The International Blues Challenge, or IBC as it is known, is an annual competition to identify the best unknown blues musicians. Actually it tries to identify not so much unknown musicians, but ones who are ready for the “big time.” The IBC competition can be a springboard to a whole career.
Here’s how it works…
Each year, blues societies from around the world have their own local competitions and then send the winners to Memphis to compete for cash, prizes, and industry recognition. As one winner pointed out… it amounts to a $100K promotional budget for a band or musician.
In 2013, 125 bands and 80 solo/duo acts entered, filling the clubs up and down Beale Street for the quarter-finals on Wednesday and Thursday, the semi-finals on Friday and the finals at the Orpheum Theater on Saturday. We will have at least that many in 2014.
The IBC is actually part of an amazing week in Memphis that includes the prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) awards that honor the men and women, who have made significant contributions to the Blues music world, in 20 categories such as journalism, literature and photography and to the best clubs and festivals, as well as managers, promoters and producers.
There is also youth showcase for those under the age of 21. The 30th IBC will include an afternoon (Friday, January 24) of talented young people showcasing their talents for record labels, media, festivals, managers, talent buyers and the fans.
But the highlight of the week is the IBC competition itself which begins Tuesday night (Jan 21) with the FedEx International Showcase. Wednesday and Thursday night (January 22-23) quarter finals will be conducted. Youth Showcase and Semi Finals will be held Friday night (Jan 24). Saturday (Jan 25) IBC will conclude with Finals in the beautiful Orpheum Theater.
Past winners include Michael Burks, Sean Carney, Albert Castiglia, Tommy Castro, the late Sean Costello, Delta Moon, Larry Garner, Joey Gilmore, Homemade Jamz Blues Band, Richard Johnston, Joe Moss, Jason Ricci, Susan Tedeschi, Teeny Tucker, Watermelon Slim, and Michelle Wilson.
Tampa Bay’s own Selwyn Birchwood won last years IBC competition and his career has taken off. Selwyn has been on the road all summer playing national clubs and many of the top Blues Festivals in the country.
If your band is interested better get to work. Applications begin October 1st and I know the competition here in Tampa Bay for the Suncoast Blues Society has already been scheduled for early in October.