CMT NSAI Song Contest Underway

Last Year's Winner Already Signed to Publishing Deal

With the deadline fast approaching for the fifth annual CMT NSAI Song Contest, it’s worth noting that last year’s winning songwriter has already aligned himself with one of Nashville’s most noted songwriters.

Open to amateur songwriters only, the competition offers a variety of top prizes, including a music publishing contract, a three-day trip to Nashville and the opportunity to perform on CMT’s Cross Country stage during the 2005 CMA Music Festival in June. Entries will be accepted through Nov. 30.

The Nashville Songwriters Association International, a trade group for professional and aspiring songwriters, oversees the contest, assigns judges from its ranks of professional songwriters and board members and promotes the winning entries to music publishers and recording artists via a compilation CD.

Jesse Terry, last year’s winner who placed two songs in the contest’s Top 20, recently signed to Masville Music, the publishing company of prize-winning songwriter Mark Alan Springer. Among Springer’s own hits are Kenny Chesney’s “That’s Why I’m Here,” Tanya Tucker’s “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane” and Collin Raye’s “One Boy, One Girl.” He is currently co-writing with Terry.

“I went out and met with Jesse and was impressed by him,” Springer says. “I realized he was a winner — and in more than just the song contest. He’s just a good guy. He’s got a whole lot of potential.”

Springer reports that Terry, a native of Boston, now has several songs in his company’s publishing catalog.

“He’s a lot further along than I was when I got here — that’s for sure,” Springer notes.

Participating publishers in this year’s competition include such heavy-hitters as BMG, Sony, EMI, Curb, Cal IV and Warner Chappell. Winners have the final say on which company they will sign their songs to.

The 2004 contest drew about 6,000 entries, according to NSAI marketing director Virginia Davis. The publishing prize, she says, “allows them to get their foot in the door [on Music Row] and allows their publisher to work their winning song for a year.” Terry’s winning song, “You’re Still On My Mind,” so impressed NSAI’s executive director Bart Herbison, Davis adds, that he personally pitched it to Springer.

Each entrant must submit a CD or cassette recording of his or her original song, along with a lyric sheet and the specified entry fee. Davis stresses, however, that the judges take into account only the quality of the song, not the recording. The NSAI hires professional singers and musicians to record the winning entries for the compilation CD that’s circulated to publishers and record labels.

The NSAI will use all proceeds from the contest to lobby for laws to protect songwriters’ rights.

Learn more about the CMT NSAI Song Contest.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to