2021 Annual Battle of the Bands & Solo/Duo Competition

(and Youth, Best Self-Produced CD)


Attention Musicians – Want to Go to Memphis in 2022?  Enter the 2021 DCBS Battle Now!

DCBS will again host its annual competitions to determine which band and solo/duo act will be able to compete in next year’s International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN.  These DCBS competitions will be held on September 18, 2021, and the IBC will be held January 18-22, 2022.  In addition, DCBS may send a Youth entry (band or solo/duo) to perform at the IBC in the Youth category, although the IBC does not hold a competition in this category.  Also, DCBS will accept entries for the IBC’s Best Self-Produced CD category.

The DCBS deadline for entering the Band, Solo/Duo and Youth categories is August 14, 2021

The DCBS Battle of the Bands and Solo/Duo Competition will consist of a CD review and an all-live competition. 

Battle of the Bands and Solo/Duo Competitions:   Saturday, September 18, 2021
American Legion- Cissel Saxon Post 41
905 Sligo Avenue (entrance on Fenton Street)
Silver Spring, MD 20910

The winners of these two competitions represent the DC Blues Society at the 2022 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN (see http://blues.org/international-blues-challenge/) , AND will be paid to perform at the 2022 Annual DC Blues Festival (Subject to Change).

The contests are open to blues artists from DC, Maryland and Virginia. See Eligibility Criteria below for additional details.

Write to president@dcblues.org for information on applying for the Youth Category or Best-Self-Produced Category.   Youth entries are due to DCBS by August 14, 2021, and Best Self-Produced CD entries are due September 14, 2021

How to Enter the Battle or Solo/Duo Competition:

To enterPrint and fill out the DCBS IBC Application Form (write clearly).  Applications and all required documents/info should be submitted via email and also hard copy.

To be eligible, you'll need to fully complete the application form and send all of the following:

  1. Confirmation of DCBS membership* - identify which you're entering:   Battle of the Bands or Solo/Duo Competition

  2. Confirmation that you and your band have read the Scoring Criteria, Penalties, and Eligibility Criteria.

  3. At least 3 sample tunes  (send CD with hard copy application and send as digital attachments with email application).

  4. Official band/solo-duo name.

  5. Short band/solo-duo bio (100 words or less).

  6. A digital color(preferred) or B&W photo with a 300 dpi resolution.

  7. A link to your website.

Battle of the Band and Solo/Duo entries, with the above items, should be emailed to president@dcblues.org and hard copies should also be mailed to the address below:

DC Blues Society - IBC Battles 
P.O. Box 6289
Washington, DC 20015-0289

Eligibility Criteria

The winner is obligated to attend the IBC competition in Memphis, TN, January 18-22, 2022.

  • An act may enter the IBC a maximum of three times, after which they are no longer eligible. They may not participate in the IBC in three consecutive years; i.e., there must be a break of at least one year after competing two years in a row.   

  • Any artist whose name has appeared on a final Handy/Blues Music Award ballot is ineligible. (All other musicians who have had peripheral and/or professional contact through performance with a Handy/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 the Band of the Year.)

  • A musician may not compete in the band category and the solo-duo category in the same year.  Any challenger, band, or solo/duo, that has won first place at the IBC in Memphis may not enter a challenge in that same category in the future.

  • Acts must first enter the challenge of their own/home affiliate or the closest affiliate based on distance. If they are not successful, they may enter the challenges of no more than 2 more affiliates in that year, provided those affiliates are within 250 miles (425 Km) of the home affiliate. Acts are not permitted to enter the challenge of the two distant affiliates if either is held prior to the home challenge.

  • Acts may be invited to participate in the challenge, but they may not be “pre-selected” and must compete in a fair, live, judged event.

  • A band is any act with three or more musicians.  A Solo-Duo act is any act with no more than two musicians. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed in either category, and vocalists are counted as musicians for the purpose of this competition. A Youth Act is any act in which all performing members are under the age of 21 at the time of the International Blues Challenge.

  • All members of the winning act must attend the IBC.  Should unexpected circumstances arise (i.e., illness, family emergencies, etc.), no more than one member of any band may be replaced.

No other entry restrictions apply. This means that management contracts, booking agent contracts, recording contracts, performance contracts (even those that include regular television or radio broadcast) and nationally distributed recordings have no bearing on eligibility.

For complete International Blues Challenge rules, scoring, and other information, visit https://blues.org/official-ibc-rules/

Scoring Criteria

The following scoring criteria reflect in large part the Blues Foundation recommendations as they apply to the International Blues Challenge. The criteria include Blues Content, Originality, Vocals, Instrumental Talent, and Stage Presence.

  1. Blues Content (weight of 4):
    The sound and feel of the music should be true to any of blues sub-categories: traditional blues, country blues, soul blues, blues rock and/or contemporary blues. Judges will be listening for inspired and original song selections or new takes on blues standards. Creative reach is encouraged. 

  2. Originality (weight of 3):  
    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. Acts must indicate if their songs are their own original material (this can be done at the start of the set or before each song as appropriate) and/or identify the covers that they are playing and acknowledge the originator.

  3. Vocals (weight of 2):
    The act’s vocal skills, to include concepts of tone, musicality, meaning, and expression.

  4. Instrumental Talent (weight of 2): 
    Ability level on all instruments featured within the act.

  5. Stage Presence (weight of 2): 
    The ability to command the attention of the audience by the impressiveness of one’s manner and appearance on stage. Judges will consider how an act connects with and engages the audience in the music. Proper use of microphones and amplification will be considered.

Band Sets
Each band/solo-duo typically has thirty (30) minutes to perform its selections at the IBC. There will be a 7-minute changeover period between sets. If a band exceeds the 30-minute performance time or the 7-minute changeover a penalty may apply. Similarly, penalties are applied at the DCBS competition for failure to adhere to time constraints. 

Weighted Scoring
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 are multiplied by four. Originality is multiplied by three. Vocals, Instrumental Talent, and Stage Presence are multiplied by two each. The total in each category represents the Weighted Score for that category. Total possible weighted score is 130. DCBS will not use the IBC ranking calculations. The band with the highest sum of Net Weighted Scores is the winner.


Penalty Points 
A Band is penalized one point from its Total Weighted Score (see below) for each ten seconds that it runs overtime. The same penalty also applies to exceeding the 7-minute changeover period. [If the preceding band takes more than five minutes to clear the stage, the oncoming band will not be penalized.] At the DCBS competition, there is no penalty for using less than the allotted time. However, there is such a penalty at the IBC and there are additional reasons for penalties there as well.


Here is the scoring procedure for DCBS Battle of the Bands:

  1. All categories and weightings are as previously stated. 

  2. Each judge will indicate his or her Raw Score for each criteria, which will be a whole number between 1 (lowest) and 10 (highest, i.e., typical of those who play the main stage at major festivals).  Those scores will be turned over to the scorekeeper. Judges will not weight scores. 

  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 act’s Total Weighted Score for each judge. 

  5. Any penalty points will then be deducted to obtain the act's Net Weighted Score.

  6. The band with the highest Net Weighted Score wins.

In case of a tie, the band that has the highest weighted score in the Blues Content category will be declared the winner. If a tie remains, the scorekeeper shall calculate the sum of all Total Weighted Scores from all judges for the tied acts. The band with the higher sum of Total Weighted Scores wins.

Visit the https://blues.org/international-blues-challenge/ for more information on the IBC.


* If no one is a DCBS member, please visit https://www.dcblues.org/membership to join online or to download the Membership form. 

* The DC Blues Society is a Blues Foundation affiliate. The International Blues Challenge (IBC) is restricted to acts sponsored by a Blues Foundation affiliate.