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FSN 21

For what are hopefully obvs reasons – we’ve had to postpone the FSN Final on July 4th. We’re still hopeful that we’ll be able to make it happen this year, but we’re going to re-assess once we see if things ‘do’ actually open on July 19th. Pull ur finger out Boris. x




  • ROCK CITY FINAL – Sunday 4th July.
  • SPLENDOUR – Saturday 24th July.

Here’s how the last one went down… 


The voting process is quite complicated, there is a lot of method in the apparent madness though! Pinky promise.

Every rule is about trying to create as epic an experience as possible for the musicians taking part, hopefully the best gig of their lives, one that might even change their lives.

It’s a mixed voting system, between audience vote and a ‘Industry Professionals Panel’ vote. This is an attempt to get the best of both worlds in terms of fairness and also to create a system that helps stimulate a vibrant gig for the musicians. We appreciate there is a risk we simply end up pissing off everybody.


– Addresses the natural numerical advantage of bands with audience votes, and so re-balances things a bit towards the solo artists.

– Makes sure raw talent, yet to build any following, is recognised.

– Gives you a chance to perform in front of well connected, Industry Professionals, who can help your career. On the Nottingham level this panel is huge, pretty much every major player in Nottingham is represented {the one exception is Dean Jackson from the BBC, who prefers to stay neutral (as we do, so we empathise)}. This in itself is a big opportunity regardless of the result. Several previous FSN Finalists have secured management, been booked for Splendour independently, as well as received key gig support slots. And that’s not counting the champs! 

Those Industry Professionals are:

  • Revealed on the New Music Podcast on Monday 21st June.

Our primary brief is to curate a panel full of the Nottingham residents most able to help our Finalists. We also seek to ensure demographic diversity too. Our brief is to find:

– Individuals who have a significant audience (which we define as thousands to tens of thousands) plus the freedom to give exposure to local musicians.

– Individuals with significant professional music industry connections, such that could lead to high profile gigs or even management/ label introductions.

– The majority of our Industry Professionals will have both.

– And in 2019 we added a new criteria – Industry Professionals who can advise you / help you with getting career-changing funding


– Helps mobilise your fans. Knowing they can make a difference encourages friends, family and fans to come down and support, in the process creating a vibey crowd and better atmosphere for all artists. That’s really key, it’s a better vibe for everyone.

– Ensures that talent talented enough to have built a following gets recognised. It is ironic when people moan, ‘they only won because they have more fans than us’, why do they have fans? A significant following implies you’re creating music that is connecting with people. Our ‘no covers’ policy ensures good looks and the ability to play someone else’s three chord hit is not enough.


–  Three announced ‘audience votes’ throughout the night via a decibel-o-meter on stage taking precise Db readings of audience volume level (from the same location). 

The thinking:

– A decibel-o-meter on the stage encourages the crowd to come to the front and get boisterous, not awkwardly stand quietly at the back like a school disco, creating a better atmosphere for all.

– Taking three ‘audience votes’ throughout the night ensures fans of all artists are encouraged to watch all artists thereby creating a better atmosphere for all.

– Having three specific announced (on the night) ‘audience vote moments’ means everyone will know when the vote is being taken and when to make extra noise for their fav. It also means at all other times they can get behind all artists not worrying about being seen as ‘unfaithful’! Creating a better atmosphere for all.

We will announce these audience vote moments on stage, we will then read out each artist name and precisely measure the noise from the crowd for each artist. This will be done near the start at 7pm, near the last artist and one time at random.

The Industry Professionals will be marking you out of ten on these criteria:

– Stage Presence – swagger, presence, engagement with audience.
– Raw Talent – as perceived by the individual Industry Professional.
– Quality of Performance – in time, in tune, hitting notes etc
– Quality of Songs – as perceived by the individual Industry Professional.
– Splendour Suitability – would you ‘work’ opening the main stage?

Eight Industry Professionals scoring you out of 50, the top score and bottom score will be removed, the remaining six will form a score out of 300. We remove the top and bottom score to help ensure independence and fairness. We want our panel process to be impartial and independent. Striving for that over time we have realised it’s IMPOSSIBLE to put together a panel of individuals with knowledge of the Nottingham Music scene who do not have connections with musicians in that scene, everyone has their favourites. By excluding the top vote you make sure any ‘freak’ 50 out of 50 given to the act who features one of the panel’s neighbour’s sons’ girlfriends does not bias the result. By excluding the bottom vote you make sure any ‘freak’ 0 out of 50 given to the act who features the bully of one of the panel’s kids, does not bias the result.

Each of the three ‘audience votes’ will be out of 50, scores will be allocated like this:

– Highest Db – 50
– 2nd – 45
– 3rd – 40
– 4th – 35
– 5th – 30
– 6th – 25

After three votes we will have a score, out of 150, giving each artist an overall score out of 450. Needless to say the highest score out of 450 wins that main stage slot at Splendour.

Complicated yes, but all aimed at creating the best possible atmosphere for all, as well as seeking a winning artist talented enough to win the love of the Industry Professionals’ and of you – the public.

Should there be a tie, the artist with the highest overall ‘Splendour Suitability’ score from the panel, becomes the FSN Champ. Should scores still be tied, the Splendour representative on the Industry Professionals panel, will cast the deciding vote.

FINALLY… Performance rules:

– Be nice.

– Sets must be no longer than 15 minutes.

– Sets may comprise no more than 4 songs. This was a change for 2018 (it used to be 3). Sets must still be no longer than 15 minutes, and this rule will be strictly enforced.

– No covers. We roll with the Wikipedia definition: “a new performance or recording of a previously recorded, commercially released song by someone other than the original artist or composer.”

–  You can swear if you wanna, but it probably ain’t gonna help your ‘Splendour Suitability’ score.

– Samples must not be so long they sound like covers, our broad rule of thumb is that a sample longer than four bars starts to raise eyebrows, longer than eight bars and we may well feel unable to allow it. Obviously the sample can be looped ad infinitum. Official Hip-Hop term that.

If in doubt Chair of Judges Jackie P and Nusic Founder Mark Del will make final judgement call, where clarity is lacking due to no precise rule currently relating to the precise matter arising, decision will be made in the context of this question, “does this align with the spirit of FSN?”

For context a reminder of that spirit – to create for Notts musicians the opportunity to play in front of huge audiences, on iconic stages, in front of Industry Professionals that can help them.


And be nice.



In contrast to Round One which was an Industry Professionals expert panel, the Semi-Finals are a public vote. We deliberately mix things up, an IP vote ensures new talent (that’s really good) yet to build a fanbase gets a chance (as well as solo artists who often miss out in public votes simply due to there being less of them in the ‘musical entity’), a public vote ensures local musicians who have been good enough to build a fanbase get to acknowledge that, additionally the public vote is accompanied by a dedicated version of the NEW MUSIC PODCAST offering the public an easy way to hear all the Semi-Finalists.

The public vote is open from 11pm Thursday 27th May through to 11.59pm Sunday 30th May. It will be an ‘open’ vote (in that you can see who is winning) until 11pm Saturday 29th May. At this point, we intend to (technology allowing) make the vote private, this will drive the audience to the NEW MUSIC PODCAST (giving more exposure, to more musicians) where we will announce the results exclusively on Monday 7th June.

Re our musical inclusivity rules:


At least two solo artists must make the Final six. This would normally mean if four bands (definition = non-session musician featuring musical combos of two or more) take the top four places in the public vote then the 3rd and 4th place bands will be replaced by the highest placed solo artists.


The Raw Talent Rule means two artists are already in the Final, and this year BOTH of them are a solo artists (as defined below) – PHILCLARKFUL and SOFIA. Therefore the thirteen artists in the Semi-Final vote will be competing for four places, with no impact from whether they are solo or a band.

Our definition of a band (above) does allow for solo artists who are not playing solo. An act with more than one person playing on stage that is named after the lead singer (who writes their songs without contribution from any session musicians they play with), and in which the other musicians are effectively session musicians (and so are significantly less motivated to put the effort in to secure a Final place), is deemed a solo act. We’ll be direct with you, this is probably the trickiest grey area to address in the whole of FSN. Over the years we have found this definition to be the best compromise, we know it’s not perfect.


Our musical diversity rules (which you can read about in full in the Round One rules) have proved effective in ensuring genres such as “Hip-Hop, Grime, Soul, Reggae, World, (any form of) Electronic Music plus any genre related to these six musical families” made it into the Semi-Final in their own right (COURTNEY MARKE, CONCRETE ROSE and KONCXPT). 

At least one artist that meets the above definition must make the Final. Should they not get through in their own right in the public vote, they will replace the fourth artist in the public vote.

Re our ‘new talent gets the opportunity’ rules:

– Previous FSN Finalists – We only allow a maximum of two previous FSN finalists through to the Final. This year, whilst members of previous FSN finalists have made it through to the Semi-Final (CHARLES DARLING, KELSEY AND THE EMBERS, OLLIE HAYES, EMBERS), they are all new artists and therefore this rule does not affect anyone this year.

– RE: “No more than six artists who have already played Splendour (in previous years) can make it through to the Semi-Finals. “ –  No artists in the Semi-Final have played Splendour before, so the rule wasn’t needed.


– One transparency declaration this year – KONCXPT – works with Max Catto, who was the NMP producer until April 2021.


  • As of May 2021 no one in the Nusic team has a potential FSN Conflict of Interest, with the following exceptions / clarifications:
  • Part time Nusic Editor Sam Nahirny is a professional music photographer, having photographed artists such as J Cole, Wolf Alice and Stormzy. Sam offers a discounted service to Nottingham musicians which means he has photographed over 50 Notts musicians. Three artists that he has worked with has made it into the fifteen. Those artists are CHARLES DARLING, LACEY and OLLIE HAYES.


With the help of Leftlion’s IT geniuses Al and Tom, we have continued our attempts to make the voting system as rigorous as possible.

Continuing our developments in 2019, the vote is a two-step system.

This means voters will need both a working email AND a UK phone number. Similar to if you have two-step authentication on your Gmail / Facebook etc.

We have done this to make it as hard to cheat as possible.

Three ways people often try to cheat…

  • People who already have several real email addresses of their own – humans, who through their different workplaces / creative endeavours, have multiple email accounts, who end up casting multiple votes, even though it is just one person.
  • ‘Hard labour cheating’ – Humans spending time setting up new emails over and over again (hotmail etc), so they can cast extra votes. Again, even though it is just one person.
  • Errr, ‘dark web’ cheating – Humans bulk buying email addresses or quite literally buying the service of someone casting the vote on their behalf.

The two-step process makes all three of these methods significantly more difficult to do (we wanna say impossible, but we’re realistic). As even though lots of peeps have multiple emails, and / or can be bothered to set up multiple new emails, setting up multiple UK phone numbers, whilst possible, requires a lot more time and *maybe* money.

So, whilst it does take approx 39 seconds longer to vote, we hope it’s all worth it. This should ensure a just result. And a fairer experience for all the artists. Thank you to Team Leftlion for all their help making this happen. x



  • Pick your strongest, most appropriate, original track (no covers) and email it to us, one track only, along with confirmation of your ‘Nottingham-ness’ and that you are available to play on July 4th (Rock City Final) & July 24th (Splendour).
  • As Nusic is all about raw talent, we accept phone / DIY recordings if you do not have studio recordings yet. But if you do have studio recordings, send us those.
  • Email that MP3 or phone recording with Subject Title “FSN ENTRY”, confirmation of availability, your NotinghamNESS plus contact details, to the email address nusic@leftlion.co.uk.
  • ALL successfully received entries are listed here (updated every 24 hours) – https://www.nusic.org.uk/wordpress/2021-future-sound-of-nottingham-entries/

ROUND ONE RULES – The Industry Professionals Round – #FSN2021

YOU MUST BE FROM NOTTS –  See FAQ11 to see what qualifies as Notts in our #NusicFAQs: nusic.org.uk/faq

ALL-INCLUSIVE – To encourage all musical genres and musical combinations to seize this opportunity, we have a number of rules that aspire to encourage a diversity of participants in FSN that reflects both the incredible musical diversity across Nottinghamshire as well as our own founding principle about supporting all genres. FSN is not just about bands, as awesome as the bands of Notts are. So:

  • We have a rule to ensure solo artists are not disadvantaged.
  • We have a rule to make FSN accessible to electronic artists, rappers and MCs (in other words, musicians who often perform purely with pre-recorded backing).
  • We have two rules to ensure artists performing Hip-Hop, Grime, Soul, Reggae, World, (any form of) Electronic Music plus any genre related to these six musical families, from whom we classically have less entries (proportionally), are encouraged to seize this opportunity.

Details on these rules below.


  • There is no potential disadvantage for a solo artist in the Industry Professionals Round, the rule to ensure solo artists are not disadvantaged in FSN, kicks in Round Two (the Semi-Finals). This will be clarified when the Round Two (Semi-Finals) rules are announced and will take a similar form as the last three years.


  • At least two of the ten Semi-Finalists will be artists who perform Hip-Hop, Grime, Soul, Reggae, World, (any form of) Electronic Music plus any genre related to these six musical families. This (we acknowledge subjective) judgement call on which artists qualify will be made by Judging Chairwoman Jackie P from Kemet FM and Nusic Founder Mark Del. Their frame of reference is ‘Would this song be played on Kemet FM and/or BBC 1Xtra?’. This rule is not perfect, but it comes from aspiring to make sure FSN is open to all genres.
  • Strictly speaking this is a Semi Final (Round Two) rule but we thought you should know upfront… At least one of the six Finalists will be an artist who performs Hip-Hop, Grime, Soul, Reggae, World, (any form of) Electronic Music plus any genre related to these six musical families. 


  • We have three rules to ensure raw talent is recognised, and to ensure that FSN does not end up featuring purely artists who have already had the opportunity of playing either Splendour or the FSN Final.
  • No more than six artists who have already played Splendour (in previous years) can make it through to the Semi-Finals. This means that should the Industry Professionals (who vote ‘blind’) vote through seven artists who it turns out have played Splendour before, the seventh artist would not make it through.
  • No more than two artists who have already played the Rock City FSN Final can make it through to the 2021 Final.
  • Across the three rounds of FSN we try and mix democracy (public votes) with expertise (Industry Professional votes), we feel this has worked reasonably well since 2009. There have been years where one artist was in the top two in all three rounds. Back in the day we also had an extreme case, an incredible raw talent who’d never done a single gig in their life entered FSN and rightly (as shown by their subsequent success) won Round One (the Industry Professionals vote) by a mile, the largest points victory ever in fact. Despite their clear stand out talent they did not get through Round Two, they were so new they had no following yet and not enough neutral voters took part to see them through. As Nusic is all about uncovering new talent we were frustrated that FSN was not able to ‘cope’ with such an extreme scenario (by extreme we mean so good whilst simultaneously so unknown, thereby winning Round One but totally out of it in Round Two), so we brought in a new rule. The top two in the Industry Professionals vote get automatic byes through to the Final.


  • Group One – Those who have won / headlined any previous NUSIC ‘musician helping event’. For the avoidance of doubt this means REMY, THE DANDYLIONS, BROTHERHOOD, SUPER FURNITURE, SUSPECT ALIBI, JOY MUMFORD, THE GORGEOUS CHANS, THE AFTERDARK MOVEMENT, KAPPA GAMMA, KAGOULE, THE MONEY, LONG DEAD SIGNAL, DOG IS DEAD, FRONTIERS and THE TURF. Previous runners-up and Finalists CAN enter.
  • Group Two – Any Nottingham artist ALREADY announced on the bill for THIS year’s Splendour.
  • Group Three – Musicians who are unable to perform at least three original tracks live in the final. To clarify the minimum requirement for playing live is a live vocal, singing over a backing track, Ableton etc.
  • Group Four – Artists who only play covers, no covers are allowed to be entered or performed, FSN (and Nusic generally) is all about encouraging original song writing.

Grey Area/s – What if you are a new artist that includes members who used to be in one of the artists listed in ‘Group One’? This is where it gets reeaaalllll complicated. It wouldn’t be fair to have pretty much the same artist get to play that main stage again would it? But also it wouldn’t be fair for a band of six to be excluded because one of them played triangle as a session musician back in 2014. So. If your new artist contains the same humans as before, you cannot enter. If your new artist has two or more members of an artist listed in ‘Group One’ it must be at least four years since your old act got through. If you are the only member of a ‘Group One’ artist, in your new artist, and there are at least three of you in total, you may enter now. Unless you are the lead singer / front person, in which case again it must be four years since your ‘Group One’ artist made it. Sorry singers, but you are the key distinguisher of any artist. Sometimes there are downsides to being the star, but hey, you get all the groupies.


  • Okay – this is the part where Corona makes things a lil tricky. With current timelines, we can’t do our usual five Industy Pro’s, in one room, all listening to your tunes on Jay Z’s speakers at Metronome. So, here’s what we’ve done.
  • We’ve gotten our Chair and our Host in as our R1 Stripped Back Panel.
  • They are – Kemet FM’s Jackie P, plus Boss of Confetti – Craig Chettle, in as our TWO Round One Industry Professionals. This means That Jackie and Craig will listen to all entries, and judge them on the two usual criteria. A reminder, how that works…
  • After listening to one track from each artist without knowing who the artist is. Jackie and Craig will mark each artist out of ten, twice. The first mark will be for ‘raw talent’ as perceived by that Industry Professional. The second mark will be for ‘Splendour main stage suitability’ as perceived by that individual IP. 
  • The top two (subject to the criteria outlined above and below) artists will go straight through to the FSN Final at Rock City (see raw talent rules above), the next ten artists go through to Round Two (Semi-Finals). Additionally, in Round Two there will be a Semi-Finalist put forward by Inspire Youth Arts (an entity we collaborate with to support young musicians at the very start of their career).


  • After some thought on this one, ish. We have a large number of volunteers from the Nottinghamshire scene who help and support us in helping you, many are musicians themselves. Not letting them enter would effectively ‘punish’ them for helping out, so we will let them. Whilst also declaring any potential internal conflicts of interest so that things are transparent. It’s worth remembering that none of the Nusic team vote. Any current volunteer from the Nusic team who enters FSN will be asked to take time out from Nusic for the duration of their time in FSN.
  • Anyone who actually works for Nusic, can not enter FSN. Neither can any artists they manage.

2021 FSN Transparency Declarations (This will be updated weekly) =

  • No artists have yet entered this year, that are related, living with or in love with current members of the Nusic Team.
  • Any Nusic volunteers linked to FSN entries will be ‘firewalled’ from the judging process.
  • Any Nusic volunteer entering FSN will be asked to stand down from Nusic for the duration of FSN.


  • By trying our best. Three specific points to the answer. None of us (those of us working on Nusic on a day to day basis) will be judging, in fact both our IPs are music and/ or media professionals connected to Nottingham, who work elsewhere. Secondly, any artists who have specific links with us and make it through to the Semi-Finals (Round Two) we will declare so everything is transparent. Our third method is on sabbatical this year due to COVID (we can’t get loads of people in one room in May).


  • Check FAQ11 in our #NusicFAQs: nusic.org.uk/faq

The ‘Semi-Final eleven’ plus the two automatic Finalists, will be announced on Monday 24th May via the New Music Podcast

The Industry Professionals decision is final, by entering #FSN2021 you agree to accept this and all the above.

We will not publish the precise scores for all artists for two reasons:

  • 1) We want the Industry Professionals to be able to score honestly and not worry about getting grief when musicians see the scores they gave them.
  • 2) We don’t want to discourage people, if you see you came last with 3 points out of 40 that’s not very encouraging, and we’re all about encouraging.

That’s it, keep listening to the New Music Podcast for the latest!

Have we mentioned you need to listen to the New Music Podcast?


PS – If you made to the end – big up. Here’s a puppy. x

Nusic 2021