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How the winner of the APRA Silver Scroll award is chosen

Story Published Sunday 12 July 2020
2020 Silver Scrolls

Are you a little unclear on who decides the winner of the Silver Scroll Award?

Confused about judging panels, and voting, and scores, and the mathematics involved?

Well here’s a chance to see it all laid out!

  1. A judging panel of New Zealand songwriters listen to all entries (usually around 200-250 songs), and choose the 25 songs they think are the best.
  2. All the judges’ top songs are collated into a long list for discussion at the judging panel meeting. The judging panel meets in person to discuss this long list and work out the top 20.
  3. All NZ APRA members (around 10,000 songwriters) are invited to listen to the top 20 songs and vote for the five songs they think are best, in order.
  4. These votes are collated to determine the top five finalists and the overall winner of the APRA Silver Scroll Award.
  5. Both judges and voters are asked to choose the best songs on the basis of artistic merit only – neither commercial nor critical success is a factor in determining their votes.

Here's a little more detail about each phase if you're interested!

Anyone who is a New Zealand APRA member can enter. It’s free to be an APRA member, and it’s also free to enter. There are a number of eligibility criteria which you can check out in detail HERE, but basically the song must have been written (at least in part) by an APRA member who is a New Zealand citizen or resident, and must have been released between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020.

We spend a considerable amount of time and energy trying to contact anyone who may be eligible to enter and let them know that entries are open. We generally receive between 200 and 250 eligible entries.

Because it’s very time consuming to listen to 200+ songs, we break the judging and voting process into two phases. The first phase involves a judging panel of New Zealand songwriters who listen to all 200+ songs, and then choose the 20 best songs from all the entries.

We announce this judging panel publicly (see the Press Release to find out who was on the 2020 panel), and they aim to come up with a list of 20 songs that reflects our diverse local music landscape, as well as being great songs.
They work through this judging process in two parts – firstly they listen to all the songs in their own time, over several weeks, and choose their individual 25 top songs.

They don’t know who wrote each song at this point, they are only the given the audio, song title and lyrics, so judging is done with as little bias as possible.
They categorise their top songs into three tiers. The songs in each tier are apportioned a score, and these scores are tallied up to create a long list of around 50 songs to discuss. We then hold a meeting which everyone attends in person, and discuss all these songs, until a consensus is reached about the top 20. It can be a pretty long meeting.

Once the Top 20 songs have been decided upon and announced, it is up to the APRA membership (which consists of 10,000 NZ songwriters) to listen to those 20 songs, and vote for their top five songs.

All APRA members are sent an email invitation which sends them to the voting portal where they can log in, listen to the tracks, and place their votes.
They rank their top five, and each song is given a weighted score depending on the ranking – the songs in first position gets 5 points, second position gets 4 points, third position gets 3 points, fourth position gets 2 points, and fifth position gets 1 point.

These scores are all added together to find the five songs with the most points, and these voting scores dictate the five finalists and the winner of the award.

It is worth noting that the judges and voters are both simply asked to pick the songs they think are the best.

There are no criteria about the commercial or critical success of the song, it is purely based on artistic merit. Obviously the artistic merit of a song is highly subjective, which is why the Silver Scroll Award winner is chosen by a very large number of fellow songwriters.