Each year we invite a handful of new songwriters to play our festivals along with our many returning songwriters. Our Songwriters are recruited at other festivals, by reputation, attending live shows, referrals, our annual songwriting contest, and direct inquiries.
Many of our Rising Stars are discovered at our Rocky Mountain Songwriting Contest. Past winners include Michelle Rivers, Reese Sullivan, Dallas Remington, Goldpine (Ben & Kassie Wilson) and Daniel Nierhoff, all regular Rising Stars at our festivals. The winner of our annual contest receives an automatic invitation to return to the Red Lodge Songwriter Festival the following year as a Rising Star and the top five get strong consideration to play our other festivals. We will begin accepting songs for the 2024 contest on October 1, 2023.
We hire two levels of songwriters for our festivals. Hit Songwriters and Rising Stars.
Hit Songwriters write primarily for the country music world. Invited hit songwriters have written one or more hit songs on the billboard charts. Past performers include, Brett Jones, Gary Nicholson (Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame), Leslie Satcher, Wynn Varble, Kostas (Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame), Tony Lane, Sunny Sweeney, Karen Staley, Randy Montana, Erin Enderlin, Angela Kaset, Chuck Cannon, Gretchen Peters (Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame), Billy Montana, Erin Enderlin and Even Stevens (Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame) among others.
Our Rising Stars are professional singer-songwriters that play in the pubs and restaurants during the festivals. They perform the majority of the shows on a combination of days—Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. These shows are in a songwriter round format with two to three songwriters. They play in a different venue with different songwriters each day.
We pay a talent fee that is reflective of the experience of meeting & playing with other great songwriters and enjoying the experience of visiting Montana and/or Wyoming.
Over the past nine years we have created a songwriting family where songwriters make lifelong friends and in many cases write together and perform together in subsequent years. It is those personal connections that make this festival special.
If you are interested in performing as a Rising Star songwriter at one of our festivals, read on.
As a Rising Star you will play four to five shows during each festival. Shows are in a songwriter round with one to two other songwriters. Each round is an hour and fifteen minutes. During each round you will play 3-5 songs. We are looking for songwriters who can go 10-15 songs deep in their songbook and are confident playing those songs before a live audience. Songwriters must have a library of songs that are both up tempo and slow ballads. Writing and creating music is one thing, performing in front of a live audience and sharing the stage with other great songwriters is another.
Rising Stars are considered on the following criteria:
- You are a professional musician that makes a significant portion of your income from performing and writing your own music.
- We review a songwriters music
- Mastery of your instrument
- Song style and tempo variation
- Presence on streaming services, Have you released any new music?
- Apple Music
- Web Site
- Tour schedule
- Social media presence
Rising Stars are paid a minimum of $900 for four shows and $150/per show for additional shows. The majority of our songwriters will play 4-5 shows during a festival. We offer host housing during the festival, however we do not pay expenses. Rising Star songwriters are responsible for their own transportation getting to the festival and getting to and from their shows while they are at the festival.
Songwriter Guidelines: You will be selected out of hundreds of songwriters because we believe in you, and your abilities to entertain our fans.
Our job is to set the stage so you can share your music with our fans and hopefully invoke some sort of emotion from them, laughter, happiness, an old memory, sadness or just tell them a great story with your song.
All of our show’s are ticketed shows. Our fans can pay as much as several hundred dollars to attend your show. Our fans come to be entertained, and come to listen to great songs and stories. Over the course of the weekend they may attend as many as six to ten shows and see you play multiple times. It is a great opportunity for you to create new fans for your music.
All of our shows are songwriter rounds with two or more songwriters. Think about the round as an entire show and you are just one of the parts. When the parts all work together, interact and show appreciation for each other, the show is great.
We have a saying around our festivals, “Our Songwriters are better people off stage than they are on stage and they’re great on stage”. You can expect to be treated professionally and with a great deal of respect for your talents. We expect the same from you toward our staff, volunteers, fans, sponsors and community.
Song Selection: You all have a signature or fan favorite song, it is ok to repeat this song during your various rounds, in fact some fans may follow you around to hear you play that one song. However, the majority of your songs should be fresh to each round. You should plan to have at least a dozen or more songs to share with the audience. You should be flexible with your playlist. Be prepared to play an up tempo song if the two songwriters before you play a slow ballad. Nothing will suck the energy out of an audience faster than three or four slow songs in a row. I would suggest you open with and close with an up tempo song. Be fun, be entertaining, make people smile. We’re not saying you shouldn’t play an emotional ballad, you should, just don’t let it define you as a songwriter.
Song intros & fan banter: We all enjoy a good story and banter before your song, however remember you are sharing the stage with one or two other songwriters. Song intros should be concise, have a point to them and if possible, humorous. The trip down memory lane in your grandpa’s truck may be important to you, but it may bore the audience. You might have heard the old cliche “Is there a song in that story somewhere?” You’ll want to be sure that doesn’t apply to you.
Don’t’ Look Plain: This is the least cool thing to talk about, but it’s important. And for some reason ladies understand this concept way more than guys. You’re on stage inviting people to look at you for one hour and fifteen minutes. You’re sitting next to or between other songwriters. Be professional in your stage attire, give the audience something interesting (and memorable) to look at! You don’t have to look like Chris Issak, but wear something that is patently you. Dress UP!. If you look plain, people will think your music is plain. Be a professional and look like you care. Cargo shorts and worn out t-shirts are for dads at a barbecue, not singer/songwriters on stage.
You’re bored, drunk or hungover on stage: You are an integral of the festival and we expect your best every time you are on one of our stages. When you’re on stage you are PERFORMING, so PERFORM! Don’t sit or stand there like you’re bored when it’s not your time to play. If you can’t wait to be off the stage, guess what, the audience can’t wait for you to be off the stage as well. If you don’t feel like performing, don’t appreciate the audience and are completely bored don’t take the stage.
We realize that music festivals are a time for celebration and getting together with friends and other musicians; however we expect you to be professional and know your limits when it comes to alcohol and possibly other substances, yes cannabis is legal in Montana. However being drunk, noticeably stoned and/or hungover on stage is a sure way to never be asked back to one of our festivals.
Be On Time: We work hard to stay on schedule so please be on time. Sound Checks are fifteen minutes prior to your scheduled show.
We do not hire songwriters through bookers or management companies. If you represent a songwriter that would like to play our festivals, have them contact us directly. We encourage songwriters who utilize a booker or management company to pay any booking fee they are obligated to.
The submission process is closed for the 2024 festivals. Invitations for the 2024 festivals will be sent out by December 1, 2023.
If you are interested in being considered as one of our Rising Star Songwriters in 2025, please send a CD of your original music and bio to the address below.
We are often asked, “why do I need to send a CD”? Simple, we want to see the liner notes, who wrote the songs, who played on the album, who produced it, is it professionally done. In today’s electronic world it is easy to reproduce music.
Thank you for your interest.
Mike Booth – Executive Director
Rocky Mountain Songwriter Festivals
P.O. Box 830
Red Lodge, Montana 59068