Contest - North Carolina Folk Festival

Stay tuned for news about the 2022 Not Your Average Folk Contest!

Sign up for our email newsletter.

Page Navigation

Click to jump to a section within this page.

00. 2021 NYAFC Logo - Transparent


The Lorena Guillen Tango Ensemble, from Greensboro, N.C.

Program Overview

What images and sounds come to mind when we think about “folk music?” Guitars, fiddle tunes, and singer-songwriters?  Folk music is all that….AND SO MUCH MORE!!!


At the North Carolina Folk Festival, we use the term “folk” to refer broadly to “the people” and the ways in which their expressive cultural traditions are learned, interpreted, and passed down from one generation to the next.  Traditions thrive when communities choose to carry them forward – threading a link and connection to the past with new and emerging influences, technologies, and voices – shaping the future of a people’s “folk music.”


What images and sounds come to OUR minds when we think about “folk music?”  Answers: Hip-Hop, Bluegrass, Country, Gospel, Congolese Rumba, Appalachian Ballads, Irish fiddle tunes, Zydeco, Tuvan throat singing, Swedish herding calls, Salsa and Merengue, Czech Polka, etc.


It is in this spirit of broadly conceptualizing and tying folk music thoughtfully (but not restrictively) to a community of musical practice that we create the Not Your Average Folk Contest as an opportunity for North Carolina-based musicians who meet the contest eligibility requirements to share their music with the North Carolina Folk Festival community.


We invite applications from a diverse array of musical and community traditions to join a friendly competition, win some fun prizes – including an opportunity to perform live at the 2021 North Carolina Folk Festival in Greensboro in September! We look forward to hearing you!

Timeline (2021)

Applications Open: May 12, 2021 12:00 PM EDT
Applications Close: Jun 13, 2021 11:59 PM EDT
Final Round Voting Period: Jul 6, 2021 → Jul 28, 2021
Winner Announced: Aug 12, 2021
2021 North Carolina Folk Festival: Sep 10, 2021 → Sep 12, 2021


You may apply as either a soloist or group. All entries will be judged out of the same pool of applicants.


For Soloists

  • Must be a North Carolina resident (owning or renting residential real property in North Carolina at time of application submission and through the end of September 2021) and must be 18 years of age or older
  • Must be able to provide proof of North Carolina residency

For Groups (more than one performer)

  • All individuals in the group must be 18 years of age or older
  • At least 50% of the group’s members must have their primary residence in North Carolina
  • The group’s primary place of business must be located in North Carolina


Soloists or Groups that are represented by an agent booking firm or talent agency, and/or have an outstanding contractual relationship with a major record label or publisher are NOT eligible to apply.


Multiple Applications

Applicants may submit one (1) application as a soloist, but may appear in more than one application as a member of a group.  However, applicants may appear in the lineup for no more than one (1) of the finalists by the judges. 

Application & Evaluation Process

Panel Review

Applications to the Not Your Average Folk Contest will be reviewed by a panel of judges chosen by the NC Folk Festival. Judges will score entries based on the evaluation criteria below.  The top four (4) scoring applications that meet all eligibility requirements will be declared the four (4) Finalists of the contest and will advance to the Public Voting round. All decisions by the judges are final.


Evaluation Criteria for Panel Review

Appeal of Performance


Quality entries will demonstrate a comfortable, authoritative stage presence and demonstrate experience performing for a large audience as well as suitability for performance at the North Carolina Folk Festival.


Incorporation of Folk/Traditional Elements


Quality entries will demonstrate the use, interpretation, or fusion of folk/traditional practices, instruments, musical material (such as an established folk melody), or other related elements.




Quality entries will demonstrate the applicant’s skill in playing a musical instrument or singing. Original works are encouraged, but compositional skill is not an evaluation criteria.


Uniqueness of Work Performed


Quality entries will demonstrate overall uniqueness and creativity in the submitted performance video.



Public Voting

In early July 2021, the four (4) finalists will be announced and public voting through a portal on the NC Folk Festival website will commence.


The four (4) finalists selected through Panel Adjudication must provide access to the original video file.


The video performances submitted with the application of each of the four finalists will be posted to the North Carolina Folk Festival Youtube Channel, website, and social media platforms in order to conduct the Public Voting process. The festival reserves the right to use applicant video submissions, and can modify them as needed.


All four (4) finalists will be interviewed by video by the festival.  The interview video and the performance video submitted with their applications uploaded to the NC Folk Fest YouTube channel and promoted on the NC Folk Festival website and social media platforms to encourage participation in the Public Voting process.


The four (4) finalists are encouraged to promote themselves to their audience via their own social media platforms. The NC Folk Festival will provide each finalist a social media guide with relevant hashtags, account handles, and other details to promote the Public Voting phase of the Contest.


The Public Voting portal on the NC Folk Festival website will close at 11:59pm EDT on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.


What if I am having trouble / want to confirm x,y,z about my submission, or have additional questions?

We will respond to your questions and help ensure applications are successfully, completely, submitted. Be sure to submit your questions at least 72 hours before the application period closes. Use the address

How do I know if I’m eligible to enter the Not Your Average Folk Contest? 

To find out if you (or your video) are eligible to win the Contest, you can read through our eligibility guidelines.


Am I a folk artist?

We’ll allow you to identify yourself however you wish! The application will include a written short answer where you can tell us “what does folk mean to you”, and help us understand the roles that community and the folk arts play in your music.


Can I enter the contest with more than one band? 

Yes. One artist may participate in multiple videos if you are in more than one distinct group, or submitting as a solo act. To avoid confusion, we suggest that applications be submitted by different individuals. For example, if you are submitting as both a solo artist, and as a member of a band, have a band mate submit the band’s application. However, you cannot be a finalist in two different groups/acts. If both score high enough to be considered finalists, the higher scoring act will advance.


I have a super cool video from a few years back that I would like to use for the application, can I submit that?

No, videos should be newly recorded for this contest.


What do you mean by “newly recorded”?

Videos must be created after the contest opening date.


I have a booking agent and am signed to a major label, can I still enter the contest? 

No. In order to be eligible to win the contest, you must not be represented by a booking agency and cannot be signed to a major label.


What is a major label?

A major label is a record label affiliated with groups such as EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group.


What if my band can’t be in the same place due to COVID? 

If it isn’t safe for you to gather, you can record your parts individually and edit them together. Your video should still be representative of a live performance and each band member and part heard in the music should be represented on screen. One member cannot play multiple parts or overdub. We want to see what you would be like on stage so the music must be replicable in a live setting.


Does the music I play in my performance video have to be an original song? 

Your submission does not have to be an original work. For example, you may perform an arrangement of a traditional / folk song that is in the public domain. You may not submit a performance containing material that violates another artist’s intellectual property rights or constitutes copyright infringement. This includes arrangements or transcriptions, and in some cases, sampling. Ensuring the work(s) performed do not infringe on any preexisting rights is the responsibility of the applicant.


What constitutes a song in the public domain?

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright. For example, the folk song, “We Shall Overcome” is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. The folk song, “Freight Train” by Elizabeth Cotton is copyrighted to the estate of Elizabeth Cotton and is not in public domain. A web search about the copyright of a song should be able to help you determine if the song is copyrighted.


I’m not a North Carolina resident, but I love the NC Folk Festival! Can I still enter? 

Unfortunately, no. While we love our friends around the world, the contest is open only to musicians or groups with at least one member who resides in the state of North Carolina.


My drummer lives in North Carolina, but I live in Virginia now, can I still enter the contest?

Yes, by our definitions, you would be considered NC Based if 50% of your group currently resides in North Carolina.


What if my entry is longer than 7 minutes? Will I be disqualified?

You will not be disqualified, however, our judges are not obligated to continue watching after the 7 minute mark.


What if the entry form isn’t working? 

Please make sure you’ve completed every required question on the form – you won’t be able to submit it if you’ve missed any required questions. If you’re still having trouble, please contact us with details about what happened when you tried to submit (provide a screenshot if you can) and what browser, browser version, and device you were using. This information will help us fix any bugs on our end.


There is a mistake in my video. Can I edit and re-submit? 

Only one submission is allowed per entrant. If you need to re-submit because of a mistake, please contact us. We’ll need you to provide the name of your song and the email address that you used.


Can I submit multiple songs and videos?

You can not submit multiple submissions under the same artist/group. You can submit multiple entries if you are a part of different groups (for example, if you’re submitting as a solo artist and a member of a band).


Can there be curse words/adult themes in my music?

We have no restrictions on lyrical content for the festival, just bear in mind that the first round panelists will be scoring your entry based on how suited they think you are for our festival stage, and our event is for all ages.


Who makes up your judging panel?

They are members of the Greensboro community. To ensure fairness and respect the privacy of these individuals we do not plan on announcing the members of this panel until after submissions have closed.


Is there an age limit?

You must be 18 years of age to enter, that is the only age restriction.


If my band wins a performance at the festival, do we get paid?

The artist/band who wins will be treated like any other artist we book at the festival. We will negotiate your performance fee, meals during the festival, and if you are traveling from far across the state, travel and accommodations.


What happens there is no festival due to COVID?

We remain cautiously optimistic and are following the state guidelines for what will be possible at the 2021 festival. If the festival were to be cancelled, your performance would take place either virtually or at the 2022 festival.


First Place

1x performance at the 2021 North Carolina Folk Festival on a main stage.

8 hours recording time at Black Rabbit Audio (Greensboro, NC).

1x Artist Spotlight in a North Carolina Folk Festival monthly newsletter.


Second Place

1x performance at the 2021 North Carolina Folk Festival, in a setting such as a “music spot” or “VIP lounge,” but not on a main stage.

1x Artist Spotlight in a North Carolina Folk Festival monthly newsletter.


Third Place

1x performance at the 2021 North Carolina Folk Festival, in a setting such as a “music spot” or “VIP lounge,” but not on a main stage.

1x Artist Spotlight in a North Carolina Folk Festival monthly newsletter.


Honorable Mention

1x Artist Spotlight in a North Carolina Folk Festival monthly newsletter.

The Not Your Average Folk Contest is presented by Cone Health.

Additional support provided by Black Rabbit Audio.