For those who have never dabbled in the cut-throat industry that is today’s music scene, the idea of starting a band may seem like a fairly straightforward undertaking. However, for many aspiring artists, the process of breaking into their desired musical landscape can be one of the most daunting tasks they will ever face throughout the course of their career.

Fortunately, to the benefit of many emerging punk, rock, pop-punk, alternative and indie bands across the U.S., getting their start has veered just a little closer within reach thanks to the highly coveted Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands Warped Tour Contest.

The Battle of the Bands contest is a collaboration between Live Nation and Vans Warped Tour which is held in several major cities across the U.S. including Nashville, San Diego, Detroit and Chicago. Each contest allows five to seven finalists to play a show at a predetermined local venue where they will then be judged and a single band will be chosen to perform at their city’s scheduled Warped Tour date.

Most recently, on May 23, six finalist bands from the Chicagoland area have been chosen to perform at the House of Blues on N Dearborn St. in Chicago for a chance to earn a spot at the upcoming Tinley Park Warped Tour show scheduled for July 22.

The up-and-coming bands who are to perform at the House of Blues on June 22, a month before the Chicago Warped Tour date, include Red Light Compliance, Oppressed Affliction, Glory Days, Detour North, REIGN and Friday Pilot’s Club.

The six finalists were determined over the course of a two-week-long voting period, beginning on May 8 and ending on May 22. During this period, a total of 26 music video entries submitted by various bands across the Chicagoland area were voted on by friends, family and fans, leaving only the 6 most popular entries to advance on to the live show portion of the contest.

The opportunity that the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands contest has extended to these six finalist groups is not only an chance to play at one of the most sought after venues for rock and alternative bands, but an opportunity to bring one of their ultimate dreams to life.

According to Matt Erickson, guitarist for Oppressed Affliction, playing at Warped Tour has been a goal of his and his bandmates since they first began playing music together in 2013. “Winning a chance to play at Warped Tour would be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Erickson said. “I’ve been trying to get on Warped Tour with my bandmates for years now and when I got the email saying that we [Oppressed Affliction] made it the House of Blues competition, it was like a dream come true.”

While only one winner can be chosen, however, the competing bands are all working to maintain a positive attitude and stay focused during the time leading up to the House of Blues performance. “Throughout the time I’ve spent playing music, I’ve learned to keep an open mind and stay positive about everything,” drummer for Red Light Compliance, Joe Corson said. “If it [being chosen to play at Warped Tour] doesn’t happen, I won’t be let down too hard, though being able to play there, on the same stage as my best friends, would be the most perfect thing to happen yet.”

In preparation for the potential to play at the upcoming Warped Tour date, finalist bands are working hard to ensure that they are performance ready and playing at the highest quality possible. “Right now, we’re all writing our asses off so that we have new music to play and CDs to sell during our upcoming performance at House of Blues and possibly at Warped Tour,” drummer for Oppressed Affliction, Billy McVay said. “Lately it’s just been some really long hour days of writing, practicing and recording so that we can make sure that we’re as good as we can be.”

Through Ernie Ball’s submission platform, bands can register at no cost and have the opportunity to upload their music and gain public exposure. For many bands, getting their name out there is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish, especially without the help of high-profile platforms such as the one that Live Nation and Vans Warped Tour have offered through the annual Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands contest.

“Being chosen to play at Warped Tour would really help us get more exposure which has been one of the hardest hurdles for us to jump for us recently,” guitarist and vocalist for Red Light Compliance, Peter Mayoral said. “If everything works out, hopefully more kids will be able to see what we do and maybe it could end up being a positive form of release for them just like it is for us.”

For over 15 years, the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands contest has served as one of the most successful live music promotions of its kind, offering a platform for emerging musicians to cultivate their craft, create networks and establish a community.“Having an opportunity to play even a single date at Warped Tour would be a dream come true,” C.J. Jarmuth, guitarist for Glory Days said. “It would be a great way to make new friends with other bands and hopefully gain some new fans along the way. I don’t think it would trigger a sudden flood of new offers for our band, but it would definitely help us to get our foot in the door for some really cool opportunities in the future.”

Not from any of the cities listed in this post? Access guidelines for the nationwide contest to play Warped Tour here!

Check out the finalist bands’ winning submissions below!