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The Blues Foundation

CBMA Road to Memphis Blues Challenge


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Memphis Rules and Regulations

Calgary Blues Music Association (CBMA) will be hosting its local Road to Memphis Blues Challenge to select Southern Alberta's top blues acts. These acts will go on to participate in the Blues Foundation's 34th annual International Blues Challenge (IBC), to be held January 16-20, 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Qualifying rounds are slated to take place October 15th & 29th, with the final rounds November 5th. Acts will perform a 25 minute set for each round they participate in.

Rules, regulations and scoring are based on the Blues Foundation system.



CBMA (and IBC Memphis) defines a Band as any act with three (3) or more musicians. Solo/Duo acts are any act with one or two musicians. Vocalists are considered musicians. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed.

Band members must be residents of Alberta in 2017, south of Red Deer within border to border to border. All musicians must be 18 years of age or older, available for all qualifying and final rounds, and must be able to travel to Memphis, TN, January 16-20, 2018. All individuals in each winning act must have a valid Canadian passport at the time of travel in January, 2018. Each individual must ensure they have no legal issues that would deny them entry into the United States.

An act is eligible as long as it, or any member of the act, has never received a Blues Music Award nomination. An act may enter the IBC a maximum of 3 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 in a first or second IBC.

The Blues Foundation reserves the right to determine what constitutes a new act on a case by case basis. (e.g., a band leader would not be eligible for another 2 attempts by changing one or two back up musicians and changing the band's name. Similarly, a solo musician could not enter the solo/duo category after 2 attempts by adding a partner to form a duo.) A musician may not compete in the band category and the solo/duo category in the same year.

All songs presented must be Blues (acoustic/electric), Rock/Blues, Jazz/Blues, Country Blues or Rhythm & Blues.

CBMA reserves the right to limit the number of entrants in the competition. Should it be necessary to exercise this right, a screening of applications will be conducted based on the sample music provided. The results of the screening process are final.


Entrants will be evaluated using the same criteria and scoring system used in Memphis. Each band will have 25 minutes to perform in a Qualifying Round. Three acts from each category will be selected to go forward to the final on November 5th, with one act in each category to be selected to go on to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge.


Blues Content

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.


Original work is encouraged. Cover tunes are allowed but playing the recorded rendition lick by lick is discouraged, will not be looked upon favourably 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.


The act's vocal skills to include concepts of tone, musicality, meaning, and expression.

Instrumental Talent

Ability level on all instruments featured within the act.

Stage Presence

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. Proper use of microphones and amplification will be considered.

Rules, regulations and scoring are based on the Blues Foundation system.


Important Information & Promotional Requirements

Top acts must be willing to participate in all promotional activities requested by CBMA, including performing gratis for a CBMA event in January 2018 (in advance of the IBC in Memphis) to help raise funds for travel. Acts must participate in media interviews as required. In all media interviews, public performances and showcases locally and in Memphis, acts must credit CBMA for creating this opportunity.

CBMA will help defray costs, however we cannot guarantee that all expenses for Memphis will be covered.

For more information

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click here to download the application



Support your local musicians! Proceeds go to assisting musicians with travel costs!