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« MusicThinkTank.com Weekly Recap: The Most Overrated Things in a Musician's Career & More | Main | The Most Overrated Things in a Musician’s Career »
Wednesday
Mar062013

"Has Your Music Been Featured In The New York Times?" An Exposé on Beatwire.com

“Has Your Music Been Featured In The New York Times?” That’s quite a question! When I saw the advertisement headline recently I was tempted to click on it myself it looked so enticing.

This is a bit of a dangerous article, but after seeing that the advertisements for these types of companies are still all over the place targeting hopeful musicians, and knowing the disappointment left in their wake, I had to say something. It is in no way intended to insult anyone. It is only meant to tell the truth, so you can take that for what it’s worth.

Independent musicians are one of the most preyed upon groups of people in the business world. This is a fact. The music industry is a strange place, and one that almost anyone can weave their way into. This in itself is not a problem at all, provided that everyone does their own due diligence, making sure that they deliver functional services and make good on their promises.

This advice is coming from years of testing companies out as research for my books and many dollars wasted in the process. That being said, it is coming from my own experience and nothing more. However, since I never work with demo-quality artists and I do music promotion for a living, seeking out only the strongest bands and solo artists, I believe that my testing of these services was about the most legitimate you can get.

I can conclusively suggest indie bands stay away from automated music submission services (as a general rule. There may well be new ones that are effective), whether they be “music submission” ones such as Musicsubmit.com, or news delivery/music submission services such as Beatwire.com.

Beatwire.com’s advertising headline is very misleading, as much of industry advertising is. “Has your music been featured in the New York Times? Beatwire will deliver your press release directly to the desktops of over 10,000 music editors at daily newspapers, magazines, news agencies, top websites, radio stations – every place you need to be promoted.”

I know it’s a part of sales, but I always take issue when these kinds of carrots are dangled in front of musicians. I can’t imagine the hordes of artists who answer this ad while dreaming big, putting their last few hundred dollars towards press release distribution. Most musicians desire success, and the companies who know this take serious advantage of that fact, saying “Send your press release to us and we’ll get you on the desks of major editors”. It’s misleading, and we’d all be better off if what was being sold was described without unrealistic fanaticism.

Now the first issue is this. A company who will take on ANYONE is destined to lose the attention of their mailing list extremely quickly, resulting in more and more blocked messages, and then most of them ending up ultimately in the junk folder. There needs to be a curator or a taste maker of some sort, a real person, or else it’s just spam.

In fact, I myself was added to Beatwire’s “newswire mailing list”. How did I find this out? Not through a personal message of any kind, or from anyone asking my permission/if I’d like to consider their artists. I just started getting junk mail. Guess what happened? They got blacklisted pretty quickly, and that’s what anyone else would do.

My test of Beatwire was in May 2012, for an excellent indie/alternative band’s new album and award nomination. The fee was $149.95. I was already sending out personal messages to my full media list, so I decided to try Beatwire out as a tester to see if I should reccommend them in my next book to artists. The results? Out of 10,000 editors, major publications, Entertainment Weekly, TIME, and the New York Times, nothing. No replies. No articles. No online blog posts. Just $149.95 gone.

“So what if the band just wasn’t good enough, James?”

That’s a fair question. That same band has gotten over 200 reviews, interviews, and press pieces in the past 8 months, been played on MTV and toured multiple countries. They’ve received major licensing deals and have so much going on at the moment that their heads are spinning.

All it takes is a bit of effort and personalization, folks. No one likes a forwarded press release from an automated service. If you wanted to, you could send your own album to Entertainment Weekly (who by the way, do not cover independent artists). You could send it straight to the junk folder and call it a submission if it made you feel better.

This would be a somewhat more engaged and different scenario if there was some sort of quality control on the part of the company, although they still would most likely be looked at as a press release machine by most editorial departments, who as far as I’m aware usually prefer to talk to real people.

I know this piece will most likely be a small counterbalance, but I think it’s been a long time coming and if it helps even one artist avoid this major pitfall on their path, it will have been worth it. Save your money and don’t take the easy way out. Promote yourself personally. Work with people. Talk to people. There are no short cuts, unfortunately, but each step of the way can be fun if you pay attention closely.

Important note: This article is written merely to reveal the straight truth about a recent test I performed. You may have had a different experience, but I do doubt that. 

Reader Comments (4)

Great post, James.
As I was spontaneously releasing my first album a while back with no planning and no strategy whatsoever (my first mistake), I found myself constantly on the lookout for a "golden ticket". You know, that "too good to be true" opportunity that would break the mold and prove the old adage wrong.
I've since gone on record saying that I never wanted to be associated with their name in print ever again, but I feel an obligation to share my experience with Beatwire out of principle alone.

In all fairness, as you said, they promise to send your info/press release/artist news out to a good handful of email inboxes in the music industry. And can I say that they didn't do that? Not necessarily...
What I can say is that the "out of office" replies that I started getting immediately were a painful confirmation of the doubts that I had when I decided to make the payment and hit 'confirm'. Not because of what they were, but because I could see who they were coming from.

A music distribution warehouse assistant manager in Germany who would have no interest or business with my press release in the first place, an intern with an American electronics chain who would have no way to do anything with my music even if he did like it..
The majority of the out of office replies were in a language other than English, and the ones that were couldn't have been less relevant to me and what I was trying to accomplish by paying Beatwire $150 to send it to them.

The only good thing I can say about it, is that now I know better. I'm glad I do, even if I had to learn the hard way that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I'll be happy if sharing my experience helps other artists learn this lesson the 'easy' way.

- Mike @TheHighCell

You make some good points although, as an indie artist pursuing the DIY promotion route how do you know if you are "good enough"? I think that most people feel that they are, or why be in the business. I have seen more than on band with nothing more than a demo who were amazing and one or two who went direct from that point to a record deal and unfortunately in at least one case who were never able to recapture what they had made happen in that demo.

That said, the web allows access to a world audience that never existed before and used wisely this access can build an audience or show you that maybe you need some more work. It also allows anyone else the same access and creates competition for market share that never existed before so it is a two edged sword.

I agree that there are services out there (many of them) who make no judgement on the worth of what you do, they just provide the service as a tool. Not many hardware stores ask if you are competent to use the tools they sell, if you cut your finger off with the fancy table saw you bought that is your own problem.

For most people one of the free press release sites out there can be just as effective as a paid release in that the end result of both will probably be mentions on a few blogs that post automated RSS feeds from said press services. The upside is that it gives you a few more links back to your site and as long as its free, no damage done.

I have been on the receiving end of press release service feeds too and there is such a deluge of material coming through every day that it is next to impossible to pick much out to actually look at. So I agree that the paid services look better than the likely result you will get. I suppose that the conclusion is that, while their is a lot you can do by yourself, when you want professional results, hire a pro.

March 7 | Unregistered CommenterMike Johnston

Excellent article, James, and oh, so true. Every CD review I ever had in PEOPLE---I procured myself. And my inbox is STUFFED on a daily basis with pitches from companies/distributors/music sites like TAXI that would just salivate to have me type in my AMEX number............so, I plod on...play...write....smile....and have faith. Thank you for this. hh

March 7 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Hudson

James, the points you make are exactly what I have been thinking for years. There are tons of press release distributors out there that seem to achieve nothing but annoy the unfortunate people that ended up on their contact list.
A smaller contact list that is curated with personal attention will go much further. Thanks again for being an ideal model to follow in the music marketing field.

March 14 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Profeta

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