1st Place Band Winners, Ms. Hy-C & Fresh Start | Photo by Ty Randall

Ms. Hy-C & Fresh Start
St. Louis Blues Society

Jon Shain
Triangle Blues Society 

Sammy Eubanks & the Work’in Class
Washington Blues Society

Theresa Malenfant & Scott Medford
East Coast Blues Society

Celso Salim Band
Santa Clarita Valley Blues Society

Gabe Stillman
Gabe Stillman Band – Billtown Blues Association Blues Society

Steve Strongman
Grand River Blues Society

Darryl Carriere
Celso Salim Band – Santa Clarita Valley Blues Society

Lock Up the Liquor – The Little Red Rooster Band
Central Delaware Blues Society



About the Challenge

The International Blues Challenge represents the worldwide search for those Blues Bands and Solo/Duo Blues Acts ready to perform on the international stage, yet just needing that extra big break. Each Affiliate of The Blues Foundation has the right to send a band and a solo/duo act to represent its organization at the IBC.

The IBC is judged by blues professionals from across the world who have years of experience in listening to, producing, and creating blues music. The Blues Foundation has established a set of criteria by which all acts are evaluated throughout the five days of the IBC.

Affiliated organizations are required to stage a regional preliminary IBC competition, with the winner of that event representing the organization in the International Blues Challenge held annually in Memphis, TN along historic Beale Street. While Affiliated Organizations are encouraged to follow The Blues Foundation’s structure and rules during their local challenges, each organization is free to structure its preliminary rounds as it sees fit, as long as a true challenge between multiple acts takes place resulting in a single band and/or solo/duo act being identified.

Check out highlights from the 35th International Blues Challenge!

Save The Date
#36 IBC: Jan. 28 – Feb. 01, 2020

“So you want to work as a touring blues musician, and need the world to know you’re out there?
Compete in the IBC and make it to Memphis!

Didn’t make it into the competition? GO ANYWAY. The opportunities out there are not just for the contestants. I made friends and contacts that have served me well, and will continue to serve me, I believe, for the duration of my career.”

– Erica Brown, 2013 IBC Finalist (Colorado Blues Society)

36th International Blues Challenge


Save The Date: January 28 – February 1, 2020

Best Self-Produced CD

The Blues Foundation established an award for the Best Self-Produced CD, given out at the International Blues Challenge, as part of our mission to celebrate blues recording and to ensure the future of this uniquely American art form and to recognize excellence in independent Blues recordings.

Best Self-Produced CD Rules and Information

Congratulations to the 2019 BSPCD Winner:

Lock Up the Liquor
The Little Red Rooster Band
(Central Delaware Blues Society)

For Performers and Affiliates

IBC Rules and Guidelines
Affiliate Guidelines For Local IBC Challenges

To participate in the International Blues Challenge, you must participate in and win a local challenge sponsored by a current Blues Foundation Affiliated organization. Bands and Solo/Duo acts will be selected to compete.  Youth Acts will be selected to perform during the Youth Showcase but will not compete.  An act or individual must never have received a Blues Music Award nomination and an act may not participate in the IBC in three consecutive years.

The International Blues Challenge is restricted to acts sponsored by current Blues Foundation Affiliated organizations.  Each of The Blues Foundation’s 200+ Affiliated Organizations has the opportunity to sponsor one or more acts in the IBC.  An Affiliate must be affiliated with The Blues Foundation for a full year in order to be eligible to sponsor an act for the IBC. We invite you to check out our map of current affiliated organizations to find a blues society in your neighborhood. Please visit their website(s) for additional information and contacts to assist you in joining a local challenge.

See Affiliates Map

The only artists who are deemed ineligible to compete in the  International Blues Challenge are artists whose names have appeared on a final Blues Music Award ballot (formerly the W.C. Handy Awards). 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. If you are concerned that one of your band members might make your band ineligible, we suggest you visit our Award Search or call the Blues Foundation offices before entering your local challenge.

See Affiliates List

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 two years in a row. A musician may not compete in the band category and the solo/duo category in the same year. Any act, band, or solo/duo, that has won first place at the IBC in Memphis may not enter a challenge in that same category in the future.

Acts must first enter the challenge of their own/home affiliate or the closest affiliate based on distance. If they are not successful, they may enter the challenges of no more than 2 more affiliates in that year, provided those affiliates are within 250 miles (425 Km) of the home affiliate. Acts are not permitted to enter the challenge of the two distant affiliates if either is held prior to the home challenge.

Acts may be invited to participate in the challenge, but they may not be “pre-selected” and must compete in a fair, live, judged event.

For complete rules and more details, please click on “View Official Rules and Guidelines”.

A band is any act with three or more musicians.  A Solo/Duo act is any act with no more than two musicians. Both electric and acoustic instruments are allowed in either category, and vocalists are counted as musicians for the purpose of this competition. A Youth Act is any act in which all performing members are under the age of 21 at the time of the International Blues Challenge.

The Blues Foundation recommends that Affiliates in all countries produce a live, judged music competition to choose their act(s). Specifically,  Affiliates in Canada and the United States are required to conduct an open, judged, live music competition and may not appoint an act in lieu of a live, judged event. The Blues Foundation will carefully review all acts submitted without a challenge taking place and reserves the right to deny any or all appointed acts. 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 the International Blues Challenge.

View Official Rules and Guidelines For Local Affiliate Challenges

Who are the judges?

IBC judges are Blues professionals and aficionados with a deep understanding and historical perspective of all blues forms.

Any given panel will include members with varying opinions of Blues, covering the spectrum of Blues from the most traditional to soul/blues and rock/blues.

Did you win your local challenge? 

Congratulations! Read the “Official IBC Rules” and “FAQs for the IBC Competing Acts” to find out what you need to know when you come to Memphis.

FAQs for IBC Competing Acts

Become a Member

Becoming a member of The Blues Foundation gives you an opportunity to be personally connected to a blues community where you will experience a vast amount of resources, information, news, views, insight, and activities not available anywhere else. You will be part of an organization which is special, fun, and unique.

“…Membership in The Blues Foundation has brought extraordinary joy and enrichment to my life….Fasten your seatbelts, blues lovers, and get ready for a great ride.”

Charlotte Arrick

Our IBC Sponsors and Partnerships