling; Kimbra; Dustin Lynch; Faouzia; The Band Perry; Kehlani; Gregory Porter; Passenger; Gin Wigmore; Missy Higgins; For King & Country; Tenille Townes; Adrienne Lenker (Big Thief); Jordan St. Cyr; Andrew Bird; and many more.
For a complete list of winners go to songwritingcompetition.com/
The complete panel of 2021 judges includes:
Recording Artists: Coldplay; Tom Waits; Joe Hahn (Linkin Park); Jeremiah Fraites (The Lumineers); Hozier; Trevor Daniel; NEEDTOBREATHE; Tenille Townes; James Adam Shelley (American Authors); Kristian Bush (Sugarland); Laura Pausini; Parmalee; Lonnie Liston Smith; Cory Asbury; Blackbear; Sara Evans; Sidewalk Prophets; Steve Lillywhite; Nancy Wilson (Heart); Krewella; Glen Ballard; Dave Simonett (Trampled By Turtles); Danilo Perez; Above & Beyond; Oumou Sangaré; Jack DeJohnette; Parker Milsap; Tim Rice-Oxley (Keane); Dave Koz; Niko Moon; Sugaray Rayford; James McNally; Jordan St. Cyr; Don Bryant; Joe Louis Walker; Ashwin Batish; Carter Burwell; Nicholas Gunn (Limelght); and Jimmy Pardo (Comedian)
Industry Judges: Daniel Glass (President/Founder, Glassnote Records); Bruce Iglauer (Founder/President, Alligator Records); Richard Stumpf (CEO, Atlas Music Publishing); Ed Vetri (President, Wind-Up Records); David McTiernan (Senior Director, Artist & Label Relations, Vevo); Greg Johnson (VP of A&R, Columbia Records); Golnar Khosrowshahi (President, Reservoir Media Management); Will Speer (Managing Director, Magic Star Records/Sony); Nate Albert (EVP of A&R, Capitol Records); Kim Buie (VP of A&R, New West Records) Shawn Barron (VP of A&R, Motown); Dan Chalmers (Head Of Music, YouTube, EMEA); Kate Labrel (VP of A&R, Warner Records); Christopher Muller (Global Head of Music Partnerships, YouTube); Jacob Edgar (Founder, Cumbancha); Matt D'Arduini (Sr. VP of A&R /GM, Last Nite Records/Arista Records); Joel Timen (VP of A&R and Publishing, Curb/Word Entertainment); Cory Robbins (Founder/President, Robbins Entertainment); Samantha Jervey (Director A&R, Capitol Christian Music Group); Julie Kertes (Editor/General Manager, Hot Diggity Media); Jacqueline Post (Head of Publishing, Connection Music Publishing); Kenny Weagly (Entertainment Executive); Ben Kramer (Global Lead, Artist and Label Development, Youtube); Leib Ostrow (Founder/CEO, Music For Little People); Katherine Dines (Advisory Board and Magic Penny Award Chair, Children’s Music Network); Claire S. Green (President, Parents' Choice Foundation); Julia Beyer (Director, ARC Music Productions International); Benjamin Groff (President, Brill Building Music Publishing); Tamara Conniff (EVP, Roc Nation Music Publishing); Carl Caprioglio (Founder & CEO, Oglio Entertainment); and Elena Epstein (Director, National Parenting Product Awards)
ISC is sponsored by: Arturia; Alclair Audio; Audeze; BSquared Management; Celebrity Access; Dark Horse Institute; Eventric; iZotope; Laney; Lurssen Mastering; Merch Cat; Modal Electronics; Phillip Ashley Chocolates; Play MPE; PreSonus; SongU; Sweetwater; Taylor Guitars; TuneCore; Warm Audio
Entries are now open for ISC 2022. For more information and to enter, go to songwritingcompetition.com