5 Tips For Success: Submitting Your Music to Music Blogs
Note: Although this article is aimed at absolute beginners, more experienced acts may also benefit from the advice below.
So, you’re now the proud parent(s) of a beautiful new album, EP, single, or video. Maybe you’ve just given birth to the full set! You’ve dredged up your most emotionally turbulent memories; channelled them into your art; sworn and fought (and perhaps even calmly negotiated) your way through the songwriting / compositional process; suffered through painstaking take after take in the studio, striving to capture that elusive perfect performance; and finally it’s all done. You can’t wait to show off your baby to the world. You need help in getting the word out, you’ve found some awesome music blogs (such as this one – wink wink), and you’re wondering exactly how to make the most of this opportunity.
Here are five tips to help make your experience more rewarding, and less (or, ideally, not at all) painful.
1) Research the site before submitting.
Never approach a music review site without researching it first. There are some very important questions you need to ask yourself before sending that email. The most important questions are these:
A) Does the blog cover music in my genre?
At TMMP, we make a point of ignoring musical comfort zones. Anything and everything is up for grabs, genre-wise; but not every blog works this way. As an extreme example, you wouldn’t send your material to a tech-metal blog if you were aiming to be the next Justin Bieber. Hopefully, that’s just common sense.
Additionally, the blog world is full of people who won’t think twice about tearing you a new one, at length, and using as many big and pretentious words as possible, just for the “fun” of it. In fact, they might well go ahead and invent new words, just for the purpose of insulting you. TMMP prides itself on being more diplomatic than many of its peers – but this is a relatively safe online zone. Beyond our borders, don’t count on a tactful response to your enquiries.
B) What standard, production-wise, does a release have to measure up to in order to be accepted for review?
This is the point where your research will really pay off. Many blogs accept anything and everything – demos, pre-masters, unmixed live recordings, iPhone videos, etc. – but at TMMP, we only accept recordings and videos that are of equal quality to releases already reviewed on the site. The good news is that you can easily hear how your release measures up by comparing it to the tracks already reviewed on TMMP; the bad news is that if you contact us with a demo / unmixed live recording / pre-masters / iPhone recordings / other low-quality recordings / etc., it will be politely rejected.
Of course, there can be exceptions. For instance, if you’re in a low-fi band, and having strange production quirks is part of your style, or you have some other reason for employing unusual production approaches, then it will be considered if you make it clear that this is the case. However, this is a fine line; it’s not enough (in our opinion) to produce an amateurish recording and use a convoluted narrative to provide an excuse for laziness. A hair’s breadth separates the geniuses from the acts who come across as not respecting their listeners. As with Question A, these views vary from blog to blog; expect to receive the kind of responses that leave you unable to sit down for a week if you email the wrong blog with an inappropriate release.
Research is your friend, and can help you avoid unnecessary unpleasantness.
2) Be professional.
The music business is an extremely crowded place. As TMMP’s archives demonstrate, even the grassroots level is packed with immensely talented geniuses. This means that in order to survive, you need to step up and stand out from the competition.
Being a great player, having brilliant songs, and employing the right producer are all ways of achieving this goal. But there are many bands and artists who check all of these criteria effortlessly. At this level, the differentiating factor is personality.
When you make contact with a music blog, ensure that you make a good first impression. Your first email should:
Include a quick explanation as to why you’re contacting the blog in question;
Mention something that reflects your research into the blog and explains why you feel your music would be suitable for them to review;
Include a brief biography (click here for more tips on crafting an effective biography);
Include a download link, or have the tracks in question attached (Send MP3s if emailing TMMP);
Include a link to your Bandcamp / Soundcloud page, or the relevant release on Spotify;
Include any additional press material (e.g. cover photo, other promotional photographs, etc.).
Remember above all to keep the recipient of your email in mind, and be polite and respectful. Keep to the point, using the structure given above, and you’ll be fine.
3) Have your music available to stream online.
Regardless of your opinion about the “access VS ownership” debate, today it is expected that bands will make their music available for fans (both present and potential) to listen to and try before they buy. If you don’t want your music to be streamed, that is ultimately your decision (and when it comes to issues regarding copyright, TMMP’s position is that the copyright holder’s decisions should be respected, especially considering the amount of time and effort that goes into creating music / books / etc.) – but consider the following points before making your choice.
The most common (and user-friendly) services for streaming at the grassroots / underground level are Bandcamp and SoundCloud. From a reviewer’s point of view, these services are fantastic, because they allow a blogger to easily embed a music player into their review, allowing readers to listen to the music after reading the words explaining in detail just how awesome the band is.
Convenience isn’t the only advantage that these services offer the entrepreneurially minded musician. Bandcamp and SoundCloud players also allow the listener to buy your release as well as stream it, turning a review into a storefront that makes you money. Nice words and petrol money to get you to that next gig kill two birds with one digital stone.
4) Dropbox is your friend.
Although having streamable music is a big plus, it’s also helpful to provide a reviewer with MP3s, either attached to your email or downloadable through an online file-sharing service. Having MP3s to hand allows a reviewer to get away from their computer and listen to your tracks while travelling / doing the housework / etc. As we all know, mobile internet connections are unreliable at the best of times; nothing ruins a track more than network issues or your train going into a tunnel.
Of all the file-sharing services out there, Dropbox is by far the best. However, it still goes underutilised. One of TMMP’s favourite bands (Signals) sent us their EP via Dropbox – and the entire process was so fast and seamless that we wanted to hug them before hearing a note of said EP. That kind of thing needs to happen more often.
5) Use the results to your best advantage.
At TMMP, our published reviews tend to take two forms:
A) The “THIS BAND ARE AWESOME!” review, and;
B) The “This band deserve your attention, but there are some points that need to be addressed to help them get to the next level” review.
A third type of review (a common feature in the music criticism world, and even more common on YouTube) is the “Christ, this band are so shit that they should just quit right now. In fact, why were they even born at all? Someone needs to invent a time machine so I can personally go back and kill that band’s parents” review. We don’t do that, for the following reasons:
i) If someone’s going to take the time out of a hectically busy and stressful day to check out our site, why expect them to spend it reading 500 hateful words followed by a link to a band that the reviewer just said were crap? The simple answer is: No sane person would actually do that, and to fill our audience’s eyes with worthless angry words and their ears with music that we don’t believe in would be not only stupid and egocentric, but profoundly disrespectful to said audience.
ii) A 100% purely negative review doesn’t do the band being reviewed any favours. If a critic has even the slightest understanding of the music world, they’ll be able to offer at least some advice on how the act in question could better themselves – even if it’s a simple message like “keep practicing”.
On the other hand, being openly hateful online is, tragically, a very effective way of driving traffic to a blog / video / etc. Nothing produces as many comments as an earlier commenter / the original poster being an asshole. See any popular YouTube video for evidence of this.
Happily, not all bloggers fit the hateful-frustrated-critic mould. There are plenty of encouraging, tactful and diplomatic people in the music business. This point returns to Tip 1: research sites before submitting. At TMMP, inappropriate submissions will be met with polite but firm rejections; in these instances it is always best to accept it as useful feedback, continue improving your work, and come back later with something better. Rude responses to rejections will not help your cause.
Type C (the “Why were you born?” review) is best either ignored, used as motivational fuel, or turned around and re-framed as something funny. Great examples of the latter can be found from artists as diverse as James Blunt and Twelve Foot Ninja.
Type B reviews (in which the reviewer provides constructive, but not purely negative, criticism) are best taken with a professional attitude. It never feels great to be criticised, but it’s an inevitable part of life – and it’s better to get an honest report of what needs improving than to look at your output with rose-tinted glasses and become frustrated at your lack of progress in the future.
Finally, if somebody gives you a Type A review (super-enthusiastic and openly promoting your work), it pays to say thanks, and spread the word around. Seeing a positive review spread across Twitter and Facebook, appear in promotional material, turn up on posters, and / or (as was the case with a recent TMMP review of an album by dirty electro legend Luciana Caporaso) get re-posted on an artist’s website, is not only heart-warming for the reviewer; it also helps sell you as a band / artist. And, at the end of the day, supporting awesome music is what this is all about.
Follow these tips, and help us help you.
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