The winners of the US-based Unsigned Only Music Competition were announced and the overall 2020 Grand Prize has been awarded to the Haitian world music artist Jean Belony Murat, known as BélO. He is also the winner of Fandemonium, Unsigned Only’s online public vote.
Established in 2012, Unsigned Only has become known as the leading music competition honoring international artists who are not signed to a major record label. It has become an important source for discovering new talent and acts as a benchmark for excellence in the arena of contemporary music. Selected from more than 7,000 entries from 109 countries, the winners share in over $160,000 in cash and prizes split among 38 winners.
Winners were selected by a judging panel comprised of high-profile industry experts and renowned recording artists, including: Charli XCX; Aimee Mann; Sanctus Real; O.A.R.; Ruthie Foster; Robert Smith (The Cure); David Benoit; Tyler Williams (The Head And The Heart); NLE Choppa; Bibi Marin (Reik); Darryl Worley; Piso 21; Janiva Magness; Tinariwen; Rhett Walker; The Devil Makes Three; Buika; and many more (see complete list below).
Hailed as Haiti’s musical ambassador to the world, BélO is a socially conscious singer/songwriter whose music reflects the issues and challenges facing his home country. BélO has always been committed to the causes of the less fortunate, the education of children, women’s rights, social solidarity, environmental protection, and peace in Haiti and around the world. His social activism is especially significant during these challenging times and exposes the enormous contradictions and inequalities of our societies.
“Haiti has a lot to offer to the rest of the world, and our culture reflects the beauty of its diversity,” said BélO. “When we are united there’s not much that we can’t achieve. As always I am proud to represent my country and to share my music with the world. I would like to extend my gratitude to the fans who supported me and carried me throughout the years.”
BélO’s sound is a mixture of world, rock, reggae, jazz, and Afro-Haitian traditional rhythms known as “ragganga.” Born in Croix-des-Bouquets, near Port-au-Prince, BélO was only 11 years old when he realized he wanted to be a professional musician. For him, it was seemingly his destiny because music was everywhere: in his home, on the streets, and all over Haiti. His first album was released in 2005, and since then he has performed all over the world, garnering accolades and multiple awards, including winning the prestigious “Prix Radio France International Discoveries” award.
“BélO’s message is so relevant right now; it speaks to the turbulent and challenging times in which we all live,” said Founders/Directors Candace Avery and Jim Morgan. “His message of unity and peace resonates now more than ever.”
In addition to winning $20,000 in cash (US) and much more in prizes, BélO will also receive one-on-one mentoring from a group of upper-echelon music industry executives from: ARC Music, Because Music, Cumbancha/Putumayo, Naive Records, Montreux Jazz Festival, Omnium Records, RCA, and Summerfest Music Festival.
Artist judges include: Aimee Mann; Bow Wow; Buika; Charli XCX; Christopher Lennertz; Craig Campbell; Darryl Worley; David Benoit; Eric Bibb; Janiva Magness; Lionel Loueke; NLE Choppa; Chris Culos (O.A.R.); Bibi Marin (Reik); Rhett Walker; Robert Smith (The Cure); Russ Landau; Ruthie Foster; Sanctus Real; Tenth Avenue North; The Devil Makes Three; Tinariwen; Victor Wainwright; and Zbigniew Presiner.
Industry judges include: Angel Romero (Founder/Sr. Editor, World Music Central); Angela Yee (Radio Personality, “The Breakfast Club”/105.1); Anna Kolander (Manager, Activist Artists Mgmt); Anthony DeCurtis (Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone); Art Tipaldi (Editor, Blues Music Magazine); Brandon Chitwood (The EDM Scholar); Brett Milano (Music Critic, Boston Herald); Brinson Strickland (President, Collective Music Nashville); Chad Jensen (Artist Manager, Jensen Artist Mgmt); Christopher Scapelliti (Editor-In-Chief, Guitar Player); Damian Fanelli (Editor-In-Chief, Guitar World); David Sikorski (Sr. Editor, EARMILK Media Inc.); David Silbaugh (Talent Buyer, Summerfest); Enrique Santos (Chairman/Chief Creative Officer, iHeart Latino); Evan Stein (Owner, Experience Music Group); Gaston Leone (Talent Buyer, Goldenvoice); Hilary Saunders (Managing Editor, No Depression); James Kempner (Owner, JMK Connections); James Whitting (Partner, Paradigm Talent Agency); Jeff Zuchowski (VP, Artist Marketing/Industry Relations, Pandora); Jennifer Taunton (Music Supervisor, Level Two Music); John Cameron (Managing Editor, EDM.com); John Dibiase (President, Jesus Freak Hideout); Joseph Patterson (Senior Editor, Complex); Josh Jackson (Co-Founder and Editor-In-Chief, Paste Magazine); Kevin McNeese (President, NewReleaseToday); Lyndsey Parker (Managing Editor, Yahoo Music); Mac Randall (Editor, JazzTimes); Raoul Hernandez (Music Editor, Austin Chronicle); and Sheryl Louis (CSM Management).
Unsigned Only is sponsored by: CAD Audio; Celebrity Access; Disc Makers; Eventric; Hybrid Studios; Killer Brownies; Lurssen Mastering; Merch Cat; Mojave Audio; Musicians Institute; Ortega Guitars; Symphonic Distribution; and The Music Business Registry.
For more information and to view the list of all winners, go to http://www.unsignedonly.com.
Submissions for the 2021 competition are currently open. Entry information can be found at https://www.unsignedonly.com
The complete list of 2020 winners is as follows:
BélO (Port-Au-Prince, Haiti) – “EDA”
Adult Album Alternative (AAA)
First Place: San Mei (Melbourne, VIC, Australia) – “Hard To Face”
Second Place: Trent-Jean (Perth, WA, Australia) – “Manchester By The Sea”
Adult Contemporary (AC)
First Place: Lainey Dionne (Smithfield, RI, USA) – “Hey London”
Second Place: MAXO (Canberra, ACT, Australia) – “All My Love”
First Place: Brit Taylor (Hindman, KY, USA) – “Waking Up Ain’t Easy”
Second Place: Big Little Lions (Royston, BC, Canada) – “Against The Wall”
First Place: Aaron David (Tampa, FL, USA) – “Dirty Heart”
Second Place: Lizi Bailey (Griffin, GA, USA) – “Better”
First Place: Sonia Leigh (Nashville, TN, USA) – “Jack Is Back”
Second Place: Buck Twenty (Harrow, ON, Canada) – “All I Can Do”
First Place: Du0 (Brisbane, QLD, Australia) – “Way Back Down”
Second Place: Medii (Alameda, CA, USA) – “Keys Ft. Kiture”
First Place: Kelson (Atlanta, GA, USA) – “Holy Smoke”
Second Place: Sahara Beck (Fortitude Valley, QLD, Australia) – “21st Century”
First Place: Tomokazu Yamada (Shakotan, Japan) – “Migraine”
Second Place: Gaia (Helsinki, Finland) – “Questions In E Minor”
First Place: Adam Hutcheson/AH2 (Atlanta, GA, USA) – “Souperbass”
Second Place: Hildemaro Alvarez (San Cristobal, Venezuela) – “Arriba En La Ruta 3”
First Place: Patiño (San José, Costa Rica) – “Paquita Linda”
Second Place: RYOKER (Bogota, Colombia) – “Amanecer En Paris”
First Place: Lily Williams (London, England) – “Punching”
Second Place: Theia (Auckland, New Zealand) – “Not Your Princess”
First Place King Zay (St. Louis, MO, USA) – “Tonka”
Second Place: Bby Ivy (Oslo, Norway) – “Sweet Like Honey”
First Place: Joshua & The Holy Rollers (Los Angeles, CA, USA) – “Talks Like Alabama”
Second Place: Megan Slankard (San Francisco, CA, USA) – “I Want To Be Loved”
First Place: MAD FVN (McLean, VA, USA) – “Skeletons”
Second Place: JoJo Worthington (Waterloo, ON, Canada) – “Stabilize”
First Place: Beyond Chaotic (Land O Lakes, FL, USA) – “You Don’t Even Know (Kung Fu)”
Second Place: Victoria Dennis (Mount Kisco, NY, USA) – “When I Fall”
First Place: Bianca Ryan (Philadelphia, PA, USA) – “Say Something”
Second Place: Dreion (Boston, MA, USA) – “I Gotta Bad Feeling”
First Place: Jaja Bashengezi (Bukavu, Democratic Republic of The Congo) – “Fata Katibu”
Second Place: OYME (Pushkino, Russia) – “Vaya”
Fandemonium (public online vote)
Winner: BélO (Port-Au-Prince, Haiti) – “EDA”
Special Promotion Winners
Week One – Get Exposure
Kelson (Atlanta, GA, USA) – “Holy Smoke”
Week Two – Get Published
Madison Olds (Kamloops, BC, Canada) – “3’s A Crowd”
Week Three – Get Paid
Mad FVN (McLean, VA, USA) – “Skeletons”
Win Some Love – three winners (in alphabetical order)
Sahara Beck (Fortitude Valley, QLD, Australia) – “Queen Of Hearts”
Scot Robinson (Edmonton, AB, Canada) – “Istanbul”
The Sand (Murcia, Spain) – “California”
Eli Dan (Melbourne, VIC, Australia) – “Treading Water”
Abi Muir (Redlynch, QLD, Australia) – “Creep”