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Road To Memphis Guide

The attached document contains much pertinent information on the 2016 Road To Memphis showcase taking place on Sunday May 22nd.  Give it a read to be the best prepared you can be.

Hello all…My name is Jason Simonds. I will be running the sound system during the Road To Memphis competition. I also have a blues band that competed in the RTM a few times.  I just wanted to highlight something Duane mentioned the other day, in a thread on Facebook about the rules and scoring system, and to let you know a few details about the stage setup  Bunker Hill Sound will be providing at the RTM.

Duane said…..
“Typical scores are …. 
1-3 – Typical of a beginning blues band.
4-5 – Typical of a local weekend band.
6-7 – Typical of an advanced local band but not yet ready to headline a major blues club.
8-9 – Typical of the quality of blues artists who headline major clubs.
10  – Typical of those who play the main stage at major festivals”
Each category is judged on a 1 to 10 scale, and then a multiplier is applied at x4, x3 and x2 resulting in the category totals below, see the attached score sheet.

Blues Content    40pts

Vocals                   30pts
Talent                   30pts
StagePresence 20pts
Originality          20pts

total                   140pts

RTM scoresheet

For the top 3, you are on your own.  For the bottom two I can toss out some … thoughts.. ideas and opinions.  I’ll start with a question.  

Do you go out to see national acts?  

I ask, because that is who you are being judged against, and compared to, in the above scoring system. ( the scoring system is what it is) What I am about to say, might come off as critical, but it is not meant that way, it is meant to help your act score well in the above criteria…. the intent is to help… it is meant as constructive suggestions from someone that has competed and from the guy that did sound for the RTM last year and is doing it this year and someone who has seen a  lot of national acts in the past few years.

How “professional” is your appearance, demeanor and sound… especially when compared to nationally touring acts? How “tight” is your sound? How together are the members of the band? How comfortable is everyone on stage? How professional is everyone on stage? Does the band come across individuals or is it a focused group? All of the above, is why I ask if you go to see national acts. Beyond having good music, an act has to be able to make a presentation of their music.  In my veiw, the goal of this competition is to create a way for local blues acts, to get a shot at national exposure and recognition. A leg up into the next level. Sort of acting as minor leagues for the blues industry.  It is a very successful process, with hundreds of acts arriving in Memphis every year from all over the world and many going home with not only experience, but gigs on a national level.

A coordinated look of any kind scores points. … it does not hurt to have some polish… of the total 140 points an act can score 20 are for stage presence, so all things being equal the act that has a good stage presence will win, or conversely the act with great presence may score the same overall as an act that has a better score in other areas. 

Talk to the audience and the judges, let them know who you are and why you do what you do…. make eye contact… but keep the talk short… not too much… make sure you tell the judges when a song is an original.. if they are all original, mention that a couple of times to make sure they know. If there is a short backstory tell it… have some ramble ready in case someone breaks a string or has to adjust something… Be a star, but be humble too.   

The only other advice I could give would be make it all original if you can. Originality is another potential 20 of the 140 possible points.

Running the stage…..

There will be a backline. As of the writing of this guide there will be a SoulTramp Tweed12 Amplifier on stage. This is a hand built $2500 amplifier designed to create classic sounds. There will be one other guitar amp on stage. At this point we are awaitng confirmation on the drums set and bass rigs.

Everything will be mic’d. The drumset, amps will be mic’d. Bass direct if we can, and keys through the PA. This will accomplish two major goals. The first concern is time, starting at noon sharp and allowing for 20 MINUTES PER ACT, there is nearly 5 hours of just playing time, let alone any time used for changing acts. By using a backline we will facilitate much faster change overs on the stage, that will result in a much faster flow for all of us. The second goal will be overall volume. Certainly adjust your volumes as you would in solo’s and for effect, but try to maintain a level that doesn’t get too loud. If it needs more, the PA can compensate through the mains. The vocalist is at the mercy of the PA system, but the on stage amps can create real issues for the overall sound. Have someone check your rehearsal balances so you know where you need to be on the day of competition. When the stage amps get too loud it means the PA system has to get louder so the vocalist can be heard…. and then it all gets too loud. Please consider, once your competition set starts, you are on your own. If you are too loud, I am not allowed to do more than adjust what I can from the board. If the on stage amps are cranked up, there will be nothing I can do and your overall sound will suffer.
Speaking of Volume… please keep a mind to overall volume. The judges have a long day ahead and with a random draw, everyone has an equal chance of being first, or last.  If everyone can tame their overall sound it will help the judges do their job as best they can.  

With your permissions, I will help you get your volumes right before your set starts, but only if you directly ask.  I have no desire to do other than help you sound the best you can, but I also appreciate that we are all artists and want certain levels of control of our sound. I am here to work with and for you. There will be a basic monitor mix setup to start, please feel free to ask for adjustments during your warm-up. Look farther down for giving me feedback on monitor mix needs or nots.

If there is a techincal issue during your performance, bring my attention to it, tell me what is happening, and how I can fix it, and/or if you need me to make a switch on something. Done smoothly it could even increase your score. (see the above note on having a ramble ready) Don’t put up with something that will affect your score. In this competition you are being told in advance that you will have 20 MINUTES. You might consider budgeting 20-30 secs for potential technical issues.

Stage flow… there will be 13 acts as I type this up.The challenge on the day will be getting everyone on and off stage in a timely manner with as little stress on the incoming act as possible.  We are going to try to have gear stacked in front of the one door (that we will close off) on stage right. ( see attached Stage Map)  Once your act has completed, please move your gear straight fwd off the stage, to allow the next act to come in from the side. If you can, please remove your gear from the premises once your act has played to make it easier for the rest of the acts to setup and tear down. When your set is done, your priority is to get off stage as quickly and safely as possible, so the next act can setup and get ready as soon as is possible. In the same breath, if your act is up next, be ready to go. Please read a copy of the IBC rules.  

Please wait to bring your gear in until after the draw for play position.  If you are the first act, you will get the time you need to setup, but please expedite it as much as you can. Ask for help from one of the other acts to lug gear. If you are the last act, you have my empathy, as I have had to play in both slots, first and last. At this point there is only one keyboard in the competition. We will work with this on the day to expedite the storage and setup.

Be respectful of other acts when they are playing and you are waiting to go on or waiting after…. this is especially a concern during quieter passages… suddenly the band quiets down and the people in the room become louder than the music from the stage… also, please ask your guests to also be mindful of their talk during performances.

Cell Phones OFF.  ( I forget sometimes myself)

On a personal note… try not to be too hung over when you show up…  😀   … and don’t blurt out an obscenity when your band gets called on to be first up in the rotation. ( ask me how I know )

There is a considerable amount of personal, musical and other work to bring an act, your act, to the stage… years and years of individual work and a ton of group work, but the working bands also have another mountain to be done, and I think that is where many acts fall short.   I know for my own part, and in hind sight, I was way too nervous and no where near as relaxed on stage as I needed to be..we rushed things, didn’t take enough time with the audience.. .eye contact was lacking… we made a lot of little mistakes… and they all add up.. or rather they don’t add up…to the higher score.  My advice to all, is to create the set you will use, and run it down with all the talking you intend to do as well… and video tape it… watch it back each time and adjust.  Be genuine, be fun and be relaxed, but also be sharp and on point.

Please send an email to

for the subject please use your “Band Name at Road To Memphis” 

In this email please descibe your act. 
How many members? 
What instument(s) do they play, do they sing, do they have a mic preference? 
Direct Insert Box?(acoustic guitars, etc) 
Horns? ( I have an AKG Clip on that just rocks) 
Keyboards? Does the Keyboard want a stereo feed or will a mono line work?

Any preference on lead vocal mix.. reverb/echo etc?

Any effects needed at a point during a song?

The lighting system will be set to a red blue wash. It can do more if you want it to.

A generic stage map has been attached. Up front will be two 15” wedge monitors, Mon #1 & #2, they can be aimed as you wish with a mix changed independently to whatever you want in them. Mon#3 and #4 will be 12” wedges for either the keys or third front-person and the drummer. There will be a 300wt 15”sub on stage to help the lower end of the keys/guitars and kick in the PA.  If you have not been in the room at Fast Breaks, the stage space is similar to the one at the Tailgate, without the risers, even to the door on one side of the stage. RTM-Guide

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The Annual Winter Blues Bash!
The MBS Winter Blues Bash!

Hey everyone…did you know you can join MBS by sending us a paypal for $15 (individual)?  Just logon to PayPal and send your dues to

PLUS, it’s the  Winter Blues Bash next week, Sunday, Jan. 17th at The Portland House of Music.  NOON until 6pm.  Darren Thiboutot,  Mike an the Mojo, and The Juke Rockets, and then Sugar Ray and the Bluetones!  Tickets at

2016 IBC Contest Official Rules

Official Rules and Event Summary –

Act registration is open, check with your local affiliate for details.
Deadline for ALL acts to register is November 24, 2014.

1. Who can enter?

A Blues act cannot enter the International Blues Challenge (IBC) directly. Only a Blues Foundation Affiliate may sponsor an act. The act is eligible as long as it has not ever received a Blues Music Award nomination. An act may not participate in the IBC in three consecutive years. An act may be a band, solo/duo or youth.

2. What is an affiliate?

The International Blues Challenge is restricted to acts sponsored by a Blues Foundation affiliate. Click HERE for a complete list of affiliates.

Each of The Blues Foundation’s 200+ Affiliated Organizations has the opportunity (but not the obligation) to sponsor one or more acts in the IBC. (If your nonprofit blues society is not an affiliate, contact Jay Sieleman at Each Affiliate may enter a Band in the Band Division and/or a Solo/Duo act in the Solo/Duo Division to compete in the 31st IBC in 2015. Each Affiliate may also send a youth act for the Youth Showcase.

An Affiliate must be affiliated with The Blues Foundation no later than the conclusion of the IBC of the preceding year to be eligible to sponsor an act for the IBC. (The 2015 IBC concluded January 24 so to sponsor an act in 2016, the society had to be an Affiliate by that date.)

Any questions about affiliate eligibility please email or call 901-527-2583 ext 12

3. What is a Blues Music Award nomination?

The only artists who are deemed ineligible for the International Blues Challenge are artists whose have been nominated for a Blues Music Award-whose name has appeared on a final Blues Music Award ballot-in the 30 + year history of the Blues Music Awards (and formerly the W.C. Handy Awards). All other musicians who have had peripheral and/or professional contact through performance with a Blues Music Award nominee, including but not limited to, touring band members and studio musicians, are deemed eligible for the IBC. The exception is band members of a band nominated for Band of the Year. Each member is considered a Blues Music Award nominee even though the band name, not each band member’s name appears on the final ballot.

For the purpose of the IBC, being named on a final ballot for the Blues Music Awards is the dividing line with regard to eligibility. The Blues Music Award is considered the highest award a Blues artist can receive for excellence in their craft. Artists whose names have appeared on a final ballot for the Blues Music Awards have achieved a level of recognition within the Blues world that sets them apart from all other Blues artists. It is one of the measuring sticks by which a successful career in Blues music can be gauged.

4. Are there other restrictions?

An act is limited to two consecutive appearances at the IBC and must then sit out at least one year before being eligible to compete again. An act under the same name will not be allowed to compete three consecutive years.

An individual may not compete in more than one act in any capacity.

A musician cannot compete in the Band Division and the Solo/Duo Division, even if that musician represents a different Affiliate in each.

Affiliates are allowed and often do impose additional eligibility restrictions for their own competitions.

5. What is a band? What is a solo/duo? What is youth?

The IBC adheres to the following criteria for what constitutes a band, what constitutes a solo/duo act, and what constitutes as a youth act.

Band – any act with three or more musicians. Vocalists are counted as musicians for the purpose of this competition. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed.

Solo/Duo – any act with one or two musicians. Vocalists are counted as musicians for the purpose of this competition. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed.

Youth – any act that all members are under the age of 21 at the time of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. PLEASE NOTE: Youth acts can be appointed by the board of an affiliate. A competition is not required.

6. How does an Affiliate enter an act?

Affiliates in Canada and the United States must conduct an open, judged live music competition. Affiliates in these two countries may not appoint an act.

The Blues Foundation recommends that Affiliates in all countries produce a live music competition to choose their act(s). All affiliates may be required to conduct a live competition and exceptions, if we even allow any, will be subject to advance approval. If you already have a competition, you have nothing to worry about. If you do not already have a competition, but you are going to produce one this year, you have nothing to worry about. If you are hoping to send someone without a competition, you best start talking to Executive Director real soon and have a real good reason for not staging a live music competition. And even that may not work!! This represents a continuing tightening of the rules in this regard that affiliates have been advised of in recent years.

Do not ask to appoint an act(s) if you are in Canada or the United States, if the act includes a board member or officer of the Affiliate, or if the act is not from your geographic area. If the act is appointed rather than selected through a competition, the Affiliate must submit a copy of the official meeting minutes at which the Affiliate took the action to sponsor the act(s). The Blues Foundation reserves the right to deny any or all appointed acts.

An Affiliate’s entrant is considered a representative of that Affiliate in every capacity. Thus, the Affiliate remains liable for any problems created by its representative.

All digital applications, as well as findings of eligibility and registration requirements for IBC are the responsibility of the Affiliate, NOT THE ACT.

7. What else?

Affiliates are not only encouraged, they are expected to enforce these rules to ensure that their acts are indeed eligible.

The Blues Foundation will stand as the final arbiter of any eligibility disputes. All contestants must register by the pre-determined deadline, in the format requested, before competing in IBC. Any Band found at any time to have been ineligible at the time of the competition will be stripped of its award(s) and the Affiliate may be liable for financial restitution of cash and other prizes to The Blues Foundation.

Any International Blues Challenge questions please email or call 901-527-2583 ext. 11

Scoring Criteria

The Blues Foundation recommends that all Affiliated Organizations in their competition use our established scoring criteria. Categories include Talent Vocal, Blues Content, Stage Presence and Originality.

1. Blues Content: Everyone has his or her own interpretation of what is and is not Blues. Thus, any given three-judge panel will include members with varying opinions of Blues, covering the spectrum of Blues whenever possible, from the most traditional to soul/blues and rock/blues. Bands should pick material carefully. At the Memphis semi-finals and finals, the judges are Blues professionals, not a bar crowd, and are likely to be unimpressed with song selections that are uninspired. (Call this–with all due respect to Sir Mack Rice and Wilson Pickett–the “no Mustang Sally rule.”)

2. Vocals: The acts vocal skills.

3. Talent: The acts instrumental skills.

4. Originality: Original work is encouraged. Cover tunes are allowed but playing the recorded rendition lick by lick is discouraged; will not be looked upon favorably by the judges; and will be reflected in scoring.

5. Stage Presence: Over the years, the quality of talent has risen so dramatically that we no longer consider this an “amateur” competition. Most contestants have performed on stage enough to know that they are not simply playing music, but putting on a show. This category rates how “sellable” a band may be.

To reflect the relative importance of each category in the success of a band, a band’s score in each category is weighted. Raw scores for Blues Content is multiplied by four, Talent and vocals by three and Originality and Stage Presence are multiplied by two. The total in each category represents the Weighted Score for that category. Total possible weighted score is 140.

Penalty Points

An ACT will be penalized one point from its Total Weighted Score (see below) for each ten seconds that it runs overtime. There is no penalty for using less than the allotted time.
At the producing organization’s discretion, a policy of penalty for excessive time loading-in and out will also be applied.
The weighted multipliers will be Blues content (4); talent and vocals (3); originality (2) and stage presence (2).

Affiliate’s and/or Act’s are prohibited from contacting any IBC venue, for any reason. Violations of this rule will result with point deductions from the act(s) raw score. The Blues Foundation is your ONLY contact for this competition.

In addition, IBC participants can lose points for non-compliance with administrative aspects of the competition.

-Online application was filled out completely, accurately and before the deadline
-Act checked in at ACT Registration on first day of event.
-Act checked in with Venue Coordinator at their assigned venue at LEAST 10 minutes before the FIRST ACT plays each night.
-Act was in the right venue at the proper time and ready to perform.***
-Act showed up and on time to Finals orientation.
-Act ready to perform at proper time in finals.

***Venue Coordinators have the authority to act on behalf of The Blues Foundation to insure that the event goes smoothly in their designated venue. In the event that a band scheduled to play in a specific slot is not able to perform for whatever reason, the VC will have the authority to deduct a point from the band’s overall weighted score for that night’s competition. The next band scheduled to play will be asked to step into that slot. Should that band, for whatever reason, not be able to perform when asked, the VC has the authority to deduct a point from that band, and so on. With that in mind, The Blues Foundation strongly suggests that after a band has met with their VC for their required check-in each night, they stay in the venue and are available to perform at the VC’s direction, regardless of which slot they are scheduled to play. Bands that have missed their designated slot will be allowed to perform later in the night but will still suffer the loss of a point on the weighted score.

These items demonstrate professionalism and seriousness about the competition or the business side of the blues.

Here is the scoring procedure for
IBC 2015 .

1. All categories and weightings are as previously stated.

2. Each judge will indicate his or her Raw Score (a whole number between 1 and 10) in each category and turn that information over to the scorekeeper.

1-3 – Typical of a beginning blues band.
4-5 – Typical of a local weekend band.
6-7 – Typical of an advanced local band but not yet ready to headline a major blues club.
8-9 – Typical of the quality of blues artists who headline major clubs.
10 – Typical of those who play the main stage at major festivals such as the LRBC or King Biscuit Blues Festival.

3. The scorekeeper will multiply the Raw Score in each category by the established multiplier to get each judge’s Weighted Score in each category for each act.

4. The Weighted Scores from each category for an act are added together to determine the acts’ Total Weighted Score for each judge.

5. Any penalty points will then be deducted to obtain the act’s Net Weighted Score for each judge.

6. After all acts have been judged and each act’s Net Weighted Score for each judge calculated, each act will then be ranked for each judge based on that judge’s order of scores, with the act receiving the judge’s highest Net Weighted Score being given a ranking of 1, and so on for that judge. So, in a competition with five acts, for example, each judge ends up with the acts ranked 1 – 5 based on each judge’s personal scoring habits. This results in the acts’ Final Ranking Number for each judge.

7. Next, the scorer totals the Final Ranking Number from all judges for each act to determine the Gross Final Ranking. That figure is averaged (divided by the total number of judges) to Achieve the Aggregate Act Ranking. For the quarter-finals the act in each venue with the best two-day total of Aggregate Act Ranking will advance to the semi-finals. For the semi-finals, the act in each venue with the best Aggregate Act Ranking for the night will advance to the finals. For the finals, the act with the best Aggregate Act Ranking will be the top finisher.

8. In the case of a tie, the scorer shall calculate the sum of all Net Weighted Scores from all judges for the tied acts. The band with the higher sum of Net Weighted Scores wins.

Once in Memphis

Act Check-in

To avoid point deductions, plan your travel to Memphis carefully. Each act must check in between 11 am – 2:30 pm Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at The New Daisy Theater, 330 Beale St. You will receive your credentials as well as your venue assignment at check-in, not before. Attendance of Act Orientation at 2:45 pm at The New Daisy Theater, 330 Beale St., is required. Orientation will review contest rules, introduce key people, and seek to resolve any questions or special problems that contestants may have. Any competitor failing to check in by the beginning of ACT Orientation without special arrangement will be disqualified.

ACTS MUST check-in at the assigned venue 10 minutes before the FIRST act begins EACH NIGHT. ACTS are required to check in with the VENUE COORDINATOR (VC) each night, failing to check-in with the VC will result in a one point deduction. Make sure a representative is ALWAYS in the venue. Your venue may be missing an act, someone could be sick; the venue could be ahead of schedule. There are many reasons; but if you are not ready to perform when the VC calls you, you could lose points or be disqualified regardless of the time printed in the schedule. (Times in the schedule are only a guide, venues can and do run early).

2015 Blues Challenge Format

Band and Solo Duo Competition quarter-finals are a two-day competition (Wednesday and Thursday night). All bands and solo/duo acts are required to play both Wednesday and Thursday night in the same venue. The four top scoring acts from each venue will advance to the semi-finals.

Wednesday and Thursday quarter-final sets will be 25 minutes long. Sets for the semi-finals will be 30 minutes long. PLEASE NOTE: All set lengths are subject to change, notice will be sent to all affiliates and acts.

Acts that advance to the semi-finals will be announced on Thursday night in the venues. The venue assignments and playing times will be announced Friday on our website, Facebook page and listed on a printed schedule that will be available by 1pm at the IBC Store.

Youth Showcase

Youth Act – any act that all members are under the age of 21 at the time of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. PLEASE NOTE: Youth acts can be appointed by the board of an affiliate. A competition is not required.

The Youth Showcase is a one day event held on Friday afternoon. Youth acts are NOT required to attend the four day event.

The Youth Showcase is not judged, however all competition rules, regulations and restrictions apply.

Plan your travel to Memphis carefully. Each YOUTH act is required to check in at The New Daisy Theater, 330 Beale St. no later than 2 pm January 23, 2015. At check-in you will receive your credentials as well as your venue assignment. Attendance to act orientation at 2:30 pm at The New Daisy Theater, 330 Beale St. is required. Acts not checked in before act orientation are subject to disqualification.

Deadline for ALL acts to register is November 24, 2014.

The Blues Foundation reserves the right to change this format depending on the number of bands and number of venues participating.

Once the participating Beale Street venues have been assembled and all entry forms received, the number of performing acts in each venue can be finalized. Each act is assigned to a participating venue by a scientific process known as “drawing slips of paper with band names on them out of a hat.” Adjustments may be made in the cases of, for instance, number of band members, size of venue stage and other production concerns as determined by The Blues Foundation. Quarter-Finalists will return to the same clubs as they played the preceding night.

Final Round Structure

Sets will be scored on the same criteria as other rounds. All Final Round judges will not have served on any previous round, so each band will be performing for a totally new set of ears. Additionally, no judges in the Finals will be members of The Blues Foundation Board or from any Affiliate for maximum impartiality.

Staging and Equipment

The Blues Foundation will provide backline and sound. The setup on stage will include a drum kit with snare drum, amps, keyboards and mics. The backline in your venue will be based on your registration information. Drummers should bring their own cymbals and kick pedals (Yes, you will need your cymbals, you might want to bring your own snare too) and Harmonica players CAN (but are not required) bring their own harp amp. Keyboard players may (but are not required, we will provide) bring their own keyboards and keyboard amps, keyboard stands will be provided. Effects racks and other auxiliary equipment are permitted. Musicians must include on the online registration form any additional or special equipment needed .

Competitors are prohibited from bringing their own amplifiers (harp amps and keyboard amps being the only exceptions.)Please bring a DI (if you use one) every effort will be made to provide suitable equipment. Exceptions to this prohibition may only be granted pursuant to a formal written petition submitted in writing and received via email by the Event Producer ( no less than 60 days prior to the quarter-finals competition. Include a request in the act’s on line registration. With the number of bands participating in each venue, it is impossible for us to allow every player to bring an amp, space considerations prohibit it. Thus, any petition for an equipment waiver must include a compelling reason for exclusion.

The Blues Foundation reserves the right to approve or restrict any and all equipment an entrant wishes to bring on stage.

Order of Appearance

As is the case with the assignment of venues, the order of appearance of acts in each venue is also random.


Refreshments will be sold at the events and are the responsibility of the consumer. The Blues Foundation will host several receptions for Affiliated Organizations and acts during the course of the weekend. More details will be available on the IBC schedule page of our website and in the event program.

Other Points of Consideration

The Blues Foundation reserves the right to use any contestant’s name, voices, pictures, visages and other likeness for the purpose of advertising, publishing and promoting the IBC or The Blues Foundation.

The Blues Foundation reserves the right to videotape or otherwise record all IBC performances. The Blues Foundation shall retain total ownership of all recordings and programs, and reserves the right to edit the program, the right to broadcast the program, the right to copyright the program and the right to license others to use these rights.

Minors on Beale Street

During the hours of 6am and 11pm minors are allowed within the historic district, without being accompanied by a parent or guardian. Minors are not allowed to enter the Beale Street Historic District after 11pm unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, or going to a destination point like the New Daisy Theater.

The International Blues Challenge is a well-organized event and we run a tight ship! If everyone cooperates, all of us will have a good time. Please keep in mind that this is a huge event; there were 255 acts registered which give us 824 individual musicians! Your questions are very important but remember you are one of many.

If you have questions about the IBC, please do not hesitate to call the Foundation at 901-527-2583 ext 11 or email