Be the next Northwest sound
Applications Now Open For Sound Off! 2021
Now in its 20th year, MoPOP’s Sound Off! is the premier 21-and-under music showcase and competition in the Pacific Northwest. Participants get the opportunity to showcase their original music, connect with peer musicians, and receive mentorship from an artistic community invested in welcoming them as full-fledged members of one of the nation’s most vibrant music scenes.
Twelve artists from the Pacific Northwest will be selected to have their music heard by a worldwide audience. Sound Off! alumni have gone on to perform at top Northwest music festivals — including Timber! Music Festival and Northwest Folklife — collaborated with local producers, received airplay and studio sessions on KEXP, and performed at other MoPOP events.
Sound Off! is open to musicians 21 and under from the Pacific Northwest (WA, OR, ID, and British Columbia) creating original work in any genre.
Know a musician who’s bound to be the Next Big Thing? Encourage them to apply at MoPOP.org/soundoff.
Getting to Know Sound Off!
The first question you might be asking yourself is whether or not your music would be a good fit for Sound Off! The short answer is YES! The long answer is still yes, but we invite you to check out videos of past participants and read more about the program on the Sound Off! page.
Here’s why it’s important for you to watch the videos of other artists in action:
- Sound Off! has seen tons of different genres represented, from folk and hip-hop to instrumental metal and funk.
- There have been a wide variety of band sizes, from solo acts to sprawling ten-piece bands.
- The one quality that carries acts through the showcase and competition is that they know exactly what they do and they focus on doing it well.
- Think about your music and what makes it compelling. Do your best to plan out what you intend to present not only to the people reviewing your application but the judges and the audiences that come to the Sound Off! performances if you are accepted. Focus on your strengths, not on what you think will make you more competitive.
Getting Your Sound Off! Application Ready
The three elements of your application that are the most important for the panelists who select the semifinalist acts to perform are:
- Your songs
- Your bio
- Your digital presence
Even though our panelists do not judge on production quality for any of those elements, there are things you can do to get yourself ready to apply, and ready to make the most out of your Sound Off! experience if you are selected to participate. Here are some tips, tricks, and resources to help you get ready.
Recording your songs
Many Sound Off! applicants do not have access to professional recording studios or equipment, but there are plenty of options for recording your music for free. Here are a few links about how to use free software to record a demo:
If you need recording equipment to capture your sound, even if it’s an ipad or a phone, check with your local library to see if they offer those resources.
Writing about yourself and your music
Your music is what we’ll hear, but you have the power to help it stand out by crafting a compelling story about yourself and what inspires the art that you create.
There are a ton of good resources that will get you thinking about how to write about yourself and your art. There are a lot of differing opinions on what best to highlight, and here are a few good pieces to read before you start writing:
Do’s and Don’t’s for Writing a Band Bio
How to Write a Band Biography: Sell Yourself Like a Book
Creating a Platform for Sharing Your Music
Dedicating an online space to your music so that people can not only find you, but stay up to date with any new music you are putting out or shows you are playing is critical to building your fan base. There are, of course, many different platforms, and we encourage you to take some time to figure out what works best for you. If you need a couple of ideas for free resources for sharing your music, Soundcloud and Bandcamp are two of the biggest in the game:
Beyond having a place for people to listen and potentially purchase your music, there are so many options to promote your art. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Tumblr, the list goes on and on. If you cultivate the use of any of those platforms, they can serve as powerful tools in letting people see you as a person or people who create art, and can shine a light on how the life you live informs your art.
Check out this session of Mastering The Hustle on Promoting Your Music and Shows. It features Seattle musicians talking about how best to use new platforms to get you and your music into the eyes and ears of potential fans!
Getting Ready for What Happens Next – Mastering Your Hustle!
After you’ve submitted your application to Sound Off!, don’t sit on your hands! There is a lot of work you can do to get yourself ready to hit the ground running if you are selected, or to keep your momentum strong to reapply next year.
- Keep practicing!
- If you can, play some shows, either as livestreams or in whatever format is available to you within health and safety protocols established where you live.
- Check out the library of Mastering the Hustle videos from the series, produced by MoPOP, KEXP, King County Office of Arts and Culture, and the Recording Academy.
- Build your community. See some shows. Step outside your lane and dig into other genres.
- Find the all ages venues where you live and support what they do.
- If you need help, or want to find other resources for honing your craft, check out workshops hosted by other folks who serve young artists like The Vera Project, Totem Star, Fremont Abbey Arts, Artist Home, and Gigs4U
- Last but not least - take care of yourself. Staying healthy, physically, emotionally, and mentally, should always be your number one priority and will ensure that you continue to flourish and grow as an artist.
- All participants must be 21 years of age or under as of March 8, 2021. This means all band members must have been born on or after March 7, 1999.
- All bands/artists must be from the Northwest. This is defined as: at least 50% of band members have permanent residence in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or British Columbia Province.
- Employees of Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Sound Off! judges, sponsors of MoPOP, the officers, shareholders, directors, employees, agents, representatives, and subsidiary companies of each such corporation; and the members of their immediate families are not eligible to participate in or win MoPOP's Sound Off! 2021.
- If an applicant submits multiple projects with over half of the same members or same front person, only one of the applicants will be considered for Sound Off!.
- Because Sound Off! is a professional development opportunity for young musicians, bands or artists that are selected to play will be required to communicate directly with MoPOP staff. Managers or other personnel retained by the artists may not be used as intermediaries.
- Contestants must submit four audio tracks of original music and the Sound Off! application, which will be available online from September 15, 2020 to December 14, 2020. All genres of music are accepted.
- Original music is required. Bands may not submit or perform in concert any cover songs or plagiarized material. Plagiarism is defined as the act of copying someone else's artistic or written work and claiming it as your own. Sampling is discouraged, requires documented authorization of license rights for use in recordings and live performance and must be fully disclosed to MoPOP. MoPOP will determine acceptability of materials containing sample, if properly documented and authorized, on a case by case basis
- All entries must be completed and submitted by 11:59pm on Monday, December 14, 2020.
- Any band/artist giving false, unsubstantiated, or misleading information on the application form will be disqualified. The panel of judges will have access to all information provided on each band's entry form.
- Band/artist selection is made at the panels’ sole discretion. The panels’ decision is final in all matters regarding the selection process.
- Though a total of four songs is required on the application, note that only the first two songs will be screened during early stages of the selection process. The full four songs will be screened as the panels get closer to final selection.
- Submissions will be judged on content and a demonstration of the potential for a compelling live performance, not on the audio quality of recordings or on the quality of photos or video production.
- Twelve selected semifinalists will be announced mid-December, 2020.
- All selected band members will be required to attend a two-day Sound Off! orientation meeting on Saturday, January 9 and Sunday, January 10, 2021. All band members must be in attendance for both days and will forfeit their participation if not in attendance.
- Alternate bands/artists may be selected at any time to prevent any unfilled billings on any date.
- Sound Off! Finalist alumni bands/artists are ineligible to reapply to Sound Off!
- Bands/artists that have not been selected to participate in Sound Off! 2021 are encouraged to reapply next year with new material. All rules and regulations still apply.
- The health and safety of Sound Off! participants, community partners, and our staff is our top priority. Given the uncertainty of health and safety protocols and guidance provided by local, state, and federal health officials, we will continue to monitor the situation and the following information regarding live shows is tentative and subject to change without notice.
- Three semifinal concerts consisting of four bands each will take place on three dates in February 2021. One band from each of the semifinal concerts will be selected to perform at the Sound Off! finals, along with a wild card artist selected by MoPOP’s Youth Advisory Board. All concerts take place at Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle, WA. Soundchecks will occur the afternoon of each concert.
- The wild card winner will be selected by a Youth Industry Panel from the pool of bands/artists who place second in their semifinal round. This wild card winner will advance to Sound Off! Finals.
- In any stage of the competition, any band that is offered a concert date and time slot must accept that concert date and time slot or be disqualified.
- Bands/artists selected to participate in Sound Off! will be required to perform a 20-minute set at the semifinal concert. Bands that advance to the finals will be required to perform a 27-minute set and finals will be broadcasted live on KEXP. MOPOP will provide standard backline equipment for the performances.
- A panel of judges will be present for each Sound Off! concert and will score the bands on several criteria, including: Composition and Arrangement, Creativity, Technical Ability & Musicianship, and Stage Presence. The judges’ scores are confidential; however feedback from the judges will be available to the artists.
- Sound Off! prizes are non-transferable. Prizes may not be substituted or redeemed for cash.
- Failure to comply with the Sound Off! rules and regulations may result in disqualification.
Questions? Contact soundoff@MoPOPmuseum.org
For more information on how to make the strongest application to Sound Off!, check out our Getting Ready for Sound Off! section on this page.
What is Sound Off!?
Now in its 20th year, Sound Off! is the premier 21-and-under music showcase and competition in the Pacific Northwest. Sound Off! supports the all-ages scene by giving participants an opportunity to showcase their original music to a wider audience, connect with peer musicians, and receive mentorship from industry leaders and an artistic community invested in welcoming them as full-fledged members of one of the nation’s most vibrant music scenes. Sound Off! takes place annually at MoPOP in Seattle in February and March. If you are considering applying to Sound Off! we recommend that you watch videos of past performances to get a feel for the diversity of genres and styles that have been represented in the semifinals. Here are some other resources to catch up on Sound Off! and stay connected for future announcements/news:
What is Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)?
The Museum of Pop Culture’s mission is to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities. At MoPOP, artists, audiences and ideas converge, bringing understanding, interpretation, and scholarship to the popular culture of our time. MoPOP is housed in a 140,000 square foot Frank O. Gehry designed building that includes multiple innovative galleries, an interactive Sound Lab, and Sky Church—a concert venue with state-of-the-art sound and lighting that houses one of the largest indoor LED screen in the world. The spectacular, prominently visible MoPOP structure has the presence of a monumental sculpture set against the backdrop of Seattle Center.
When does Sound Off! take place?
Sound Off! takes place at MoPOP starting in January and ending in early March.
How will COVID-19 impact Sound Off!?
We recognize that there is a lot of uncertainty around the ability to host live shows in the state of Washington. Because of the uncertainty around live music, we are unable to commit to Sound Off! concerts in 2021, but we can say with certainty that Sound Off! will happen in some from in 2021, and that we will still focus on the basics of the program for all of its participants, in that the program will still provide an opportunity to connect with other artists, make connections to the regional music scene, and broadcast your original music to a wider audience.
What do artists who are chosen to participate get?
We believe that the most important thing that Sound Off! participants receive is a chance to build community with their peers, not only other artists selected to perform but with all of the folks involved with the program as community partners, mentors, judges, sponsors, etc. 20 years into the program we know that the artists who take advantage of the opportunities presented to them to connect with and contribute to their music community are the ones that get the most out of it regardless of the results of the competition.
All twelve artists who are invited to participate receive media training, a professional photo shoot, press, t-shirts, video documentation of their performances, music gear, radio airplay, participation in a music industry panel and the opportunities to share their music with a wider audience.
The four finalist artists receive one-on-one industry consultations and further performance/recording opportunities.
Am I eligible to apply?
Bands or artists must be from the Northwest (this is defined as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or British Columbia) and must be age 21 or under. Your songs must be original, no covers allowed. All genres of music are accepted. Check out the rules and regulations for full eligibility requirements.
How do I apply?
The Sound Off! application is online at https://mopop.submittable.com/submit and takes about 15 minutes.
You'll need to submit four MP3s of original music, a band photo, a band bio, and answers to some questions about your band and band members (you will need birthdates and contact info for each member of your band — be sure to have that ready.)
Once your application has been received you will receive a confirmation email from MoPOP.
Submissions will be judged on content and a demonstration of the potential for a compelling live performance, not on the audio quality of recordings or on the quality of photos or video production.
What is the deadline to apply?
Applications are due by 11:59pm on Monday, December 14, 2020. Unfinished applications will not be considered.
How do I convert my music files to MP3?
You can use an online audio converter or you can easily do this in iTunes. For iTunes:
- Open iTunes Preferences. (Windows: Choose Edit > Preferences. Mac: Choose iTunes > Preferences.)
- Click the General button, then click the Importing Settings button in the second section of the window.
- From the Import Using pop-up menu, choose create MP3 version, then click OK to save the settings.
- Select one or more songs in your library, right click and create MP3 version.
Which artists have participated in Sound Off!?
Tons...here are several: The Human Missile Crisis, Searows,The Lonely Forest, Sol, Naked Giants, Cosmos, LAZA, Emma Lee Toyoda, Jason McCue, Falon Sierra, Paris Alexa, Travis Thompson, Maiah Wynne, Brite Futures, Kithkin, Schoolyard Heroes, Idiot Pilot, Special Explosion, i///u, Tomten, Talaya., The Lonely H, Nude, New Faces, members of Hey Marseilles, Baja Boy, Beat Connection, Vox Mod, Cumulus, La Luz, Kairos and many more.
How are artists selected for Sound Off!?
Three panels review all the applicants, choosing twelve artists to perform live at MoPOP. Artists are scored based on song composition and arrangement, creativity and originality, technical ability and musicianship. Each category is equally weighted.
Following are examples of questions the judges may consider when rating artists:
Composition and Arrangement
How strong is the songwriting/composition (musical arrangement, lyrics, harmonies, instrumentation, rhythm, use of technology etc.)?
Does the music sound inspired? Do they have an artistic identity? Are they bringing something interesting to their genre?
Technical Ability and Musicianship
How impressive is the musicianship? Are they proficient with instruments, vocals, and in time and/or in tune?
Artist selection criteria subject to change.
How can I buy tickets for Sound Off!?
Tickets will go on sale in January for the 2021 Sound Off! shows and may be purchased online.
Didn’t find an answer?
Contact us at soundoff@MoPOP.org
SOUND OFF! HIGHLIGHTS
Seattle, WA — Singer/songwriter
A former concert pianist in-training and native of Seattle, Ry Lucia has been writing songs since age 14. With clever piano hooks, soft guitar, and honest lyrics, her music conjures up a feeling as cozy as sitting by the fireplace on a rainy day, and as raw as reading straight from someone's diary. She has been involved in Rain City Rock Camp for 11 years and has released one single, “General Welfare.” She is in the process of recording her debut album.
Edmonds, WA — Indie R&B
Raw and soulful, Seattle-based singer-songwriter Kaia’s vocals float effortlessly over melodic guitar and piano instrumentals. Drawing influence from artists like Clairo, Kehlani, and Jimi Hendrix, Kaia manages to deliver sultry, digital-age R&B laced with old school vibes. Having played the guitar since she was eight, she applies her technical experience throughout the creative process, and her authenticity can be felt and heard throughout each song.
Seattle, WA — Jazz/Fusion
Fusing jazz harmony, metal-inspired rhythm, chill vibes, funk, and traces of cyanide, Tiny Planet's sound is full of exciting musical contradictions and surprises. Since forming to play a benefit concert for refugees, the quintet has become not only a metaphorical spaceship for exploring far-reaching musical terrain, but also an excuse for them to simply hang out, go on adventures, and, as they explain it, be idiots together.
The Human Missile Crisis
Tukwila, WA — Punk/Experimental
Your first thought when listening to The Human Missile Crisis? There’s no way just two people could make a sound that big. The drum and bass duo blast out constant noise that swells, chirps, and moves with such frenzy that you expect it to come from a stage full of people.. Incorporating Hispanic and islander culture into raw, energetic, and heavy riffs, The Human Missile Crisis pushes the envelope of what experimental hardcore can be.
Portland, OR — Singer/songwriter
Searows is an indie pop/folk/rock project created by Alec Duckart, a 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Portland, Oregon whose lush vocals and reverb-drenched soundscapes could soothe the most savage listener. Alec began writing music in middle school (in lieu of doing any schoolwork) and never seemed to be able to stop. Alec names artists like Phoebe Bridgers, James Blake, Soccer Mommy, and Tamino as significant influences.
Bainbridge Island, WA — R&B
Armed with a few years of piano lessons and a love of confessional songwriting, Thomas Crowley (thom.ko) began creating beats and melodies in his bedroom, and released his first demo while still in high school. Since those formative years, he has traded his bedroom melodies for a more focused approach and continued to grow as an artist, carving out a distinct sonic niche for himself. With a distinct ear for arrangements, thom.ko deftly mixes genre and mood, creating songs that are unpredictable and endearing.
Seattle, WA — Hip-Hop
49th Parallel is a rap collective comprised of five friends who have been hanging out for as long as they can remember. Fun and friendship are at the core of everything they create, and their goal is to share that collective passion with everyone. Their debut album was the result of an artist residency on Lopez Island and a partnership with YouTube channel Yes Theory. Since then, 49th Parallel has set themselves on a path to build their community and share their music.
Seattle, WA — Punk
Mr. Dinkles is a power punk duo made up of Mac Rettig and Gretchen Elliot. Having met at School of Rock in Seattle, the two were always more interested in rocking out than high school drama. So they linked up and started writing songs about it. With influences like the Dead Kennedys, TacoCat, Bikini Kill, Rush, and SWMRS, these two bring classic punk together with current pop melodies, loud crunchy guitars, and plenty of catchy lyrics you can scream all day long.
Seattle, WA — Singer/songwriter
Mirabai Kukathas is a storyteller, playwright, spirited conversationalist, and singer-songwriter. She loves nothing more than telling an absurd story with an honest emotional core. People often tell Mirabai she was born in the wrong millennium, but she’d much rather be in this one, where she can vote and marry who she likes and watch WALL-E for the millionth time. But she does pull plenty of musical inspiration from the past, finding ways to blend ‘60s folk with contemporary pop and everything in between. Mirabai’s music is an act of healing; a confusing celebration of her culture, identity, and life.
Seattle, WA — R&B
Talaya. uses space and time as a three-dimensional canvas, painting depth into her music with powerful instrumentation, lyrics, and a keen ear for production. After joining The Residency in 2017 with no formal training and YouTube as her teacher, she embarked on what is now a life-long journey of connecting ears with hearts. As a testament to her quickly developing artistry, in May of 2019 she released a five-track self-produced EP titled “The Space Between.”
Seattle, WA — Jazz
For Seven Sky Spillios, life is music. He plays saxophone in eight Seattle-area bands, teaches 20 students a week, and still finds time to work on his own music, which is a dynamic fusion of classical composition and jazz-influenced improvisation and harmony. Not content to simply rest on his own work, he also writes music for other groups — including chamber and jazz ensembles— to perform, living out his belief that music is about connection and communicating where words often fail.
Woodinville, WA — Metal
David’s Van bring a lighthearted yet seriously technical approach to their comedic metal originals. The three met at School of Rock Seattle, leading their house band at local shows on national tours. They formed David’s Van in Spring 2019 to “put the fun back in metal.” No strangers to the stage, the three self-described “nice, goofy fellas full of shenanigans” are fresh out of the recording studio with a forthcoming release that is sure to delight their head-banging fans with their serious musical chops, infectious lyrics, and unmatched volume.