For Performers and Blues Societies

Blues Society 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 blues society. Bands and Solo/Duo musician(s) will be selected to compete.  Youth musician(s) will be selected to perform during the Youth Showcase but will not compete.  A challenger must never have received a Blues Music Award nomination and a band or solo/duo may not participate in the IBC in three consecutive years.

The International Blues Challenge is restricted to challengers sponsored by current Blues Foundation affiliated blues societies.  Each of The Blues Foundation’s 200+ blues societies has the opportunity to sponsor a band and solo/duo in the IBC.  A blues society 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

Challenger 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 challenger, 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.

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

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

A band is any group with three or more musicians.  A solo/duo has 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 participant is any group in which all performing members are under the age of 21 at the time of the International Blues Challenge.

The Blues Foundation recommends that blues societies in all countries produce a live, judged music competition to choose their challenger(s). Specifically,  blues societies 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 challengers submitted without a challenge taking place and reserves the right to deny any or all appointed challengers. 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 Blues Society Challenges

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. Entries for the Best Self-Produced CD are permitted by Blues Foundation Affiliated Blues Societies only.

View Official Rules for Best Self-Produced CD

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.

THANK YOU To Our 2024 IBC Sponsors And Partners