The Memphis Orpheum stage where the IBC Finals take place!

The Memphis Orpheum stage where the IBC Finals take place!


2020  Blues Foundation IBC to be held in Memphis, Tennessee

January 28, 2020 through February 1, 2020

36th International Blues Challenge

The winners representing MHBS in Memphis:

Jeffrey Marshall - Solo

West Side Joe and the Men of Soul - Band

Alfonzo & Friends  - Youth Showcase

Thank you for supporting live blues!


Scoring Categories and Definitions:

Blues Content:  The sound and feel of the music should be true to any of blues sub-categories: traditional blues, country blues, soul blues, blues rock and/or contemporary blues. Judges will be listening for inspired and original song selections or new takes on blues standards. Creative reach is encouraged.

Originality: Original work is encouraged. Cover tunes are allowed but playing the recorded rendition lick by lick is discouraged, will not be looked upon favorably by the judges, and will be reflected in scoring.

Vocals: The act’s vocal skills to include concepts of tone, musicality, meaning, and expression.

Instrumental Talent: Ability level on all instruments featured within the act.

Stage Presence:  The ability to command the attention of the audience by the impressiveness of one’s manner and appearance on stage. Judges will consider how an act connects with and engages the audience in the music. Proper use of microphones and amplification will be considered. 

Acts must indicate if their songs are their own original material (this can be done at the start of the set or before each song as appropriate) and/or identify the covers that they are playing and acknowledge the originator.

Basic Scoring Calculation:

Judges will score acts on a 10 point scale, with 10 points being the highest score received and 1 point being the lowest.
The following weights will be used in calculating final scores:

Raw scores for Blues Content will be multiplied by four

Raw scores for Originality will be multiplied by three

Raw scores for Talent will be multiplied by two

Raw scores for Vocals will be multiplied by two

Raw scores for Stage Presence will be multiplied by two

The maximum Total Weighted Score an act may receive from the judges is 130.


Penalty Points: 

An act will be penalized one point from its Total Weighted Score for each of the following:

Missing act check-in or act registration on the day of the event 

Excessive time loading-in before and/or loading out after a competition performance - each act is allotted 5 minutes to set up and 5 minutes to tear down and be off of the stage. 

Failing to acknowledge that a song is a cover and/or not giving credit to its originator

Each ten seconds that it runs overtime during a competition performance.

Finishing 3 or more minutes before its allotted performance time expires.

Showing up late and/or missing performance order drawing at Preliminary or Finals

Showing up late and/or not being ready to perform on time.



During the Preliminary round, the sets will be 25 minutes long, with 10 minutes between sets.  During the Final round, sets will be 20 minutes long, with 10 minutes between sets. Five minutes to tear down - Five minutes to set up. Penalty points may be deducted if you exceed the allocated five minutes.  


The Mile High Blues Society will provide backline and sound. The setup on stage will include a drum kit with snare drum, amplifiers, and microphones. Drummers should bring their own snare, cymbals and kick pedals (Yes, you will need your cymbals, you might want to bring your own snare too) and Harmonica players CAN (but are not required) bring their own harp amp. Keyboard players must bring their own keyboards and keyboard amps.  Effects racks and other auxiliary equipment are permitted.

Competitors are prohibited from bringing their own amplifiers (keyboard and harmonica amps being the only exceptions.)  Please bring a DI (if you use one) every effort will be made to provide suitable equipment.


The performance ORDER for each act will be randomly drawn at the performance venue an hour before the start of each event, on the day of the event. A representative from EACH act MUST be present during the drawing. 


From the Blues Foundation
About the Challenge

The International Blues Challenge represents the worldwide search for those Blues Bands and Solo/Duo Blues Acts ready to perform on the international stage, yet just needing that extra big break. Each Affiliate of The Blues Foundation has the right to send a band and a solo/duo act to represent its organization at the IBC.

The IBC is judged by blues professionals from across the world who have years of experience in listening to, producing, and creating blues music. The Blues Foundation has established a set of criteria by which all acts are evaluated throughout the five days of the IBC.

Affiliated organizations are required to stage a regional preliminary IBC competition, with the winner of that event representing the organization in the International Blues Challenge held annually in Memphis, TN along historic Beale Street. While Affilated Organizations are encouraged to follow The Blues Foundation’s structure and rules during their local challenges, each organization is free to structure its preliminary rounds as it sees fit, as long as a true challenge between multiple acts takes place resulting in a single band and/or solo/duo act being identified.