Emily Molloy, the winner of the 2015 Whistler Music Search, has joined the list of those who say that the annual four-week showcase changed her life.
"It opened up so many doors for me in Whistler in terms of gigs. I can play anywhere in town, pretty much, which is amazing," Molloy says.
"People know me now and Whistler is a hard market to get into. It opened a lot of doors for me and now I'm basically full time in music. This past summer I was playing almost every night and most of these shows were in Whistler.
"It was a change. I wasn't doing it quite as much. Plus competing allowed me to meet a lot of really amazing musicians."
It is the seventh year of the event, and the word seems to have spread out about its impact on a musician's career.
"We had a ton of applicants this year. It's our biggest search ever," says organizer Jon Shrier.
"We have six acts each week (and seven the last week before the final) and we've never before had more that five. It's a real mix of performers. Some have a lot of experience, others not so much.
"My idea is, let's get these people together and give them 15 to 20 minutes to shine."
Whistler Music Search knockout rounds run on three consecutive Thursdays, starting at 9 p.m.
This year's competitors are: Chad Storm, Steph Lundy, Christine Sherrington, Jeremy Thom, Jake Newton and Jeremy Parnell (Oct. 6), Funky Snow Monkeys, Eamon Fetherstonhaugh, Magik Spells, Kevin Ness and Brian Walker (Oct. 13); and the McQuaid Trio, Lazy Ghost, Streetlight Society, Flo, Lauren Moyer and Ryan Sawha (Oct. 20).
The finalists are selected from those winning their nights, with them moving on to the final night, on Thursday, Oct. 27.
"From the audience perspective, on any given night they get six different acts with no cover charge, except for the final," says Shrier.
"October is a slower month and we are bringing forth a variety of talent — girls, boys, duos and bands. Our careers as musicians start with a song, with a night like this."
Full disclosure: I will be one of the judges this year, along with pro backcountry skier Austin Ross, local filmmaker and actress Angie Nolan, and musician and 2014 Whistler Music Search winner Will Ross, who also went full time after winning.
"I try to leave the word 'competition' out of it and try to describe it as more of a music gathering," Shrier says.
"A lot of people are nervous when it comes to taking the stage, plugging in and asking everyone to shut up and listen.
"I tell them, 'Don't go into it thinking you have to win the whole thing or you'll feel like shit. Go into it thinking you're going to be playing with 19 other acts. People you can start bands with.'
"What I've noticed is that's exactly what has happened. People have taken it and gone with it, learning a lot. You're hardening your thin skin with these gatherings."
Half the battle is showing up, Shrier continues.
"And half the battle is left to the gods, because some guy wins one week but I've seen the second-place, third-place and fourth-place people take it and run with it. They get gigs," he says.
"Chad Storm, who also competed last year, is an example. Christine Sherrington has also in the past. (Singer-songwriter) Jenna Mae is another... we didn't know who she was two, three years ago. Some confidence boosting, a little press and she's practically a full-time musician."
Prizes have also been boosted this year. First place gets two full days in Sound & Soul Studio in Squamish, plus a photo shoot at David Fornier Photography and $500 cash ($2,500 value). Second prize wins a guitar and music swag.
There is also a new prize in honour of late Whistler musician Dave Morris, a.k.a. Dr. Dave — The Dave Morris Award for Originality in Music.