Write the Next ‘Happy Birthday!’ WFMU’s Free Music Archive’s Challenge to Songwriters

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Here’s your chance to take out the classic to end all classics.

Feliz cumpleanos a ti! Take the world beyond “Happy Birthday.”

WFMU and the Free Music Archive have laid down a challenge to songwriters the world over: Unseat “Happy Birthday to You” from its place on the Birthday Song mountaintop by composing a possible replacement.

We couldn’t make this contest up – here’s the details straight from WFMU:

“The Birthday Song Contest seeks a few new Happy Birthday songs that are simple and catchy, with great earworm potential that can be sung in restaurants, bowling alleys, and even in TV shows and movies – free of charge.

The song ‘Happy Birthday To You’ is the most recognizable song in the English language, but it can cost independent filmmakers an estimated $10,000 to clear the song for their films, and it will remain under copyright protection in the United States until 2030. This is a major stumbling block hindering the creation of new works of art. It’s time to shake (or at least unsettle) “Happy Birthday” from it’s fortified cultural throne, and replace it with a melody that the children can sing without fear of being served.

The contest’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will have their work featured on a CD promoting the winning Birthday song alternatives. WFMU will organize and pay for the digital and physical mailings of the three winning tracks to the luckiest people on earth – any media or public organization who might have need for new birthday songs – movie studios, theater troupes, restaurant chains, sport leagues, scouting associations, youth groups, minor league baseball teams, major league Jai Alai squads, and bowling alleys. We’ll also send the track to music journalists, bloggers and radio stations to help get the word out and cement the new songs into the cultural subconscious.

Judges include Maralie Armstrong (AS220), Jonathan Coulton (musician/internet superstar), Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo), Frannie Kelley (NPR Music), Lawrence Lessig (Harvard Law School) and Greg Saunier (Deerhoof).

The Free Music Archive is an online library of high-quality, legal mp3 downloads selected by established curators including KEXP, dublab, ISSUE Project Room, and CASH Music. The Free Music Archive is directed by WFMU, the most renowned freeform radio station in America.”

Hear some other creative alternatives from TV and films past here:

Happy Birthday Alternatives in Film and Television from Free Music Archive on Vimeo.



  • It’s not mine to give, but I now sing this song at birthday: This is your birthday song; it isn’t very long.