by Carly Schorman
Getting your music “out there” has certainly changed a lot in the last decade or two. If you wanted to DIY it to rockstardom in 1995, you’d have to get demos made (like, physically made) and then you’d have to go buy stamps. And then you’d have to research addresses for music publications, radio stations, and record labels.
The Age of the Internet changed all that. In some ways for the better, while in others ways, not so much. In addition to zines and FM options of days past, we now have music blogs and podcasts and playlists and a myriad of other ways to reach new listeners.
And because it’s now easier than ever to connect to media outlets, that also means they are often inundated with a deluge of submissions from musicians. Thankfully, for all involved, there is Submithub. Created by the founder of Indie Shuffle, Submithub is a means of connecting blogs and labels to musicians and their reps and has since expanded to include radio stations, Spotify playlist makers, and other music-industry “influencers.”
Ever since we at YabYum switched to using Submithub to help streamline our submissions, we received loads questions from friends and readers alike about how to best utilize the website to get their music out there. There are hundreds of labels and blogs that use Submithub to find new music and connect to new artists.
We thought it might be best to just share our suggestions for using Submithub with everyone.
(1) Rejections are going to happen.
You should know this going in. I don’t care how awesome your music is, someone is going to turn it down. In fact, rejections are so much a part of the process of getting your music out there, we wrote an article about it.
(2) Read up on blogs before submitting to them.
This is a big one here, kids. This simple piece of advice will save you a lot of hurt and aggravation in the long run. Really.
Before you submit to a publication, you should do two things on Submithub. First, check out the publication or label you plan to submit to. I mean, duh. Maybe it’s a blog that only does one album review a month. Or maybe they only publish playlists of 100 songs every Tuesday. Maybe they only cover reggae. How are you going to know unless you look into the matter a little? If you don’t you could be wasting your time and theirs.
You should also check the profile page of the blog (or label) you are submitting to. There is often useful information available to help you discern if you are submitting to the right spot. For example, on our profile page, we tell folks to include the release date and social media links when submitting to us. We even go so far as to leave a note about the feedback we provide because we frequently don’t leave feedback and refund money instead.
Additionally, Submithub keeps statistics on all the active blogs and labels that use their platform. This page can be REALLY HELPFUL because it breaks down the numbers for you… like which blogs only take premium tracks or which blogs don’t provide feedback and only take standard submissions. There’s even a feedback score to give you some idea of which blogs put time and effort into their responses.
A little internet sleuthing can make it easier to connect to the right blogs and labels for your music. Don’t just rush into sending your music to everyone, all at once.
(3) It’s Not About the Money. Really.
Yes, you can pay to have your tracks sent to blogs and labels as a “premium” submission, but before you dismiss Submithub outright as some predatory venture against musicians, allow me to explain how it really works.
First of all, there are TWO options for submitting music through Submithub: Premium and Standard. Or, paid and unpaid. Blogs and labels might vary slightly in what they offer for the dollar you give them to check out your song (well, 50 cents of every dollar, the other half goes to Submithub). Some blogs only accept paid submissions while others don’t provide any feedback at all (more on this below).
But, as anyone here at YabYum who’s had to dive through the submissions pile will tell you, the time invested in submissions doesn’t really pan out on the monetary end. Sure, it helps offset the server costs, but we prefer unpaid submissions because we’d rather spend our time writing content for our website than leaving feedback on submissions that aren’t going to be featured on our site. At the same time, if you really want to know why we aren’t accepting your song (if we don’t accept your song), we’ll take the time out of our day to tell you… for a dollar.
And, when we get really busy, we don’t always leave feedback. Instead we refund the dollar if we don’t have time to provide feedback BUT that doesn’t mean we don’t listen to the track. We still make sure to listen everything that comes in… even if we don’t have time for the feedback part.
(4) Include information “About this song”.
When you submit music to a blog or label through Submithub, you have the option of including additional information “About this song” to accompany the track. Musicians sometimes leave this section empty. Like totally empty. No information about the song or the band. No links to social media or additional music.
Maybe these musicians are thinking that they want their single to stand alone – in some falsely perceived notion of objective reality. But, in truth, they end up making more work for potential bloggers interested in their single or labels who might want to know more about a band they’re interest in working with. And, all too often, there are dozens of other tracks sitting awaiting review that don’t require any jumping through extra hoops to find out more about the track.
A little information about the band (like who’s in it or where you’re from) or the single (Is it part of an LP? An EP? Is it already public or is the release date coming up?) can help your cause if a blogger shows interest in the submission.
(5) And don’t forget the quick pitch
One quick sentence. That’s all it is. One quick sentence that tells the person you’re submitting to something about what you’re submitting. The big question is what information should you include? This is where it’s good to go back to our earlier suggestion that you “Read Up” on blogs before submitting to them.
YabYum, for example, has a regional focus so mentioning that you’re from Arizona (or West Coast/ Southwest) is a good way to get your foot in the door on that quick pitch if the person who first gives your submission a spin here is on the fence about whether to kick it over to the “maybes” pile for the editors.
Some basic examples of what a quick pitch should look like goes something like this:
“We’re a band from Tulsa and this is our first single from our new album, Ok in OK, due out this coming September.”
“Hey! YabYum covered a single from my band last year and we have a new album in the works.”
“Opening song from my nu disco electronica album. Link to full album in profile.”
See? Simple. You can be funny or you can stick to the facts. To this day, my favorite quick pitch from an artist is: “Yo! Text me…” And then a cell phone number followed (please don’t do this when submitting to us, it only works once).
(6) Put your best foot (uh, track) forward.
We’ve all heard “Save the best for last,” but this phrase shouldn’t be applied to everything. When it comes to submitting to music blogs and the like, put your very best forward first. Why? ‘Cause bloggers remember.
Save that slow burner for a publication you’ve built a relationship with or maybe hold back on that heavily textured think piece for your first foray into Submithub territory. Now, that’s not to say that music writers who use the platform don’t go in for that sort of thing, but music writers are often inundated with submissions and only offer a cursory first listen to most incoming tracks.
First impressions count for a lot… on both sides. You don’t want to create a missed connection by diving too deep too fast.
(7) Know the rules of conduct (and contact).
This is a big one. Some of the bitchiest emails I’ve ever sent have been to bands who don’t understand the basics of Submithub interactions. First and foremost, maintain contact! But I’ll circle back to this.
Finally, be polite. As a rule, music bloggers don’t make their living blogging about music so remember this is a side gig most people you’re dealing with and the person on the other end is not only tired, but tired of your bullshit. And, most likely, they’ve probably dealt with bigger names than you (if you’re reading this article right now) so no need to get puffed up if you get turned down.
There’s never enough space to cover everyone who deserves coverage. And yet, during the years we’ve been working with Submithub, I’ve seen everything from dudes throwing weight with, “Do you know who I am?” to threats. Just be cool. Not everyone is going to like your music. Doesn’t mean you have to get hateful.
That’s probably a good rule for life in general and not just Submithub.
(8) Respect the timeline
Every media outlet has their own turnaround time. Some move fast than others. Just about everyone moves faster than us and that’s because we work well ahead of our publication schedule to tie in other things (like our podcasts and our radio shows and our day jobs). If you’re planning on dropping a single in two weeks, you want to make sure to send it to places that will accept music before its release. Or, if you are looking for a quick PR bump for a new single, you’ll want to find the spots with the fastest turnaround time.
(9) Make sure you reach out BEFORE clicking “request an update”
If you don’t receive a response to a message you sent, you should move onto your secondary option. Meaning, if you started with the Submithub chat, move to email or vice versa. And, if you don’t receive a response within a few days, only then should you click that “Request an Update” option which escalates the submission.
The blog then has 72 hours to respond or face the wrath (uh, lose the credit and potentially take a ding on their Submithub ratings). And every time some jerk escalates a response by hitting that “Request an Update” button without attempting to contact us first, I have a bit of an office tantrum about the lack of professionalism in the modern music industry… which, admittedly, undermines my own professionalism.
Basically, bloggers might take it personally when you “escalate” the need for a response by hitting “Request an Update” without attempting to maneuver through the proper communication channels first. If this seems a bit confusing, that’s because it is. However, Submithub does respond with a pop-up message when you ask to escalate a response by requesting an update. This message asks the user if they have first attempted to reach the blog through email &/or chat first. Don’t lie and click yes if you haven’t. The person on the other side will know. And, if they’re like me, they might get a little bitchy about it.
(10) Stay in touch
Both blogs and artists must be accessible through the contacts provided to Submithub. Don’t use an email address you only check once a week. Don’t leave town for a month on tour and bail on your computer. Any phone with internet capabilities can access Submithub. And email? Come on.
If you’re interested in anything having to do with (a) promoting a band (b) getting that band shows or press coverage (c) in the 21st Century, you should have an email address that you check regularly. Maybe not the one you give the supermarket when you sign up for a savings club, but a real email address that you actually go through regularly. Duh.
Why shop your music around if you’re not going to be there to metaphorically answer the call when that phone rings? If you’re in it to win it, you have to actually be persistent and PRESENT. Even if you’re in your pajamas at home with Game of Thrones playing in the background. That, my friends, is the true beauty of the internet.