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Name Those Songs—A Contest for Seven People

posted at 11:55 pm
on Aug. 8, 2004

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While driving in may car, I had an idea for a fun contest for EXACTLY SEVEN people who like music.  It seemed brilliant when I was cruising past Medford; you tell me me if it’s still that way where you are…

The premise is this:  Seven people each create a mixed CD and swap them by mail with each other.  Then, each person tries to identify the songs on the CDs that arrive in the mail.  Winners are given valuable (seriously!) iTunes gift certificates.  Sound fun?

There are three prizes:
* A prize for the best mix
* A prize for identifying the most songs
* A prize for creating a mix that is the least identified (most obscure)

Each prize is an iTunes gift certificate for $30.  In addition, you get to keep all the CDs you’re sent.

You must have:
* a computer, with some digital music on it, that can burn a CD
* that’s all; everything else is provided.

You enter by sending me an email with your address.  I’ll send you a link to PayPal and let you know who the other players are.  Once you get that email and you pay the entry fee, which is $20, I’ll send you an envelope filled with seven blank CDs and seven pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes.

Once you receive the envelope, you’ll have 5 days to make your CD mix and mail it out.  If you don’t mail it out on time, an ancient curse will cause you to have intermittent net connectivity.  You must not use any music that you do not already own.  No borrowing CDs from friends, no downloading new music.

You make a CD with ten songs.  If you put more than ten songs on the CD, only the first ten songs are considered part of the contest.  Each CD you make must be the same.  Each CD must have your name on it.  You can decorate the CD in any way you choose.  Burn it as a regular music CD.

You have to choose songs that are sung by artists that have a commercially released album.  The song you include might not have been commercially released, but the artist must have some modicum of success so that you can’t simply have your brother croon a tune.  Commercially released means it has a label, and is sold for money from somebody other than the band itself.  Having had a show and a self-published CD isn’t good enough; if you want a special waiver, contact me and we’ll talk about sales figures.  Plus I will think you’re snooty.  If you go for totally obscure songs, that may make it harder to get the prize for most-liked mix.

There does not need to be a theme to the mix, but there can be: Canadian artists, music to shower by, music that gets faster, music with bad puns, music by women who wear too many sparkles.  Have fun with it.

It goes without saying that if YOU don’t know the name of a song or an artist, you can’t include that item on the CD.  It should also go without saying that the song needs to be identifiable by listening to it: clips of silence, clips of ambient noise, songs that are too short are all not allowed.

You obviously need a CD burner to participate.  You should also do your best to put high quality versions of the songs on the CD.

Once you’re done the CDs, drop them all into the prepared envelopes, and put them in the mail at the same time—don’t mail them out one by one as you burn them.  Then let me know you’ve sent them, and send me a list of the songs and artists.  This is so I can judge who guessed correctly.

You’ll start getting CDs in the mail.  You will have three days to make your guess.  The big restriction on identifying songs is that you can’t use the Internet.  No looking up lyrics in Google, no sending songs via email to get a friend to help, no using software to identify the song signatures.  Also, no using commercial song identifying services.  But you can ask friends for help via phone or in person.

I’ll send you a Web link.  The Web link will have a simple form that looks like this:
Your name: ____________
CD’s name: ____________
Song 1 Title: ______________________
Song 1 Artist:______________________
Rating (10 is best): ____

Spelling doesn’t have to be exact, but the title has to be pretty darn close.
For rating, you’re rating only two things: the song itself, and how it fits with the rest of the songs on the mix.  You’re not judging the group overall (i.e. they’re a lame group that did one good song), and you’re not judging the song against other songs (i.e. who cares if there’s a better example of R&B opera fusion, judge the song in front of you).  Yes, you could rate everyone else’s picks all 1s, but if I see that sort of lame behavior, I’ll work in a modifier based on your rating bell curve to normalize your data.  OR you can spend time trying to figure out a 7-way prisoner’s dilemma logic problem to figure out what the optimal game strategy for rating is.  Or you can just be honest.

Anyway, once all the guesses are in, or the contest time limit has expired, the winners will be:
* The person who identified the most songs
* The person whose songs were the least correctly identified
* The person whose songs scored the highest.

In case of a tie in any category, the following rules apply:
1) if you’ve won a prize, the other person gets it (you can win two prizes flat out, but if there’s a tie, share the love, OK?)
2) in the identification categories, the person whose songs scored the highest wins;
3) if neither of the first two solves the problem, the winner is randomly chosen by me.

The time line looks like this:
Day 1: I send out the envelopes
Day 4: Everyone should have received the envelopes.  You have 5 days now to make your mix.
Day 9: Everyone must have sent out the CDs and let me know the songs on the CDs.
Day 12: Everyone should have received the mixed CDs. You now have three days to respond and submit your guesses.
Day 15: Contest is tallied; prizes are awarded.

The costs, by the way, look like this:
Entry fees: $20 * 7 = $140
Prizes: $30 * 3 = -$90
CDs: 50 for -$10
Cases: 50 for -$10
Envelopes: 50 for -$10
Postage: about -$30 (I don’t know yet)

Overall Total: This contest will cost me $10 and my time, but in exchange I’ll have some fun and get mixed CDs from my music-savvy friends.  Because there’s no profit and no element of chance, this isn’t a lottery and shouldn’t get us all arrested for mail fraud.  At least, that’s my hope.

If you’d like to participate, send me an email.  You cannot enter as a team. You can pass along one invitation to one friend to also participate; however, spots in the contest will go to people I know first, in order that they email me.  The contest starts once I have seven people.  If there is enough demand (i.e. another seven people), I will run another contest.

If this succeeds, I’ll probably run the contest again.

I’ll also post the winning mixes on my Web site.

Any questions?



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“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

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“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

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“I play with variables constantly.”

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“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

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