Gold Guitar prize pot boosted

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The overall winner’s prize for the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards has just become a whole lot sweeter in the hope of attracting more high-quality entrants – and launching a country music career.

Awards organisers have boosted the prize package to include $15,000 of cash and prizes for this year’s event, five times more than the previous year’s total.

The 2008 New Zealand Gold Guitar overall senior winner, Kayla Mahon, suggested to the event organising committee changing the prize package would help.

“I said to the committee, I’d really like the committee to provide a prize that actually launches a career,” she said.

The Northern Southland woman approached possible sponsors and the response was positive, she said.

She was keen to increase prize money and give entrants a chance to launch a career because the awards had played such a big part in her life.

Central Otago businesswoman Sarah Perriam, who has worked in the country music industry, and Mahon, are to mentor the winner for the year.

Last year the awards drew more than 600 entries.

The overall winner’s prize package then was $3000.

Publicity officer Shona Hewlett said it was possible to pull that figure up to about $4000 by winning some sections.

Ms Hewlett hoped the bigger prize package for the 44th annual awards would attract better entries.

“It’s a whole new package we’ve put together for this year,” she said.

It is being billed as a kick-start to a musical career for the winner.

The package would give the overall winner a 12-month experience including giving the person a chance to write, record and release a single with marketing and mentorship support thrown in, she said.

A trip to Australian country music centre Tamworth and $3000 would also be included, she said.

The winner would get the chance to perform at festivals and events in New Zealand and Australia.

“It’s a pretty huge prize,” she said.

Interest in the long-established awards for this year’s Queen’s Birthday weekend has been high according to Facebook traffic, she said.

“So we’re pretty excited about it.”

Entries for the awards opened several weeks ago and they close on April 14.