Customer Help


international blues challenge

THE IBC – about the Blues Challenge

IBC has evolved into the nation’s biggest and most respected showcase for Blues musicians ready to take their act to the national stage. The IBC is a judged “Battle of the Bands” in which competitors take the stage and play a short set for a panel of judges. The acts are judged based on an established set of criteria.

The International Blues Challenge represents an international search by The Blues Foundation and its Affiliated Organizations (mostly blues societies) for the Blues Band and Solo/Duo Blues Act ready to perform on a national stage, but just need that extra break. Each Affiliate of The Blues Foundation has the right to send a band and solo/duo act to represent the organization at the IBC Semi-Finals on Beale Street in Memphis, TN.

Affiliates are required to stage a regional preliminary IBC competition, with the winner of that competition representing the organization in the Memphis international competition. Usually, these preliminary rounds are held in clubs as part of a fundraiser or simply an excitement-building event. Each organization is free to structure the preliminary round as it sees fit, as long as a single band and/or solo/duo act is identified. However, since The Blues Foundation scoring criteria will determine the ultimate winner, we strongly encourage our Affiliates to use the same system in the preliminary competitions.

Past Winners Lists:

1984 Reliance Band from Memphis won the first Blues Amateur Talent Contest
1985 Reliance
1986 Arletta Nightingale Memphis, Tennessee
1988 Larry Garner & the Boogaloo Blues Band Baton Rouge, Louisiana
1989 John Weston Lee County, Arizona
1990 The Dynamics Bloomington, Indiana
1991 The Roach Thompson Band Miami, Florida
1992 Piano Bob & the Snowman (Robert Wilder & Ken Minahan) Miami, Florida
1993 Evil Gal Boston Blues Society
1994 The Hardway Connection Washington, D.C.
1995 The Movers Boston Blues Society
1996 Smilin Vic & the Soul Monkeys Oklahoma Blues Society
1997 Chris Cameron Fort Smith Blues Society
1998 Abe Reid Piedmont Blues Preservation Society
1999 no challenge held Moved date from King Biscuit Fest to January/February
2000 Dave Keyes Band New York Blues Society
2001 Richard Johnston Beale Street Blues Society
2002 Chef Chris & His Nairobi Trio Canada South Blues Society
2003 Delta Moon Charlotte Blues Society
2004 Zac Harmon & the Mid-South Revue Southern California Blues Society
2005 Diunna Greenleaf and The Blue Mercy Band The Blue Shoe Project
2006 Joey Gilmore South Florida Blues Society
2007 Sean Carney Band Columbus Blues Alliance
2008 Trampled Under Foot Kansas City Blues Society
2009 JP Soars & the Red Hots South Florida Blues Society
2010 Grady Champion Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola
2011 Lionel Young Band Colorado Blues Society
2012 The WIRED Band! Washington Blues Society
2013 Selwyn Birchwood Suncoast Blues Society
2014 Mr. Sipp Vicksburg Blues Society
2015 Eddie Cotton Vicksburg Blues Society
2016 The Delgado Brothers Ventura County Blues Society

Who Can Enter IBC?

1. Who can enter?
A Blues act cannot enter the International Blues Challenge (IBC) directly. Only a Blues Foundation Affiliate may sponsor an act. The act is eligible as long as it has not ever received a Blues Music Award nomination. An act may not participate in the IBC in three consecutive years. An act may be a band, solo/duo or youth.

2. What is an affiliate?
The International Blues Challenge is restricted to acts sponsored by a Blues Foundation affiliate. Click HERE for a complete list of affiliates.

Each of The Blues Foundation’s 200+ Affiliated Organizations has the opportunity (but not the obligation) to sponsor one or more acts in the IBC. (If your nonprofit blues society is not an affiliate, contact Jay Sieleman at Each Affiliate may enter a Band in the Band Division and/or a Solo/Duo act in the Solo/Duo Division to compete in the 30th IBC in 2014. Each Affiliate may also send a youth act for the Youth Showcase.

An Affiliate must be affiliated with The Blues Foundation no later than the conclusion of the IBC of the preceding year to be eligible to sponsor an act for the IBC. (The 2013 IBC concluded February 2 so to sponsor an act in 2014, the society had to be an Affiliate by that date.)

3. What is a Blues Music Award nomination?
The only artists who are deemed ineligible for the International Blues Challenge are artists who have been nominated for a Blues Music Award-whose name has appeared on a final Blues Music Award ballot-in the 35 year history of the Blues Music Awards (and formerly the W.C. Handy Awards). A searchable database of past nominees can be found at Blues Music Awards Search tool. All other musicians who have had peripheral and/or professional contact through performance with a 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 Band of the Year. Each member is considered a Blues Music Award nominee even though the band name, not each band member’s name appears on the final ballot.

For the purpose of the IBC, being named on a final ballot for the Blues Music Awards is the dividing line with regard to eligibility. The Blues Music Award is considered the highest award a Blues artist can receive for excellence in their craft. Artists whose names have appeared on a final ballot for the Blues Music Awards have achieved a level of recognition within the Blues world that sets them apart from all other Blues artists. It is one of the measuring sticks by which a successful career in Blues music can be gauged.

4. Are there other restrictions?
An act is limited to two consecutive appearances at the IBC and must then sit out at least one year before being eligible to compete again. An act under the same name will not be allowed to compete three consecutive years.

An individual may not compete in more than one act in any capacity.

A musician cannot compete in the Band Division and the Solo/Duo Division, even if that musician represents a different Affiliate in each.

Affiliates are allowed and often do impose additional eligibility restrictions for their own competitions.

5. What is a band? What is a solo/duo? What is youth?
The IBC adheres to the following criteria for what constitutes a band, what constitutes a solo/duo act, and what constitutes as a youth act.
-Band – any act with three or more musicians. Vocalists are counted as musicians for the purpose of this competition. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed.
-Solo/Duo – any act with one or two musicians. Vocalists are counted as musicians for the purpose of this competition. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed.
-Youth – any act that all members are under the age of 21 at the time of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

6. How does an Affiliate enter an act?
Affiliates in Canada and the United States must conduct an open, judged live music competition. Affiliates in these two countries may not appoint an act.

The Blues Foundation recommends that Affiliates in all countries produce a live music competition to choose their act(s). All affiliates may be required to conduct a live competition and exceptions, if we even allow any, will be subject to advance approval. If you already have a competition, you have nothing to worry about. If you do not already have a competition, but you are going to produce one this year, you have nothing to worry about. If you are hoping to send someone without a competition, you best start talking to Executive Director real soon and have a real good reason for not staging a live music competition. And even that may not work!! This represents a continuing tightening of the rules in this regard that affiliates have been advised of in recent years.

Do not ask to appoint an act(s) if you are in Canada or the United States, if the act includes a board member or officer of the Affiliate, or if the act is not from your geographic area. If the act is appointed rather than selected through a competition, the Affiliate must submit a copy of the official meeting minutes at which the Affiliate took the action to sponsor the act(s). The Blues Foundation reserves the right to deny any or all appointed acts.

An Affiliate’s entrant is considered a representative of that Affiliate in every capacity. Thus, the Affiliate remains liable for any problems created by its representative.

All digital applications, as well as findings of eligibility and registration requirements for IBC are the responsibility of the Affiliate, NOT THE ACT.

Affiliates are not only encouraged, they are expected to enforce these rules to ensure that their acts are indeed eligible.

The Blues Foundation will stand as the final arbiter of any eligibility disputes. All contestants must register by the pre-determined deadline, in the format requested, before competing in IBC. Any Band found at any time to have been ineligible at the time of the competition will be stripped of its award(s) and the Affiliate may be liable for financial restitution of cash and other prizes to The Blues Foundation.