Applications for the 2023 contest closed June 12, 2023.
The guidelines below are for reference only.

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 North Carolina Folk Festival in Greensboro in September! We look forward to hearing you!

Contest - Key Dates

Applications Open Monday, May 15th, 2023
Applications Close Monday, June 12th, 2023 @ 11:59pm Eastern
Four Finalists Announced Wednesday, July 5th, 2023
Online Voting Opens Wednesday, July 5th, 2023
Online Voting Closes Wednesday, July 26th, 2023 @ 11:59pm Eastern
Winners Announced TBD

Contest Prize Overview

First Prize

  • 1x performance at the 2023 Season on Saturday, September 9 on a main
  • 16 hours of studio recording time (studio A) with Black Rabbit Audio.
  • 16 hours of video content during studio recording time.
  • 1x Contest “Artist spotlight” newsletter

Second Prize

  • 1x performance at the 2023 Season on a secondary stage, the “VIP Lounge,” or a comparable performance opportunity.
  • 8 hours of studio recording time (studio B) with Black Rabbit Audio.
  • 1x Contest “Artist spotlight” newsletter.

Third Prize

  • 1x performance at the 2023 Season on a secondary stage, the “VIP Lounge,” or a comparable performance opportunity.
  • 8 hours of studio recording time (studio B) with Black Rabbit Audio.
  • 1x Contest “Artist spotlight” newsletter.

Fourth Prize

  • $500 E-Gift Card to
  • 1x Contest “Artist spotlight” newsletter.

Frequently Asked 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

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

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

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.

Videos must be created after the contest opening date. We will reference the youtube video upload date to verify this.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

Our judging panel is made up of a group of 5 music experts that represent diverse communities from across North Carolina. 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.

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

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.

Contest Sponsors