How it works

Smokefreerockquest is made up of many parts in order to find our overall national winning acts.

In 2020 we adapted Smokefreerockquest and Smokefree Tangata Beats to fit around Covid 19 alert levels and restrictions around public gatherings. For 2021, all of our live events have been going ahead as planned, we will keep in contact throughout the competition to keep you updated if there are changes to our programmes for any reason..

Keeping that in mind - the stages for the 2021 Smokefreerockquest competition are as follows,
click the button on the right to read more of each section.

STAGE Three - Video submission
STAGE four - top 30 + national finalist seleCtion
STAGE five - national final
AWARDS up for grabs


Here are a couple of rules and regulations that help 
keep everyone happy and the show on the road.

Got to go to school

All contestants must be enrolled in and attend a school for at least 15 hours a week. If you leave school (sign out) during the course of the competition, you become ineligible to continue. You can change schools during the competition.

Under 19’s only

All contestants must be no older than 19 (nineteen) years of age on Wednesday 12th May 2021 ie. you are not eligible if you turn 20yrs old before the entries close date. (you may be asked to supply proof of eligibility).

No signed acts

Smokefreerockquest is for unsigned acts and individuals only. You cannot enter if you have signed a recording or management contract, and cannot sign during the competition without the prior written approval of Rockquest Promotions Ltd.

Read all the rules


There Are Two Categories Within Smokefreerockquest.
These are Band + Solo/Duo. Bands compete against bands, Solo/duos compete against Solo/duos. There are winners and prizes in both categories!


If your SFRQ entry has three (3) or more performers, you must enter the Band Category

Solos / Duos

Solo – If your SFRQ entry has only one (1) performer, you must enter the solo/duo category.

Duo – If your SFRQ entry has two performers, you must enter the Solo/duo category unless one of the performers plays a drum kit, in which case you are to enter as a band.

Live Performance

This year, you have the option to use electronic assistance as part of your live performance in both the Solo/duo category and the band category. This will enable the use of Ableton Live, preloaded looping pedals and other similar supporting technology.

Your lead vocal line (if you have one!) and at least one instrumental part still needs to be performed live.

All programmed/produced material must be the original work of one of the acts’ entrants. If you have a non-performing producer working with you, they must also be an entered member of the act (there is an electronic content producer option in the instrument list), and meet all conditions of entry. ( A Duo with a non-performing producer still counts as a duo)

The emphasis of the judging will be primarily on the song and the live aspects of the performance, however credit will be given for how well  the act integrates and manages the technology aspects as well.

Acts should bear in mind the setting they could be performing in, if a Live National Final is possible. There would be limited set up time available, so acts should design and prepare their electronic setup accordingly.

Online solo / duo

This region was originally established to allow individuals to compete in both Band AND Solo/duo Categories, and it is still for this. But, given the ongoing possibility of community cases of COVID19, the Online Solo/duo region has been extended to include bands in 2021 to give students who are unwell, self isolating, or waiting on test results and should not be attending live events, an alternative way of still competing. You can only compete in one region.

Solo/duos MUST compete in this Online region if an individual is also entered in a band. Any Solo/duo can elect to enter in the online region instead of competing in person at your closest regional event, but you cannot enter in both.

Bands can choose to enter in this region or change to this region at any time up to their first performance, if a band member becomes unwell, is at greater risk from COVID-19 infection, or is directed to self-isolate.

The Online Region entries will be required to film themselves performing their best original song (or two songs if entered in the Band category). The video file (less than 1gig) needs to be uploaded via the "upload" tab on our website by Mon 21st June.

Judging will be completed by 19th July and the awards and prizes announced on our Facebook page/Website. The number of awards and prizes will be proportional to the number of entries received. The top performers from this region will then be required to complete the National Final Selection task (12 min of original material) from which the National Finalists will be selected.


Part of the magic of live performance is that you can never predict exactly what will happen. You can prepare but sometimes, things still don't go your way – strings break, leads fall out, bass players fall off stages, drummers lose their sticks or break limbs the day before, keyboards mysteriously slip into transpose mode, and singers lose their voices, can't hear themselves or just have a bad night.

If things on the night don't go your way for some reason, and you meet the following conditions, then you can get a SECOND CHANCE – we're not promising you a spot in the National Final, but we will listen to you again and compare you with the other National Final contenders.

You qualify to submit for a Rockshop SECOND CHANCE consideration, if ;

1 - at least 50% of your act, are in your final year at school this year
2 - at least 50% of your act have been awarded 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at a previous SFRQ final.
3 - you are directed to submit by the Event organisers, due to exceptional circumstances.


ZM Best Song

The ZM Best Song award celebrates songwriting for the skill and craft that goes into it!

The judges for this award are looking for craftsmanship; great hooks, structure, strong melodies, arrangement, lyric writing and more. It doesn’t matter so much about your performance of it (however you’ll want to communicate the song as best you possibly can with musicianship!) as it is just about the songwriting on its own.

There is one ZM Best Song award given out in each region at the Regional Finals. This award is also given to one song at the National Finals.

In 2020, The Smokefreerockquest National Solo-duo winners Ben and Brody also won best song for their song Open Up. In 2019, the band Sit Down In Front won best song for Rain.

Head to our online platform Breaking It Down for tips and tricks on how to write amazing songs! Or watch/read about how established musicians approach their songwriting.

APRA Lyric writers AWARD

The APRA Award is for lyrics, and is judged separately from any video submissions – so you do not need to be in a band or solo-duo entering in Smokefreerockquest or Smokefree Tangata Beats in order to enter for the Lyric Writers Award. If you are submitting a video as a performer though, you can submit any lyrics you like – they do not need to be the lyrics of a song you have performed (but of course they can be!).

A winner will be selected from within each region, and then a national APRA Lyric Writers Award winner will be selected.

APRA Lyric Award Submission Form


Thanks to the Ministry of Education we provide mentoring for all Smokefreerockquest and Smokefree Tangata Beats participants.

This mentoring comes in different ways, through the different parts of the programme. Each act gets written feedback following each of their performances from a judge. The judges we select are from within the music industry (and many past participants!).

All national finalists get face to face mentoring - like Ben & Brody pictured below at the 2020 National Final speaking to Ash Wallace from Foley. Mentoring is not only a great opportunity to get feedback, but also to ask questions about the music industry.