Promoting Your Music: How You Can Do It on a DIY Budget

The Problem

These days, I see a lot of great artists spend time and money in the studio. After months of hard work, the band makes a Facebook post – they’ve released their music on Bandcamp! They might play a release show, or do a quick tour, but after that the promotion for the album essentially stops. There was no blog coverage for the album, no radio play, no interviews. Why? Well, traditionally, achieving those things has been difficult and expensive. DIY wasn’t really an option due to the barriers to entry: time searching for blogs emails could amount to many hours. Actually having those blogs open your emails was a crapshoot in itself. Hiring a publicist would cost an extra $500-2,000 or more on top of the recording budget, and most of the band’s money had been spent on their music. In addition to my work as an audio engineer, I also write for RMP Magazine (http://rock-metal-punk.org). I love music and want to find new bands to listen to and share with others. This means I have personal experience in the ongoing battle between a blogger’s email inbox and their will to live. One of the most frustrating things when dealing with music submissions via email is that sometimes publicists send a link to music, sometimes not. They may ask writers to indicate interest before the writer has even heard the music and only then send a link to listen! Other times, to hear the music you have to have a username and password, and each publicist’s system has different login information. Talk about a pain to just listen to a song or album!
Submithub from the eyes of a blogger.
SubmitHub from the eyes of a blogger.

The Solution

A few years ago, that all changed. Jason Grishkoff, founder of Indie Shuffle, began coding SubmitHub because he and his staff were overwhelmed by music submissions via email. The goal behind SubmitHub is to help artists (and publicists) have their music heard by blogs and labels, rather than just having their emails deleted. It’s a quite simple system on the surface, an artist pays ~$1 to have a blog listen to their song. The blog has to listen to the song within 48 hours and provide a response, either with feedback on why they are declining coverage or by accepting the song. If either of those actions doesn’t take place within the allotted 48 hours, the artist gets a refund of their credit. The blogs on SubmitHub vary greatly in size, genres covered, and style of posts. Some do reviews, some just share news pieces, others maintain Spotify playlists. When submitting, you can review each blog individually before choosing whether or not to submit music to their page. This lets you tailor and fine tune where you spend your credits so you have the best chance of being accepted. Artists also have the option to submit their song via “standard” credits, which are free. However, with standard credits the guarantees are gone, as is the feedback. Not all blogs accept these free credits, but many do. Not only does this give a huge benefit to the artist, but it also allows writers to have all their communications with artists and publicists in one central place. Everything on SubmitHub is standardized – no more searching for links and passwords to a random site to hear submitted music. Blogger DoTheDance says, “I live in confusion, so having a platform that reminds me [of] all the info, release date etc. and where I can have everything under control is gold.” Many writers and blogs have stopped accepting email submissions altogether, and some publicists are now moving over as well. The platform really makes things easier for all parties.
An example of the results an artist might see on Submithub.
An example of the results an artist might see on SubmitHub.

Why Music Promotion Matters

Aside from the direct benefit to the artist by having blogs listen to their music, there is the main benefit of promotion: a wider audience. Lets say that you submit your song to ten blogs and two blogs accept and arrange a post or share. Not only have those ten bloggers heard it, but the two who accepted will post it. This could lead to a potentially massive boost in listeners hearing your song, depending on the outlet’s reach. With the way social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are limiting reach, spreading news about your music is becoming almost impossible without running ads of some sort. While blogs face many of the same issue, they also frequently have a solid readership including some devout followers. They also may have a much better reach on social media than a band, due to sharing content consistently with good engagement and a plethora of other factors. When it comes down to the relationship between artist and blogger, Sam Eeckhout from Sacred Exile says about SubmitHub, “it opens up quick conversation lines with artists that email just can’t compete with, and ensures nothing but high quality coverage from bloggers. Things can get lost in email, but not with SubmitHub.” He continues on to discuss the other benefits, “bands get to see exactly what each blog is looking for specifically, what they’ve posted in the past, and most importantly, will know that their music will get listened to! Not to mention, bands receive high-end feedback from insanely knowledgeable music folks, regardless of if their music is accepted or not.”

“If you’re in a band that wants to be heard and achieve valuable coverage, SH is a one-stop shop.”

Sam Eeckhout – Sacred Exile A major frustration for me, as a blogger, is that even with SubmitHub up and running on RMP for almost two years, I still receive hundreds of email submissions per month. Some publicists are unwilling to change, though I feel that is their own expense. The only time I post or share something I received via an email submission is when I recognized the band name as an artist I know and enjoy. On the other hand, SubmitHub has allowed me to discover many new artists and 90% of the time when I share a song it’s from an artist I’ve never heard of before!

Tips for Music Submissions

I asked SubmitHub founder Jason Grishkoff if he had some advice for artists using the platform, to which he kindly obliged.
I think an important part of using SubmitHub is realizing that the bloggers on the other end are real people with a really broad range of backgrounds. By in large, they all share a passion for finding something new or interesting to their ear, and the “search process” is a highly subjective one. What that means (as an artist battling against thousands of other artists to get a sliver of the pie) is that 1) you’re likely to get conflicting feedback about your song; 2) you’re likely to face a lot of rejection. Rather than trying to please everyone or hit the popular chart, the real victories are in finding your niche — the people with whom your music does resonate. Those are the folks you’re going to be able to build your career on. – Jason Grishkoff, SubmitHub
One thing to add to what Jason said, which I cannot stress enough, is for artists to fill out their SubmitHub profiles with all of their social media links and music sources. It can be annoying to have to Google the artist to find their website, Facebook page, etc. when they are given a place to fill in that information on the SubmitHub website. When this is filled in properly, (almost) everything a writer needs is at their fingertips. The other things I recommend including are links to some good quality press photos, and an idea of what the band is looking for in coverage and what they’d be willing to do to help flesh out a post, for example providing time to the writer for a phone interview.
What your artist profile shouldn't look like.
Here’s an example of what your artist profile shouldn’t look like.
Sam Eeckhout was kind enough to share some handy ideas to make a submission more appealing to writers, which I’ve paraphrased here:
  • Make the submission personal in some way, such as addressing the blog by name.
  • Don’t list previous accomplishments, a list of Spotify playlists that added your music is boring and won’t affect whether the song is enjoyable or not.
  • Send the goodies! Professional press kits that are downloadable via Dropbox are great. It makes it easier to share with various team members of the site.
  • Tell the story of the song – why should the blogger care? What does it mean to you, the artist?
  • Include professional press photos as well as social media links.
  • In general, make the writer’s life as easy as possible!
DoTheDance adds, “I like when they send all the info I need with a submission, like press release, biography, artworks, the artist’s picture etc. So I don’t have to waste time looking for info or asking.”
A much better artist profile
A much better example of what an artist profile should look like. I would still add a bio, but the links make it easy enough for a blogger to find additional resources. If you like catchy indie rock, check out The Fangs!

Start Promoting Your Music!

Clearly, SubmitHub is a great platform for artists and bloggers alike. It makes promotion much more accessible to the artist, while also centralizing all communication and artist information. In conclusion, I highly recommend that every single artist who releases music promotes their work. After all, without promotion no one outside the artist’s immediate circle will hear the music. Bands can choose to promote their work however they like, but I hope they will make SubmitHub a top priority since it has practically no barrier to entry, is easy and fast to set up, and after initial setup is almost effortless to use. I encourage every artist with new music to sign up for SubmitHub now and start submitting to blogs!

Written by James

James is the owner of Pinnacle Pro Sound and has a broad experience in the music industry from radio to concert production and touring. Look out for occasional posts with tips for artists to make the most of their careers in music!