BreakthroughWebThe Breakthrough Artist Competition is a battle of the bands aimed at newer artists in the Madison scene. Bands compete in front of a panel of music industry veterans for awesome prizes – including the chance to play on the main stage at the Madison Area Music Association Awards Show!

The judging criteria is geared toward addressing 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 can help artists be successful.  

Prize packages for this competition are meant to help make participating musicians more successful. This includes marketing assistance, professional recording/studio time, music licensing packages, and an opportunity to play to a large audience on a grand stage- 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.


  • Must be a registered band through the Madison Area Music Association (MAMA) and meet standard band submission requirements. (Not a member? Sign up here: http://
  • As of submission date, the artist has been established for 3 years or less, must have played in a public or private venue during the past year.
  • Must be 18+ to enter. 
  • Must provide merchandise for sale during the event. Merch is a vital part of an artist’s ability to promote themselves and a visible indicator of fan support. Judges will provide feedback on their voting sheets regarding merch.
  • Musicians must submit and perform original music. *no covers*
  • Must also demonstrate a local following on social media. Must have a minimum of 300 followers on social media (This includes Facebook, or Twitter).
  • Must be able to commit to performing live at the Madison Area Music Association Breakthrough Artist competition on Sunday, November 19th.
  • Must provide thorough contact information including contact full name, phone number, and an active e-mail address.  Musicians should also be able to respond to event coordinators within 48 hours of significant planning dates.
  • Must be able to commit to performing live at the Madison Area Music Association Awards show on June 17th, 2018, should the band win the contest.
  • Winning band will coordinate with the Madison Area Music Association Awards’ Music Director for the June 17th, 2018 appearance at the awards show and will be required to sign the Performance Contract for that event.


  • Registration for eligible musicians begins on October 9th at 12:01am
  • Registration ends on October 31st.
  • The 8 Musicians will be notified on November 6th that they are eligible to participate in the battle on Sunday, November 19th. Two alternates may become eligible to perform if any of the top seven are unable to compete.

The Competition 2017:

  • The Competition will take place on Sunday, November 19th, 2017, at 701A E Washington Ave
    Madison, WI 53703; Phone: (608) 268-1122
  • FOR FANS/ATTENDEES – Doors open at 6pm, the battle starts at 7pm! The event will end at 10pm.
  • FOR BANDS – Load in is at 3pm and goes until 5pm.
  • ALL AGES, suggested $10 admission.
  • Each Musician/Band will be allowed to perform up to 3 songs, with a time limit of 15 minutes.
  • Each Musician/Band will be presented with all judging criteria and point values prior to the day of the competition.  It is the Musician’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 Musicians/Bands on a predetermined set of criteria.
  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners are announced directly following the competition.


Facebook Event Here!

 The Bands:

2017 Winners!

First Place: Late Harvest

Second Place: White Bush Unicorn

Third Place: Sam Ness



Michael Alexander

Michael Alexander is a Southern Rock style recording artist born in Virginia and raised in Madison Wisconsin. Michael has shared the stage with some of the best in music to include support for acts such as Justin Moore, Bret Michaels, Rick Springfield, Joan Jett, Everclear, Lita Ford, Lee Brice, George Thorogood and Korn. Michael has also toured the country doing Support for bands such as Saving Abel, Royal Bliss and Wayland. Michael has just finished his 5th studio record in Colorado With Scott Wilson of the Rock bands Tantric and Saving Abel. It Features: Kent Slucher of Luke Bryan on Drums,Steve Hinson on Slide Guitar as well as members of Wayland,Royal Bliss,Saving Abel and tantric on the record. In addition to touring and making records, Michael is the Entertainment Director for “The world’s Largest Bratfest” and the Crystal Grand, where he has worked with acts such as Charlie Daniels,Kenny Rogers,Aaron Lewis of Staind,Travis Tritt, Everclear Queensryche, George Clinton and many more

Darwin Sampson

 Born and raised in Fond du Lac, WI.

Current owner and operator of The Frequency @ 121 W Main St, Madison WI. Bassist for active local act Droids Attack, guitarist and bassist for various other acts of differing activity levels. Member of the City of Madison’s newly created Task Force on Equity in Music and Entertainment. In my spare time I’m a poker enthusiast, Stiga Table Hockey terror (8th U.S., 17th North America, 489th World Ranked), art and literature admirer, Rick and Morty addict. Also, aliens.

Roy Elkins

Roy Elkins is a music industry visionary with leadership roles in technology from synthesizers (Ensoniq) to software (Sonic Foundry.) He is the Founder and CEO of Broadjam, a pioneer in the Internet music arena (est. 1999), and now serving independent musicians from over 190 countries. Recently, he launched Between the Waves Madison Music Festival and Conference which serves the independent music community. His consulting clients have included The Academy of Country Music, Warner/Chappell and Yamaha.

Maggie Denman

Maggie is the local and regional talent buyer for High Noon Saloon and has been working with Frank Productions for over a year. Born and raised in Madison, she’s been active in bands of various genres since an early age. She’s also one of the organizers for a local group called Half-Stack Sessions which is a group of women, LGBT, and non-binary folk who play music in the Madison area. Its purpose is to create space for musicians to grow and to work towards higher visibility in the larger music scene.


Blast-House-Studios-banner-ad-for-TONEKeep watching – prize packages are only going to get better. As we select additional sponsors we will be adding to the already amazing prize packages.

First Prize Receives:

  • A slot to perform at the MAMA Awards Show
  • Two tickets for each band member and crew to Big & Rich or Melissa Ethridge at the Crystal Grand in December
  • Passes to the 2018 Between The Waves conference & festival
  • Guitar Center Gift Card
  • A slot to perform at the Between The Waves OR Wurst Times Festival
  • Feature in Max Ink by Teri Barr
  • Branded Image – 25% off first order, no set up fees, no screen or digitization fees.

Second Prize Receives:

  • Passes to the 2018 Between The Waves conference & festival
  • Featured slot at Ragged Roots Music Festival 2018
  • Paradyme $200 Gift Certificate
  • Shure SM58, cable, and Stand
  • Branded Image – 25% off first order, no set up fees, no screen or digitization fees.
  • Axis Recording – One free mixing session of one song up to 5 hours. Value $300

Third Prize Receives:

  • Shure SM58, cable, and Stand
  • Branded Image – 25% off first order, no set up fees, no screen or digitization fees.