International Blues Challenge 2018-01-13T05:12:59+00:00


January 16-20, 2018 - Memphis, TN
34th International Blues Challenge

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 Affilated 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.


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.

2018 Best Self-Produced CD Entries & Semi-Finalists
Best Self-Produced CD Rules and Information


Your official 2018 IBC merchandise can now be purchased ahead of your trip to Memphis!


For Performers and Affiliates

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 is limited to three consecutive appearances at the IBC, i.e. there must be a break of at least one year after competing in three back-to back IBCs. An individual may not compete in more than one act in any capacity. A musician may not 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. Please check with your local challenge to determine if there are additional rules or restrictions.

Any act, band, or solo/duo, that has won first place at the IBC may not enter a challenge in that same category in the future. An individual musician who has won the IBC as a solo performer may not re-enter as part of a duo, nor can a member of an IBC winning duo then enter as a solo performer.

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

IBC judges are Blues professionals and aficionados with a deep understanding and historical perspective of all blues forms. Any given three-judge panel will include members with varying opinions of Blues, covering the spectrum of Blues from the most traditional to soul/blues and rock/blues.

View Official Rules and Guidelines For Local Affiliate Challenges

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

Enjoy these 2017 IBC recap videos!

“The amount of talent that gathered in Memphis was staggering. I have to admit it sent chills down my spine whenever I looked around and realized I was in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge and that I actually knew some of these performers on stage. Goose bump time! We were able to see 35+ IBC performers and I can honestly say everyone we saw was talented and truly belonged there. Everything we heard was pure blues, and this was one time I was glad I was not judging.”
Chick Cavallero, Colorado Blues Society


Dawn Tyler Watson
The Montreal Blues Society

Al Hill
Nashville Blues Society

The Souliz Band featuring Sugar and Spice
Suncoast Blues Society

Brody Buster’s One Man Band
Kansas City Blues Society

Rae Gordon & the Backseat Drivers
Cascade Blues Association

Ben Racine
The Montreal Blues Society

Al Hill
Nashville Blues Society

JW Jones, High Temperature
Ottawa Blues Society

Brody Buster
Kansas City Blues Society

View More Past Awards

Photo by James Wessels

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

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