Breakthrough Artist 2015 Registration Opens January 1st!


Are you a newer artist on the Madison scene? Perhaps you’ve played a few shows, recorded some songs, and wish to take your next step in the music industry. But what do you do next?

The Madison Area Music Association’s Breakthrough Artist Competition was created to help new artists (solo performers and bands, in all genres of music) answer that question. Its purpose is to guide these artists as they create successful, independent, small businesses and grow them into larger businesses. The judging criteria is set to address all aspects of working and performing in the music industry. Simple items such as showing up on time, social media use, having merchandise to sell – all the little things that when combined properly can help artists be successful. The competition was not set up to simply hand over a successful business – it was set up to educate artists and provide the tools they would need to take the next step.

The prize packages are also set up to specifically provide elements to help make the next step more successful. They include marketing assistance, professional recording/studio time, music licensing packages, a professional photo shoot, the opportunity to play at the Madison Area Music Awards show at the Overture Center … and more. Everything a new artist will need to present their music in a professional manner.

So to answer the question – “What do we do next?” Enter this competition! Take it seriously, and take advantage of an amazing opportunity. Go all in and show the world that you are the next Breakthrough Artist of the Year!


  • Must be a registered band through the MAMA  and meet standard band submission requirements. (Not a member? Sign up here:
  • As of submission date, artist has been established for 2 years or less, must have played out during the past year. Current project must be unique and independent of any and all past projects, lineups, and music style.
  • Must provide merchandise for sale during the event. Merch is a vital part of an artist’s ability to promote themselves and and a visible indicator of fan support. Judges will provide feedback on their voting sheets regarding merch.
  • Artists must submit and perform music original and unique the submitting artist/band. It is up to the discretion of the Madison Area Music Association to make final determination of eligibility if the music is not markedly different from artist’s/band’s other musical projects. *no covers*
  • Artist demonstrates initiative by using promotional tools such as Broadjam, Backstage Vibe, and any other digital or physical resources that may extend awareness of the artist and event.
  • Must also demonstrate a local following on social media. Must have a minimum of 300 followers on social media, at least 50% of them being local.
  • Must be able to commit to performing live at the Madison Area Music Association Breakthrough Artist competition on April 17th
  • Must provide thorough contact information including artist contact person, phone number, and an active e-mail address. Artists should also be able to respond to event coordinators within 48 hours of significant planning dates, including the announcement of the finalists.
  • Must be able to commit to performing live at the Madison Area Music Association Awards show, should the band win the contest
  • Winning band will coordinate with the Madison Area Music Association Awards’ Music Director for the appearance at the awards show and will be required to sign the Performance Contract for that event


  • Registration for eligible artists begins on January 1st at 12:01am
  • Registration ends on February 7th
  • Throughout the entire registration and voting process artists are strongly encouraged to notify their fan base that they are competing and solicit votes and awareness of both the event and the Madison Area Music Association.
  • The one and only round of voting takes place from February 13th to March 24th.
  • The ten artists with the most votes will be notified at the finalist party on March 28th. The 8 artists receiving the most votes when the first round of voting closes on March 24th will participate in the battle on the 17th. Two alternates may become eligible to perform if any of the top eight are unable to compete.

Once you have registered for the MAMAs, enter yourself in the Breakthrough Artist competition through this page on Broadjam:

Voting for the Breakthrough Artist award is part of the general MAMAs voting. To vote, follow these instructions to register.


The Competition 2015:

  • The Competition will take place Friday April 17th, 2015 at The Annex at The Red Zone – 1212 Regent Street.
  • The battle will be Emceed by Ty Christian (Fang VonWrathenstein) of Lords of the Trident
  • Madison Magazine’s “Favorite Tweeter”, Teri Barr, will be live tweeting the event and will be taking over the MAMAs Facebook & Instagram for the night!
  • Each artist will be allowed to perform up to 3 songs, with a time limit of 15 minutes.
  • Each artist will be presented with all judging criteria and point values prior to the day of the competition. It is the artist’s responsibility to understand the rules and follow them. No exceptions will be made on any of the items.
  • A panel of independent judges from various areas of the music industry will evaluate the artists on a predetermined set of criteria.
  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners are notified directly following the competition.
  • Maier CPA will be professionally and confidentially tallying the votes, and presenting the results on stage.


The Finalists 2015:


Karen Wheelock


The Wells Division

Oh My Love

The Civil Engineers

The Wild Things


Dogs of War (Alternate)

Trap Saturn (Alternate)

Opening Band:

ashAsh Aria from Madison, WI will be opening the battle with a short set!






  • First Prize Receives:
    • A slot to perform at the MAMA Awards Show on July 12th
    • Choice of 1 hand crafted pedal from Pro Tone Pedals ($269 value)
    • A Primo membership to Broadjam ($200 value, plus 52 free music licensing submissions!)
    • A professional styling and in-studio promo session with Sweeney Photography
    • A Press Release Submission and Digital Distribution Package from Backstage Vibe
    • Backstage Vibe T-Shirts for the band
    • One 6-hour in-studio vocal coaching/producing session with Mary Zimmer (vocalist for Luna Mortis & White Empress)
    • Blast House Studios: 5 hours of studio time to be used for tracking, mixing & mastering (
  • Second Prize Receives:
    • A Primo membership to Broadjam
    • A Digital Distribution Package from Backstage Vibe
    • One 1-hour voice lesson via Skype video call for the band’s vocalist with Mary Zimmer (vocalist for Luna Mortis & White Empress)
  • Third Prize Receives:
    • A Primo membership to Broadjam
    • A Press Release Submission from Backstage Vibe
    • One 1-hour voice lesson via Skype video call for the band’s vocalist with Mary Zimmer (vocalist for Luna Mortis & White Empress)


About Mary Zimmer:
Mary Zimmer is a vocalist and vocal instructor from Wisconsin who has been coaching singers and screamers in a diverse variety of vocal styles for over 9 years. Mary is a classically trained singer who studied under Carlene McMonagle at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she recieved her BA Music.
It was during her classical studies that Mary deduced a way to produce healthy screaming or gutteral, extreme metal vocals. She began to experiment with extreme vocals and integrated screaming into the music she recorded with her band at the time, Luna Mortis (then called The Ottoman Empire). Post-college, Mary had the opportunity to study advanced vocal techniques with reknowned singer/screamer coach Melissa Cross.
Through her diverse performance background and her years as a private instructor, Mary has developed specific and direct techniques for vocal production that can be adjusted for voice type and style to achieve stunningly consistent, beautiful and healthy sounds. Currently, Mary instructs private vocal lessons to students worldwide via Skype in addition to group master classes and seminars. Read more about Mary’s vocal techniques and more on her blog at:
Mary is most notable for her work as a singer and screamer in the heavy metal music genre as the vocalist for the (now dissolved) progressive power metal band Luna Mortis (Century Media Records) and as the current vocalist for the extreme metal band, White Empress (Peaceville Records). Mary has appeared in Revolver, Outburn, Decibel, Burrn, Inferno, BW & BK magazines and many more print and online publications. Mary has appeared 4 times on the cover of Wisconsin’s Maximum Ink Music Magazine. She is a member of the (now dissolved) organization of professional female rock and metal singers, Eve’s Apple. Additionally, Mary has used her voice talent in the broadcast industry having previously been an on-air DJ under the pseudonym “Lisa Bradley” at Madison Wisconsin’s Magic 98.1 FM



Kevin Machan

Kevin Machan has been surrounded by music his whole life, learning his first instrument and playing his first recital at age 3, performing in a variety of school and community groups, directing children’s choir at his church, working as a solo vocalist for weddings and funerals, and starting his first garage bandwith his friends at age 13. Over his life he learned to play six instruments, though these days he primarily plays keyboards.

While his day job is working as a business manager using technology (such as RFID) or techniques (such as Lean Six Sigma) to help businesses improve, Kevin avocation is keyboardist/business manager and founder of award-winning cover band Rabid Aardvarks, playing today’s pop and country hits featuring female lead vocals, and earning several nominations for Keyboard Player of the Year. Kevin is currently on the Board of Directors for Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI), and is also adjunct faculty for business courses at Milwaukee-area universities teaching general management concepts such as marketing, strategy, budgeting, economics, and other related topics.

In addition, his family is full of musicians well-known across Wisconsin, including father James (one of the founders of the Wisconsin Honors Music program), brother Derek (nationally-recognized choir director at Waterford Union High School), grandfather Joseph (known as ‘Cowboy Joe’ with his combo that played barn dances), aunt Bev Haimerl (longtime public school music teacher and church choir director in Madison), and cousin Glenn Rehse (of Plasticland).


IMG_1029Dennis Mollan

In his 25 year run in the music industry, Dennis has seen it all- from the stage to the van, to the studio and on to the NAMM show floor- where his products have walked away with ‘Best Of NAMM’ honors.  Dennis now focuses his energy on Pro Tone Pedals– a boutique guitar effects pedal company catering to the darker side of music. Having worked with luminaries such as Ozzy Osbourne, Ministry, Janes Addiction, Killing Joke, Deftones, Periphery, and countless others, his insiders view, and no-bullshit approach to business set him apart in the music gear realm.



Paul Allender

Paul Allender founded his new band White Empress after spending 18 years being the main songwriter and guitarist in Cradle of Filth which led to having an entry in the British Guiness Book of Records and Grammy Nomination. Since 2006 Paul has been signed to PRS guitars with his “Allender series SE” being sold world wide.






IMG_0246Sean McDonough

Hailing from the Southside of Chicago, Sean McDonough began his career answering phones at Metro in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. During his 14-year tenure at the venerated club, he rose up the ranks to become the head talent buyer, booking shows with everyone from Muse to Smashing Pumpkins to the Flaming Lips. In 2008, Sean packed his bags and moved to New York to book Irving Plaza and the Gramercy Theatre for Live Nation. After getting fed up with the lack of decent pizza in New York, he moved back home and booked Bottom Lounge before returning to Live Nation in 2012 as the Senior Talent Buyer for House of Blues Chicago and Bottom Lounge. He currently lives in Chicago with his amazing wife, daughter, and dog.




ColleenColleen Bos

Colleen Bos is the founder of Bos Meadery, which produces dry and sparkling meads made with ingredients from Wisconsin and the region. Bos Meadery hosts the annual Mead and Metal Fest at the High Noon Saloon the first weekend in January. She has an MA in Medieval History, has attended Siebel Institute’s concise course on brewing technology, and has over 15 years of experience as a project manager in research and technology fields. She sings and plays Mandolin in The Stillhouse Six, an all-female bluegrass band in Madison.