Set to launch in March, Music World Cup wants to bring together undiscovered and unsigned talent from around the world — seriously, every country on planet Earth — for an international showcase of musical expression.
There’s no record contract up for grabs, there’s no big pot of money at the end of weeks of tryouts or face-to-face singing challenges. Medals will be awarded, exposure to a potential worldwide fan base will be possible, but nobody’s going home with a canvas bag covered in dollar (or euro or pound) signs.
Talal Thabet, vice chairman of Music World Cup, says the contest is really an outgrowth of the new ways in which people are making and distributing their own music.
Interested artists will be able to upload videos to the Music World Cup website from their phones, tablets, laptops, etc, and then link those entries to their social media accounts. It will be up to the artists to promote themselves and their submissions in the hopes of getting new fans and more exposure.
“This audience doesn’t watch TV anymore,” Thabet says bluntly. “The audience, and this is important to understand — we chose to be online because we want to reach an audience that’s unreachable by current methods.”
Toward the end of the year, there will be a festival in a yet-to-be-determined city, which will not be in North America — early contenders include Dubai, where Music World Cup is headquartered, along with cities in Asia and other locations in the Middle East. Musicians selected to be included in the finals will be qualified based on the popularity of their videos, he says.
There’s no cost to participate in the contest and artists are encouraged to try and secure sponsors to cover travel and hotel fees for the final round, he says. This way, no artist should feel he or she cannot afford to make the trip and hopefully more singers from economically disadvantaged areas will be encouraged to participate.
In other parts of the world, he’s encouraging artists to contact their country’s Ministry of Culture or embassy to determine whether their home country would consider sponsorship of an artist on an international stage. Music World Cup has already been in contact with at least 160 embassies to explain the contest and get support for the program, he says.
There’s a lure for artist and repertoire (A&R) representatives too: When each video is uploaded to Music World Cup’s platform, the website collects analytical information on who is viewing each clip. The information is generalized and broken down into demographics like gender, location and age, and is provided to any music industry representative who has also created an account on the platform, which he describes as a cross between Facebook and Instagram. This way, record labels can see who has the best reach and largest potential fan base. It’s possible someone could lose the gold medal in Music World Cup but still, in a roundabout way, end up with a record deal, Thabet says.
He’s been on a bit of a world tour himself lately, flying from Dubai to the Grammys in LA in early February and making other stops to promote Music World Cup. There have been trips to the other Music World Cup headquarters in London and Germany, along with New York City and Atlanta, plus stops in India and China.
His Instagram account is filled with photos of swanky looking parties and celebrities, who also have a role to play in the competition’s success.
“If you’re a celebrity and you want to help, we have a mentorship program,” he says. “Two or three weeks before the event, we’d fly you over and you’d spend three or four days meeting artists.”
Some celebrities and international artists have already signed up, but at the time of this interview, Thabet wasn’t allowed to name names quite yet.
The real goal of Music World Cup does sound similar to what singing contests on TV offer: a wider audience who might not otherwise hear a person’s music.
“You don’t get a contract or money to produce a full album,” he says. “You get a gold medal for reaching people, but once you leave, you have represented your country and you go home with a medal and new fans. If a record label wants to sign you, that’s great, go ahead.”
Music World Cup’s organizers aren’t trying to negotiate contracts and, as a result, don’t get a percentage of any contracts signed with labels. The sole purpose of the contest is to help singers promote themselves.
“We’re solely about the artists,” he says.