When Joel Martin of the band Distant Society first heard about the Big Money Shot, he thought it sounded too good to be true.

The contest, now in it’s third year, is a multi-round battle of the bands put on by local radio station LiVE 88.5 FM. The musicians, who must live within 100 kilometres of the city to qualify, compete in preliminary and final rounds, with winners picking up cash along the way, and getting a shot at winning a quarter-million dollars at the ultimate round in the fall.

“When I heard that bands could win all this money and get some good promotion as well I thought ‘what’s the catch?’ But I started talking to bands who’ve competed before and everyone has had such a great experience, so that’s when we really got excited about it,” says Martin.

Distant Society, an alt-rock trio made up of Martin on vocals and guitar, bassist Nick Turenne and drummer Antonio Martino, won their preliminary round in April and picked up $5,000.

Martin said they were “thrilled” to win and are now even more excited to compete tonight against other round-one winners, Amanda Rheaume and Tara Holloway, as well as wild card winners Down In Ashes and Captain Firebutton, who were voted in by fans. The winner of the first round final will get $40,000, an amount Martin says “can do amazing things” for an independent band.

It’s no wonder they keep coming out to compete.

But the fact that the event continues to draw more bands each year is an example of the diverse and plentiful talent here in Ottawa, says Lee Wagner, Director of Canadian Talent Development for LiVE 88.5 FM.

“Each year we think what if we do hit critical mass? Then each year all these great bands come out,” says Wagner. “What’s actually happening is it’s attracting bands to the city so they can get involved and it’s always great to bring new talent in.”

Initially started as a way to promote Ottawa bands and eliminate the need for them to move elsewhere to “make it big”, Wagner says the event has now become so successful that sister stations in other cities have launched their own competitions.

Wagner says the judges, which include both the station’s musical team as well as management agencies and record labels reps, have been inspired by the talent coming out of Ottawa. Past winners such as Tim’s Myth, Sojourn and Donkey Punch are going on to sell albums and attract fans across Canada.

Martin says it’s a great opportunity to meet other bands, and attract new fans. “It’s a huge deal for Ottawa, having this many people come out to shows, and I think all of us in the scene are happy to see each other do well.”

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