Rules & Information
We stopped accepting entries at midnight CST, Feb 28th, 2020. Entrants will be prejudged and notified by March 21st, 2020. Contestants who purchase tickets in advance and win 1st - 4th place passes, will be reimbursed their ticket cost at the festival upon presenting identification, and verification by the gate personnel. Your name will be on the guest list. You will be reimbursed at the Song Challenge Showcase on the Hartford Stage, right after your performance.
Our top four winners will perform on Friday, May 29th, in our Songwriter's Challenge on the Hartford Stage, the House that Bill Monroe built! Our top 10 will be added to our digital playlist showcase!
What Will You Win?
- 1st place wins two full festival tickets, an autographed festival poster by the artist Jon Griffin, Cloud Shadow Jewelry by Patti Hill, $200.00, a signed copy of "The Cosmic Path to Melody and Lyric", by Ernie Hill, a slot in our Main Stage Songwriter’s Showcase, digital publication of your song along with a published interview to be posted on the JHMF website, a cd from johnhartford.com and an invitation to return to the 2021 John Hartford Memorial Festival to perform your winning song during our 2021 Songwriting Contest Showcase! and bragging rights.
- 2nd place wins one full festival ticket, $150.00, an autographed festival poster by the artist Jon Griffin, a slot in our Main Stage Songwriter’s Showcase digital publication of your song and a cd from johnhartford.com.
- 3rd place wins one full festival ticket, $100.00, an autographed festival poster by the artist Jon Griffin, a slot in our Main Stage Songwriter’s Showcase, digital publication of your song and a cd from johnhartford.com.
- 4th place wins one full festival ticket, $50.00, an autographed festival poster by the artist Jon Griffin, a slot in our Main Stage Songwriter’s Showcase, digital publication of your song and a cd from johnhartford.com.
- Additional prizes may be added leading up to the festival. Keep checking the John Hartford Memorial Festival Songwriting Contest page for updates.
- Camping fees are not included, however, please note that all primitive tent camping is free for anyone with a wristband. If you make the showcase, you will be given a wristband and your primitive tent camping is free.
Click Here to fill out an application.
Entrants retain all rights to their songs, however, by entering you agree to allow us to add your song to our website playlist and also to allow us to use photos, video and audio of your song on our Website, YouTube channel, Social Media and for other promotional purposes.
Contestants who purchase tickets in advance and win 1st - 4th place passes, will be reimbursed their ticket cost at the festival upon presenting identification, and verification by the gate personnel. Your name will be on the guest list. You will be given a contact number to call to get reimbursed.
The 1st place winner will perform two songs- the winning song and another original song of choice. (prepare to perform three). 2nd place through 4th place will perform their entry. (prepare to perform two originals). You may perform solo or with up to three accompanists. Winners must perform into a system provided by our professional sound crew. You will not be allowed to plug in your instruments. Due to time constraints, no drums. All compliant contestants will be considered for booking at future JHMF events.
Please email email@example.com if you have any questions.
The top ten songs will be added to our website playlist along with a link to your website or social media page.
- This event is a challenge to you to meet our criteria and write an original song with John Hartford in mind. Songs must mention the complete name, "John Hartford" (not John, or Hartford) at least once in the song and/or contain one or more of the song titles we provided below. We encourage you to read "About John Hartford".
- We cannot forward your song to our judges until your entry is complete.
- Non-refundable fee of $10 + complete registration + mp3 and typed lyrics = complete entry.
- Include your name and complete contact info at the BOTTOM of your lyric sheet. Lyric sheets that are marked with letterhead, or watermarks, or any non-removable ID, will not be forwarded to the scorers and will be considered ineligible. Lyrics must be typed in a readable font and submitted as a Word doc or RTF, only. No PDF.
- Your entry will be logged, name removed, and a number assigned, before being forwarded to our scorers.
- Failure to comply will result in your song not being forwarded and your entry fee not being returned.
- Only one song per entrant will be allowed.
- Acoustic, lyrical songs only.
- Do not speak or talk about your song on your recording, including announcing the title and/or your name. "Talking songs" are allowed.
- Songs must be no longer than 4 minutes in length.
- Only MP3 files will be listened to.
- Your song entry must match your performance ability. You must enter the song in the same way you will be allowed to present it if you win. In other words, do not submit a whopper of a studio production. Submit what you can perform on stage as listed in these guidelines.
- Songs will be judged on originality, melodic and lyrical content, the above criteria and the use of the song title list we provided below.
- Booked performers, members of booked bands, JHMF staff will not be permitted to enter. Volunteers and Street Team members may enter. It will be up to Volunteers to adjust their scheduling to make the Showcase if you place in the top four. Past first place winners must skip the year following the year they won, for example, the winner of JHMF9 may not enter JHMF10, and must wait until JHMF11 to enter again. Past winning songs may NOT be re-entered however, your non-1st place song may be re-entered.
TIP- Our judges look for originality. It is usually pretty easy to tell if a songwriter just used a previously written song and threw the name John Hartford, or one of the required song titles to make it compliant. We urge you to take the challenge, read up on John and listen to his music, and put your Muse to use! ;o)
TIP - Our entry form will not allow files larger than 8mb to be uploaded. Studio recordings tend to be larger. Our judges are primed to score lyric and melody, not production. All you need to submit is a clear simple recording with no talk. Volume is important. Make sure your submission is as loud as possible without distortion. Do you really need that overdub or extra instrument? Remember, this is a lyrical contest. Keep it simple.
TIP- We accept only 40 compliant, complete entries. This contest fills up quickly so please, if you are thinking about entering, jump on it asap:o)
TIP- In the past, we have seen entrants copy the link to enter and enter after the deadline. Any entry received after the deadline will not be considered.
Lyrics must mention the complete name, "John Hartford" (not John, or Hartford), at least once in the song and/or contain one or more of the following John Hartford original and complete song titles, keeping John Hartford or the festival in mind:
- 1 I Didn't Know the World Would Last This Long
- 2 Morning Bugle
- 3 Don't Leave Your Records In The Sun
- 4 Learning to Smile
- 5 Skippin In the Mississippi Dew
- 6 Today
- 7 I Wish We Had Our Time Again
- 8 The First Girl I loved
- 9 Let Him Go Mama
- 10 Can't Stand To Throw Nothing Away
- 11 Street Car
- 12 Cant Get No Better
- 13 In Tall Buildings
- 14 Bye Bye
- 15 Steamboat Whistle Blues
- 16 Back in the Goodle Days
- 17 I Would Not Be Here
- 18 Old Time River Man
- 19 The Six O’clock Train and A Girl With Green Eyes
- 20 Flower Power Died
- 21 No End Of Love
- 22 You Don’t Have To Do That
- 23 Interstate Waltz
- 24 I Just Wanna Look In There
- 25 Wonder Woman
- 26 The Wings Of A Song
- 27 On The Road
- 28 Your Tax Dollars At Work
- 29 Didn’t Want To Be Forgotten
- 30 Nobody Knows What You Do