Rules and Info - FreshGrass Festival

Rules and Info

The FreshGrass Awards celebrate and reward emerging artists who offer innovative interpretations of bluegrass and roots music traditions and take place each year at the Freshgrass Festival in North Adams, MA. With multiple categories and prizes totaling more than $20,000 cash each year — plus studio time at Compass Records for the Band winner — we’re proud that our awards are the most ambitious of their kind.

If you are an up and coming artist or ensemble in any of the above categories with wicked skills, and are performing music that’s deeply informed by bluegrass even as it tests boundaries, we want to hear from you.  FreshGrass celebrates creativity and innovation in everything we do, and we are eager to connect with the next generation of musicians who feel the same way. Ready to apply? SUBMIT NOW. Deadline is June 6, 2024.


Finalist Grant (each finalist receives) Grant Prize (winner only) Compass Recording Day (winner only) Set and pop-up
on festival (all finalists)
Band $1,000 $5,000 Yes Yes
Banjo $500 $2,500

Fiddle $500 $2,500 Yes
Guitar $500 $2,500 Yes

FreshGrass will invite three finalists to North Adams, MA to compete for a grand prize in each category. All three finalists will receive a Finalist Grant, which varies between $500 – $1,000 depending on the category. Each finalist needs to show up to the final competition and compete to receive the Finalist Grant.  The finals will take place at the FreshGrass Festival in North Adams, MA in front of a live audience. The grand prize for each category varies between $2,500 – $5,000 depending on the category, plus new instruments and studio time from Compass Records.

The finalists in each category will be chosen by FreshGrass from the submissions and will be invited to compete for the Grand Prize. The finalist decisions will be announced July or August.

On the festival weekend, the winners in each category will be judged by a panel of industry experts and professional musicians. Winners will be chosen based on originality and creativity of music and arrangements, instrumental and vocal skills (if applicable), proficiency in the traditions and innovations to those traditions. The Grand Prize winners will be announced Sunday afternoon of the festival weekend from the main stage.

  • $500-$1,000 award grant each (but you must show up on the festival weekend and perform in the competition in order to collect this)
  • One 45-minute set on the Courtyard C stage on Saturday or Sunday
  • One pop-up performance in the museum on Saturday or Sunday
  • Complimentary three-day pass to the festival for each finalist and/or band member
  • Permission to sell albums at the festival
  • Name listed in the Freshgrass lineup online and in any marketing materials
  • Chance to win the grand prizes!

Eligibility & Information

  • There is no fee or payment of any kind to participate in the contest 
  • No musician or band may be signed to a record label or be subject to a pre-existing third-party publisher agreement. Self-released CDs and DIY distribution are OK
  • ALL Finalists must compete with one original tune composed or written by the artist or by one or more band members in the case of bands.
  • For bands, at least one of the two submissions should have vocals and harmonies


  • Each finalist will play two songs in front of the jury and a large live audience (one original song and one standard or traditional bluegrass tune),
  • For instrumentalists: while we won’t penalize you for adding in vocals, you will only be judged on your musicianship and prowess of the contest instrument.
  • Each finalist will have a maximum of 10 minutes on stage (not including set-up), or 5 minutes per song. Songs that go over 5 minutes will negatively affect your score.
  • One song must be original material, written by the finalist or if band or duo, by one or more members
  • For bands at least one of the songs should have vocal harmonies. One of the songs can be an instrumental, if you choose
  • For bands, the judges will also be considering potential for influence and your plans for how you will use the resources given upon winning. At FreshGrass, we believe in a support that goes beyond just the competition’s conclusion!
  • The jurors will be looking for dynamic range in your choice of song tempos, rhythms, and tone
  • You must provide your own lodging and transportation to and from the FreshGrass festival
  • No band finalist member may participate in more than one band. Instrument finalist sare welcome to also participate in the band contests

Festival Partners