Jurors are an integral part of the awards and investment programs processes. We use them, the East Coast Music Association uses them, and FACTOR uses them. Peer evaluation ensures a fair and transparent process, and it allows for a variety of voices to be heard. It's not a perfect process, but to misquote Churchill, it's the best we have.
I serve as a juror with FACTOR, evaluating applications in the Artist Development Program and the Juried Sound Recording program. Before I start, I just want to underline that although I will be showing a bit of the underbelly of jurying, I won't be revealing any confidential information. No naming names here or giving specific details! Also, although I could technically jury an MNB Member's application, I choose not to and to flag it as a conflict of interest if one of their applications comes across my desk. There is no perceived or financial benefit to me if they were successful, but I find that I cannot be objective when it comes to members. GIVE THEM ALL THE MONIES, I says!
Let's get to the nitty gritty!
- Jurors spend approximately 15 minutes per Artist Development (AD) application and 20 minutes per Juried Sound Recording (JSR) application. For me, that means I usually listen to one song without doing anything else. Just reading the lyrics and listening. Then, I listen to the other submitted songs as I read through the application. That means that the application that you spent hours on gets evaluated pretty quickly, so first impressions matter.
- Jurors see A LOT of applications and are good at sifting through BS. Don't try to dazzle them with shiny layouts. The best marketing plan I came across was a plain Word document, with simple titles and clear sections. I'm looking to make sure that you have a coherent and realistic plan, that you know your audience, and that there is enough details to prove you thought your project through. I'm looking at the content, not the package.
- That being said, find an editor if grammar is not your strong suit! Jurors might forgive a few typos, but not run-on sentences and incomprehensible paragraphs.
- Speaking of the content, make sure you answer the questions and be concise. This isn't a school essay, where you need to fill up X number of pages. Think of the points you need/want to make and stick with those.
- I try to provide feedback when I can, but sometimes, the only realistic feedback is "It's good, but it doesn't stand out". Approximately 10% of applications for the JSR and 17% for AD are successful. Don't get discouraged! Many artists had to apply multiple times before finally getting it.
- Don't mention your age, unless you 8 or 88! And don't talk about how you've been taking music lessons since you were a kid. We all have!
- For the AD program, jurors will tolerate a more informal approach (using the "I" instead of the third person), but not when you're at the JSR level.
- Have someone who knows nothing about your project read through the application. You live with it day in and day out, and it's easy to lose perspective. Click here for other grant writing tips.