Independent Music DIY #6: Release, Reviews, Promotions

Our pre-release strategy to focus on iTunes worked, and the album debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes India Top Albums chart on release weekend. Promotions on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube led to sustained orders which kept it in the charts through the release weekend till Monday – it slipped to No 3, then 4 before finally sliding into chart oblivion.  

For your music to reach the broader global audience,
you must first reach global music writers and music promoters. 

In the two weeks before and after the album release, we wrote to 67 mainstream newspapers, magazines, blogs, and sundry other media that review new music across the world (to be precise USA, Canada, UK, European Economic Region, India, Australia and New Zealand). Also submitted music to independent music sites. And distributed official press releases to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, AP News, journalists, world’s leading newswires, media newsrooms – potential audience of 150 million unique readers. 

Not one of them responded, which was not surprising. There are 112,000 songs released every day, and 96.7% of these are delivered by DSPs, independent and non-major  distributors. How would any media respond to submissions of that scale? Individual musicians and media persons also have multiple pressing matters clamouring for their attention every minute, every hour.

 Music reviews as a service (like any other content service) has been a part of the organisation of the industry for decades now. One has to evaluate which media sites/set of services has the best impact and this can be difficult since there is a proliferation of fly-by-night operators who scam or provide advertorials written by content writers instead of reviews written by music writers and professional artists. Our objective was to connect with credible music reviewers who would give the album a listen and decide if they would review it based on any merit. 

We found SubmitHub by chance when reading yet another blog of the top sites for music review submission. We have been using the platform since the past 4 months and find it to be a good balance of heart and mind. It is a platform that connects artists and artist teams to artists, curators, reviewers and music influencers. It is a business platform and it solves two problems: Streamlines music submission process for music influencers, providing summary info and music so that writers can make a quick decision whether to listen further and evaluate the music. For artists, it streamlines the process to connect to music influencers in a time-bound manner. One purchases credits on the platform and the credits are paid towards any services availed.

Founded by Jason Grishkoff (he is also the music blogger at IndieShuffle), at the time of writing SubmitHub had 923,365 users, 1966 active curators. The site has seen a total of 34,163,984 submissions with an approval rating of 25%.

As an emerging Music eCommerce platform it is attempting to build a reasonably fair and efficient way for three key stakeholders in independent music while maintaining the credibility of music review, without interfering with the ethics of music journalism, and while bringing some order to music promotion through social media influencers.

SubmitHub became our primary choice post album release based on the results we achieved on our goals through it pre-release.  As a result, we allocated 20% of our initial marketing and promotion budget to the platform. By the end of the third week post-release, we realised that YouTube and SubmitHub were the platforms consistently delivering on our goals so we reallocated budget assigned to other platforms (we cut three platforms which had low value for money) to these two. (SubmitHub accounts for 46% of our total budget).

SubmitHub provides four main services:

  1. Song Submission to Music Curators (Playlisters & Bloggers)
  2. Song Submission to Social Media Influencers
  3. Album Submission to Music Review Sites
  4. Song Peer Review (reviewed by other artists)

Every artist and their team will have different experiences and results with different platforms and a lot of that depends on how a team uses various platforms. We utilised the Song Submission and Album Submission options to get noticed by music writers and playlisters. We also utilised music promotion through influencers. In all three cases, we submit, they review, and evaluate if the music has merit, and then if it fits into their audience. If they approve, then they schedule review, share, etc. 

The platform also has a Hot or Not (HoN) peer review system and we submit songs for that regularly, but the purpose is to raise visibility of the artist and album. The artist had released the music after doing as professional a job as possible, the market will provide its feedback. Our objective was to reach the market. Many artists use the HoN mechanism for feedback, and that in my personal opinion is a risky approach. Peer feedback is extremely subjective, and it varies on many factors (genres, style, mood, tone, preference, and so on), so one has to take it with a pinch of salt. 

From a result perspective, we submitted 5 singles to 83 curators. Of these, four songs were approved for sharing, one did not get any approvals. Overall, we got 7 influencer shares as Instagram reels, and 6 Spotify playlist additions. That is a 15% approval rating for our songs, as compared to 0% getting through to regular media/other channels. On the album review front, we got 8 approvals for album reviews from 19 submitted. As a consequence of the reviews, we got 3 more reviews from other sources, plus visibility, listens and followers.

The bonus on SubmitHub is being connected to artists, writers, influencers and artist managers – we are learning very quickly about the ground realities of the independent music scene  from the experiences, problems and solutions shared by users on the platform.

For those interested in checking out or buying the album, Negotiating Oxytocin by Upamanyu Mukherjee:

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