We have formulated a transparent review process that we hope is thorough, fair and also leads artists to other opportunities beyond the remit of the event they applied for. To this end, our reviewers, often on both sides of the Atlantic, can at any one time comprise previous CMEAS participants, our event partners, highly knowledgeable British punters (audience members), venue bookers/promoters, music advisers (English Arts Council) and educators, and on occasion at least one opera singer (who graduated top of her class and sings in 5 languages).
Our review process relies primarily on a point count of the artist's online audio files (we do virtually all our initial reviewing online) to attempt to standardise that which is mostly subjective. If the music stands up to scrutiny we then look at other aspects of an artist's submission:
Applicant's music, after an initial screen, is evaluated on three categories; musicality, lyrics (where applicable), and genre (appropriateness to the venues we book). We rate each of these categories on a 1-5 point count at 2 decimal places (e.g. 4.25 / 3.8 / 3.0) where 5 is Mozart, Gershwin, Hendrix, Prince, or Ravi Shankar and 1 is dreadful.
Musicality is weighted TWO FOLD during calculation of scores and comprises two components of equal weight: a) virtuosity of the act's music as a whole and b) overall emotive effectiveness of the music (commonly referred to by us as the "WOW" factor, as in "wow, that's awesome!"). Note that the "wow" factor is not linked to tempo or volume, it's an almost physical reaction to superb music (for me, goosebumps on the forearms).
Lyrics are assessed on their ability to give the music a visual dimension - can they paint a picture for the listener, do they describe accessible scenarios? They can be simple or complex. A richness of tangible metaphors, analogy, and often simplicity sway us far more than a series of words that rhyme because they end in " ion" or the words have repeated exhortations about the singer's "mind" and / or "soul". We're not very sympathetic to songs that describe the same cardboard world of roads, highways, streets, nights, morning etc with those same cardboard words that umpteen other songs have used. And if you're going to tell us how we should live our lives we hope this is done profoundly and without patronising our reviewers with dime store philosophy.
Genre is the least important category, but is scored based on our knowledge of the variety of music most effective at the performance spaces we booked for a specific tour or event.
The entire review process itself is three fold:
1. Initial screen: A limited number of reviewers review the music of applicants primarily on ability, originality, and integrity of the music. The latter category may appear vague, but any musician's involvement in their work is self evident in their music. Contrived, lyrically depauperate, imitative work lacking conviction, or work that is mellow but not phenomenal, is usually excluded at this point.
2. First peer review: Our peer reviewers score applicants on the point system described above. Acts that score in the top 10% of our peer review overall will be selected for the final selection and receive our continued love and adoration (i.e. you will be accepted into our artist roster with all the benefits that entails). If your music does not contain lyrics (or is in a language none of our reviewers understands though at least one of them is fluent in Spanish, Italian, and German) your final score simply does not include that category in the calculation.
3. Final review: Typically we estimate a short list of between 30 - 40 musical acts for each of our events. This process is the hardest of all, but involves venue owners and educators (where the tour involves workshops) in addition to our group of peer reviewers. This is a way of gearing the event to match the performance spaces and also guarantees that no two events have the same review results for the same act. The final selection will start to take into account other aspects of the act's ability including (but not limited to) press reviewers of live shows, video footage where available, activity (if your last gig was a year ago, we would need to know why), etc. For this reason it is very important for the artist to have their online audio links smack bang up to date: if we check an artist's show list past and present and see nothing we will assume that means the artist is not actively working and that will negatively prejudice our final review.
AND top ten finalists will be offered a free application for any one of our future events (this means we also pay the Sonicbids' commission too - i.e. we will pay for you to apply).