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Calling all budding tunesmiths

If you think you've got what it takes to be a top songwriter, why not enter next year's Ivor Novello Awards? Sebastian Lander reveals how you can do it

The British Academy's Ivor Novello Awards honours the hottest songwriting talent of the music industry. And with the launch of The Songwriters'

Academy 2006, the age bar is being lowered for the next generation of songwriting superstars, giving winners the chance to kickstart a career that might last considerably longer than the stars of the BBC's Fame Academy.

The contest is open to solo or group songwriters of all musical backgrounds and ages, with a category for the under-18s. From each category, 20 finalists will be chosen by a panel of songwriters and music industry professionals to attend a one-day masterclass. Split into three sections - The Business, The Technology and The Craft - the workshop will give finalists the chance to learn the tricks of the trade from the best in the business. The overall winner from each category will be given the opportunity to record their song at a studio with the help of mentors, which will then be commercially released on iTunes. And if that was not enough, winners will receive home recording technology products from Apple.

The British Academy's competition manager Fergal Kilroy says the contest has been set up to encourage people to consider songwriting as a career choice: "While the Academy is not an education-based organisation, we are confident that by allowing students to take part in the contest, teachers will be helping them to develop some important skills that can go on to be used throughout the participant's life," he says. "Primarily, the most important skill is the willingness to learn, as this is one of the key abilities that any successful songwriter goes on to practice day after day in their career."

Fergal says that those who make it through to the masterclass will have the chance to develop their social networking skills. "Working alongside strangers and being a part of a team are also two of the most important aspects of working as a songwriter," he adds.

For the under-18s (closing date October 2), the masterclass will be mentored by songwriters Pam Sheyne and Paul Herman, responsible for a string of number one hits including Christina Aguilera's Genie In A Bottle and Dido's Thank You. Pam says the competition will raise the profile of songwriting as a career. "Being a songwriter is sometimes so far hidden away from the public that the role gets lost, but clearly without hit songs there is no music business to speak of," she says. "This competition is a great vehicle for new and original British talent as well as emphasising the importance and excellence of songwriting."

THE SONGWRITERS' ACADEMY

Entry for under-18s is free. Entrants must submit a CD recording of one original song of any genre, no longer than six minutes, with an application form which can be obtained by registering at www.songwritersacademy.co.uk

Help is available from competition partner and young people's charity Youth Music, offering free assistance and music-making resources at a number of Youth Music Action Zones. www.thesoundstation.org.ukjspActionzone.jsp Tel: 020 7902 1060

* Completed entries can be sent to: The Songwriters Academy, The British Academy of Composers Songwriters, 26 Berners Street, London, W1T 3LR. For more information on Youth Music, log on at www.youthmusic.org.uk

For information about Apple home recording products including GarageBand 3, visit www.apple.comukilifegarageband The competition for the under-18s category closes on October 2.

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