For the past three years, Lightning 100 has conducted a new rite of spring for Nashville, with our Music City Mayhem contest. Nashville area bands and solo musicians of all stripes and styles are invited to stick their necks out and submit their best to be judged by Lightning 100′s listeners and online users.
There’s nothing scientific about Music City Mayhem, other than the math that adds the votes.
When an artist submits their song, it gets listened to by all of Lightning 100′s full-time jocks, our program director Dave Rossi, web-guy Brian Waters (Music city Mayhem was actually Brian’s brain-child), and Tich McWilliams from our marketing staff. Songs are rated 0-10 and the highest total point-getters go on the air for the rest of the world to vote on.
When I sit down to listen and vote, I don’t start out with numbers. I start out with yes; maybe yes; maybe; maybe no; and no. Then I go back and change “yes” to 10, “maybe yes” to 7, “maybe” to 5, etc.. If I feel that a yes maybe truly isn’t a full 10, I may squeak it down to 9.
For me, yes means it’s something I can play on the air without cringing in any way. It means, if I ask myself, “is there anything about this song that’s not very good or, if flawed, doesn’t transcend those flaws?” the answer is, unequivocally, no.
Sometimes you make some good calls, sometimes no. In the voting so far, two artists whose songs were only a maybe for me scored a big honking yes with Lightning 100 listeners and online voters. On the other side of it, there are some songs I gave 10s to, that only barely made it to the top 32, that turned out to be dark horse candidates that unseated far more well-known and loved Nashville artists.
In 2010 when we started, a band called Hightide Blues walked away with the first title. They didn’t last, but singer Paul McDonald went on to become an American Idol finalist. 2011, none of us had ever heard of Eastern Block but we were blown away with their entry – and so were listeners; in 2012, we hardly imagined the little reggae band we were grooving on would make it all the way to the stage at Live on the Green. Reggae, ruling a Nashville music throw-down? Shouldn’t someone film a documentary about that?
For us at the radio station, it’s been a fantastic way of discovering a number of highly talented artists that, for one reason or another, get overlooked among Nashville’s exploding music scene. When the listeners pick a dark horse candidate over an artist that’s considered either very hot or very cool, depending on how you look at such things, by music industry insiders and scene leaders in Nashville, it’s a signal that we need to recheck our compasses and see what we’re overlooking, and why. I’m thankful for that reality check. Always.
I’ve no idea what the next match-ups and rounds will bring, and can’t begin to try to predict which artist will be this year’s champ and score all that gear, studio time, and Live on the Green slot. Can’t wait to find out.
More than anything, I want to express appreciation for all of the artists who took this opportunity to get heard, at the risk of getting shot down. Thank you all, for the music and the inspiration you provide.