The third Red Stripe Music Award competition begins this month, as owner Diageo looks to build the lager brand's association with live music.

The award, now in its third year, will involve a four-month series of regional gigs across the UK, culminating in a final at The Forum, a notorious live music venue in north London.

Up to 300 bands are expected to battle it out for a 20-strong shortlist, said Red Stripe, which is using the event to build its image as the "beer of live music".

Red Stripe, which is owned by Diageo, said today (7 Janaury) that it has seen growth of 2% in the last year, compared to an 11% decline on the premium draught lager market.

Paul Brazier, Red Stripe brand manager, said: "The Red Stripe Music Award gives us the opportunity to fully support our stockists. We also get the chance to help nurture some of the UK's best talent and give bands a route into the industry."

New sponsors Fender Guitars, Merc clothing and The Fly magazine, have joined Red Stripe to promote this year's competition.

Previous judges have included Guy Garvey, lead singer of Mercury Music Prize-winning Elbow, and XFM radio's John Kennedy. More details of the competition are available on www.redstripe.net.