For bands and musicians under 21 who harbor dreams of one day performing at venues like Bumbershoot, Sasquatch! Music Festival, or Capitol Hill Block Party, the Experience Music Project Museum (EMP) is an incredible opportunity.
In 2001, the EMP kicked off a music competition called “Sound Off!,” an event open to all solo artists and bands whose members are under 21. A few of the previous Sound Off! winners include: Dave B, Otieno Terry, and the most recent winning hip-hop group COSMOS. COSMOS formed in early 2015, with influences from R&B, jazz, soul and hip-hop. They credit influences like Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Lauryn Hill and Michael Jackson, among others.
“We heard about the EMP Sound Off! initially through word of mouth. [Our drummer] Meno had recently performed in “Sound Off!” a couple years back in an old band of his,” said Campana, the lead singer for COSMOS.
Seattle Seafair, Rock n’ Roll Marathon, and Hempfest were among other venues that opened to COSMOS after their success in “Sound Off!”.
“We have been very grateful with the connections we’ve been able to make with artists and new friends. Just being able to expose more people to our music and what we’re about has been a highlight as a whole,” Campana said.
The judging criteria that the EMP lists on the submission page is weighted on composition, arrangement, creativity, technical ability and musicianship. The Sound Off! information page describes the types of questions judges may ask as they listen to submissions.
“Does the music sound inspired? Do they have an artistic identity? Are they bringing something interesting to their genre? How strong is the songwriting/composition (musical arrangement, lyrics, harmonies, instrumentation, rhythm, use of technology etc.)?”
The judging panel for “Sound Off!” is composed of EMP staff, professionals in the music industry, and members of the EMP Youth Advisory board. Bands that are selected for the semifinal rounds will participate in three February concerts on the 10, 17 and 24. The final round of “Sound Off!” will be hosted on March 11, 2017. Tickets for these shows will be available for purchase in December on the EMP website. Campana offered some advice for those looking to participate in Sound Off!.
“Definitely be aware of the competition dates and deadlines. Knowing this information way ahead of time gives you a lot more of a perspective of how much time and preparation you can put into your performance leading up to the competition. Playing more shows, getting more comfortable with crowd sizes, and branding yourself are also very essential towards getting acclimated for “Sound Off!” Campana said.
Third year psychology major Miguel Antoinson expressed interest in applying for “Sound Off!” this upcoming year. He is the president of the Seattle University Hip Hop Club and goes by the artist name Otamp. Some of his songs are written in English, but he also raps in Spanish.
“I do sing Afrostyle. Winning [Sound Off!] would resurrect my faith in the power of [the] arts, because other endeavors are trying to take me away from what I was born to do,” Antoinson said.
“Sound Off!” is a contest that offers many professional opportunities to young artists, which can be challenging to come by in a field filled with musicians and bands of all ages.
“I could definitely imagine more prevalent opportunities if all of us were able to perform amidst all demographics,” Campana said regarding the roadblocks of being an “under 21” band, but nothing is holding COSMOS back. COSMOS is continuing to work on new music, and their latest projects can be found on SoundCloud for free streaming. Information about “Sound Off!”, as well as the application link can be found online. Entry requires submission of a band bio, band photo and four MP3 files of original songs. Entry is due by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2016.
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