SouthSounds 2016 is gearing up for the best year yet. The festival, which will take place in downtown Mobile April 8-10, will feature some of the hottest emerging Southern bands and artists from a variety of genres, with more bands than ever before.

Some of the venues have already released their schedules for the weekend, but the official lineup announcement from the festival is expected in a couple of weeks.

In addition to adding more prominent headlining acts, a handful of artists deemed the hottest and most promising by festival organizers will be invited to participate in the SouthSounds New Southern Music Showcase, presented by Lagniappe.

These acts will each play a 25-minute set on Sunday in front of a panel of industry executives, including Nashville’s J.D. Connell, SESAC vice president and counsel, new media licensing, who was named one of Billboard magazine’s “Digital Power Players” in the Oct. 24, 2015, issue. Connell is one of 25 music industry executives named as a leading digital strategist. Also on the panel will be Atlanta’s Matt Wilson, partner/owner/artist management of GT Music Group, the management company for Moon Taxi, T. Hardy Morris, Roadkill Ghost Choir, Dead Confederate, Sans Abri, Great Peacock, Cicada Rhythm and Packway Handle Band, among others. Joining them will be legendary producer, Alabama Music Hall of Fame member and founding member of Wet Willie, Rick Hirsch. And we hear there will be a couple more “big players” added to the panel in the coming weeks.

These executives will offer guidance to these emerging acts and choose one as the winner of the New Southern Music Showcase. The winner will not only receive this recognition but also a prize package that has yet to be announced, but which we hear is quite impressive, with a value reaching into the thousands.

In addition to these acts, Lagniappe will also host the Mobile Bay Music Showcase to add a local act to the mix. On Saturday, selected local bands/artists will battle it out for the chance to also showcase in front of these execs for the top prize.

Local bands interested in participating simply need to make a submission through the SouthSounds website, southsoundsfest.com/mobilebayshowcase. Deadline is March 8.