Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that SubmitHub has already left it’s mark on the music industry in just a few short years. For the uninitiated, the idea is a site that brings together artists and blogs/labels/etc and streamlines the whole submission progress for all parties involved. The artists submit a song for blogs to listen to and provide brief feedback. Sounds simple enough, but is it all it’s cracked up to be?
(brief note before we continue, while SubmitHub does offer free submissions, this article will chiefly have premium submissions in mind. Also, as with all ‘Pros and Cons’ articles, I’m writing this from a bloggers perspective but have looked into various artist experiences)
For bloggers the site has two main draws, the first being the rare chance to earn a bit of money for your work. While you’re certainly not going to get rich (more on this in the final thoughts), the fact is that money is an issue in all corners of the grassroots music industry, journalism being no exception. Most sites are run as a side project alongside a “proper job”. While you’re not gonna be able to kick your feet up and retire from SubmitHub earnings, it can cover costs for domains and such and can tip the scale to allow smaller sites to be self sustaining. Plus it’s only human to appreciate getting a bit of something in return for your time and effort.
Secondly its simple and user-friendly interface is just so much easier than trawling through a mountain of emails. All the new music you could ask for, all neatly arranged in chronological order, all able to be played without switching tabs or opening new ones. The majority of which come with info on the band, the song itself, and with links to the band’s social media and website right there at your disposal. Odds are you have everything you need, and in case you don’t it’s super easy to message back and forth with the submitter. It makes it so much easier to work your way through submissions and get to the tracks that really excite you. Hardly surprising that many sites now take submissions only through SubmitHub.
That simplicity and streamlining of the submissions process is also the key draw of the site for artists. There are so many sites out there that it can be hard to find ones that you feel would be a good fit for your music, and even if you eventually find a couple they likely all have different and lengthy submission guidelines. With SubmitHub you have a vast directory to explore. Not just blogs either, but record labels, radio shows, Spotify playlisters, you name it! You can read a bit more about each one and what they cover, see what other artists have been featured, and how well rated different sites are. Once you’ve found some that seem promising, it’s the same simple process to submit to as many of them as you’d like. With premium submissions, costing a dollar each, you have a guarantee that your song will be listened to within 48 hours or your money back. Not only is it a guarantee you can’t get with traditional PR, but also at a fraction of the price.
One underrated aspect of SubmitHub that we’d be remiss not to mention is the team behind it. The platform is being constantly refined and improved, sites are thoroughly checked out before being featured, they’re quick to crack down on users causing trouble, and even quicker to fix any technical issues. For example, we asked in passing if it was possible to have an in-built volume control for the site’s music player and it was implemented in a matter of hours!
From personal experience, the only major drawback from a blogger’s perspective is how overwhelming submissions can get. With emails it is just a fact that you simply can’t respond to everyone. Even with tracks you adore sometimes life gets in the way and it takes a little longer than expected to cover the artist’s music and get back to them with the review. With SubmitHub time is of the essence. Fail to respond with 48 hours and the track disappears and you don’t get paid. If this keeps happening it then starts to damage your ratings. Thankfully you can close submissions for a bit of breathing room at the push of a button, but it gets to the point that that the submission box is off more than it is on, which rather defeats the point. You never know when it might be a particularly busy time for submissions so we find ourselves having to plan ahead, and have a clear schedule, before opening the floodgates.
The site is also a drain on the artists’ time if they want to use it effectively. Just blindly sending music to anyone and everyone, just because you can, is a waste of time and money. Rejection central. To maximise your chances of your music being accepted you need research what sort of music they feature, how exactly they cover it (blog post, playlist etc), whether they are going to reach an audience that will be beneficial for you and so on. It’ll take time and effort. It can be horribly tedious and at the end of it you might still get rejected, but it’s the only way to go if you want to take it seriously. That or do it the old fashioned way and invest in a PR company to do the heavy lifting for you so that you can turn your attention back to the music itself.
The key criticism from artists though lies with the feedback they get from blogs. As well as guaranteeing that your song is listened to within 48 hours, your money assures that you get a minimum of 10 words of feedback should you wish it. This feedback is almost entirely useless. Firstly because tastes differ; what one reviewer may like another may dislike. Half the people you submit to may like the music but not the vocals, and the other half might have completely the opposite view. Secondly because most music is rejected, not because it is bad, but because it is average. When you are sent music that has problems you can at least give constructive criticism. When you are sent a mountain of songs that are all okay but just don’t excite you, there are only so many ways you can say “I like it but I don’t love it” or “It’s not quite doing it for me”… none of which are of any use to the artists. Best to either pay no heed to the “feedback” or switch it off entirely.
One aspect that effects both sides is that the platform is very single orientated. The whole site is designed around the sending and receiving of individual tracks. As a writer I get bored of just standalone songs, sometimes I want to sink my teeth into an EP or album. If you’re an artist trying to promote an EP or album it can be frustrating trying to sum up your project using just one small aspect of it. Especially if it covers a wide range of styles, or is best explored as a complete body of work. It’s part of the reason why we keep our inbox open and would never switch entirely over to using the platform for all our submissions, it would just mean missing out on so much music. Albums are far from dead as far as we’re concerned. I don’t see an easy way for SubmitHub to rectify this, so it’s just going to have to be something to plan around and bear in mind when using the platform.
SubmitHub gets a lot of flack. Some of this is thoroughly justified, every platform has its flaws after all, but a lot of it stems from misconceptions. I’ve seen a lot people dismiss it along the lines of “why should I pay someone to listen to my music”. Firstly writers only get 50 cents from each song. Adjusting to Pounds Stirling you’d barely be able to afford a single Freddo. It’s hardly some Machiavellian scheme concocted by conniving music moguls sat tenting their fingers in a sterile city apartment, salivating at the prospect of parting musicians from their hard earned cash.
Secondly, what do these people think PR is? You can give hundreds, maybe thousands, to a company that will send music to various sites to listen to. If you’re lucky they may happen to listen to it and decide to cover it. Or, for a small fraction of the price, you can do it yourself, be sure that the music will get heard, and give the writers a few pennies for their time when normally they’d get nothing. I’m not saying one is better than the other, it depends whether your limiting factor is time or money, but it’s always been the way the industry works.
It has its flaws, but ultimately it’s doing the best job it can to fulfil its role of connecting artists and writers/labels etc. The deciding factor is personal preference. Some will find it to be an invaluable promotional tool, some will find that it just thoroughly rubs them up the wrong way. It can be a bland and businesslike process which can prove to be a major chore for creatives on both sides of the line. And that’s okay, it’s not for everyone, we all have our own way of doing things. Just bear in mind that just because something doesn’t fit well with you doesn’t mean that it won’t be very useful for others, and vice versa.