Rusty’s Surf Ranch is currently accepting entries for its 15th Annual Emerging Artist Competition.

Continuing a tradition that began in 2011, when Rusty’s EAC winner opened for the band Dawes, the 2016 winner will open one of this year’s 10 Twilight Concert Series summer dates.

Begun in 1983, the Pier concert series has become one of the largest and longest-running free concert series in the country, showcasing international music acts and attracting as many as 15,000 music fans each week.  The EAC first runner-up will win a $500 showcase gig on Rusty’s stage.

Rusty’s new restaurant entertainment manager, Matthew Zenteno, will be booking the bands this year, and is looking forward to the challenge.

“I want to bring in a fresh new list of artists,” Zenteno said. “I know through my conversations with management that the idea for the competition came from Rusty’s hosting up-and-coming bands so they had a place to play. Rusty’s has had live music from the beginning. With the competition, new bands that are up-and-coming start with some actual stardom. And what’s cool is one band’s fans will be exposed to the other bands when they come to the shows.”

Rusty’s began accepting submissions earlier in the year and will continue to do so until March 15.

The competition’s preliminary round will be held on five consecutive Thursdays starting April 14, with four bands each playing a 30 minute set, starting at 8 p.m. There will be no cover charge for these shows.

The semi-final round will showcase the five preliminary winners and top runner-up. The round will be held over two Thursdays (May 19 and May 26) with three bands each playing a 45 minute set, starting at 8:30 p.m. There will be a $5 cover charge on these nights.

The final round will showcase two semi-final winners and the top over-all runner-up. It will be held on Thursday, June 23, with three bands each playing 45 minute sets, starting at 8:30 p.m. There will be an $8 cover charge for the final round show.

Any unsigned Southern California band of three to 12 members that has not previously won Rusty’s Battle of the Bands or appeared as an act in the Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concert Series is eligible to enter the competition.

Rusty’s booking panel will review entries to select the participants. Competition slots will be filled and bands notified as submissions are reviewed and selection is made.

Bands are judged on musicality, stage presence, originality, attendance attributed to each band, and audience response. Preliminary and semi-final rounds are judged by Rusty’s booking panel, plus industry professionals. The finals are judged by a guest panel of top industry professionals.

The EAC winner will receive $2,000 for an opening gig at the 2016 Twilight Concert Series.

“Music is one of the most powerful things that you have,” Zenteno said. “We want to help people who want to share that.”

To enter the Emerging Artist Competition, go to or