Running an independent music review site over the past year has shown me that, while the Net allows some of the most amazing music to be heard, its over-saturation causes just as much to be overlooked. That, of course, is where the almighty reviewer steps in to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff.
Much of your ability to be featured on music blogs comes from the inherent quality of your music. If it’s poorly arranged, composed, performed or produced, there’s a pretty good chance that reviewers will move on before bothering to further research your brand.
But even high quality music can be overlooked, which, more often than not, has everything to do with first impressions. From the point that a submission email enters their overflowing inbox, reviewers want to minimize the roadblocks necessary to developing an objective (and hopefully good) opinion of your music. Not approaching submissions with this in mind will guarantee their failure to pique interest.
Here are five sure-fire ways to make reviewers trash your submissions:
1. Don’t research which genres the blog normally covers. This concerns not only genres they list on their about page, but also taking the time to listen to what they’ve featured in the past. Genres are quite subjective - what one site dubs “folk-tronica” might not considered the same by another. Does this mean you have to invest tons of time in their respective communities, listening to everything? Hell. No. But the best way to figure out if you’re a good fit is to listen to a smattering of the music they’ve featured.
The idea of developing our free Best of Bandcamp’s Best compilation stemmed from this phenomenon, as it gives a good indication of what types of music we focus on.
2. Never provide a free/private download link. Free streaming is all well and good, but my day job requires that I’m all over the place (i.e., not connected to the Internet).
I listen in many different environments, so the more versatile the music formats, the faster I can wrap my head around it. Bandcamp currently allows for 200 free downloads per month, which should be more than enough for most bands.
3. Don’t bother showing off your writing skillz. You’re a musician, right? Let the music speak for itself! WRONG. Reviewers, such as myself, are a bunch of detail-oriented nerds with OCD, so your ability to compose descriptive sentences with proper punctuation is inexplicably important to us.
I can’t count the number of submissions that have condemned themselves to recycling-bin-purgatory by describing themselves with such eloquent terms as “unique” and “interesting”. Barf.
4. Make the reviewer hunt for a reason to care. Reviewers are not machines - they don’t listen and magically spit out a number that sums up your music on a one to ten scale.
Take the time to write up a concise bio, or even a simple story that tells us what was going through your head while making the music. Craft something that simply makes us want to listen. And no, it doesn’t have to be part of a full-fledged, professional-looking press kit (I’d actually prefer it weren’t).
5. Focus on yourself. The Internet is a large series of interconnections all trying to do the same thing you are: get noticed. You want your music featured so that listeners flock to your site and shows in droves, and we get that.
We want to be that point of entrance, and without your music, we’d have nothing to write about. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, but from my experience, a few extra steps can take it to a higher level. Something as easy as follow-up and thank-you emails can do wonders for these relationships.
Other bonuses, such as exclusive discount codes or a limited set of promotional downloads for the blog you’re featured on can bring in more readers, and ultimately, more listeners. And yes, this is all possible for little to no monetary investment on your part.
Exceptions to these guidelines exist, but the best way to minimize the chances of hearing the lonely sound of silence is to tackle them upfront. Avoiding number five and focusing on how the target site operates will not only increase your chances of being featured, but will score some serious brownie points and up your chances that you’ll have a feature with your next release.
Mark Dowdell runs the music filtration site Bandcamp’s Best, which provides concise reviews of the best albums hosted on Bandcamp. Mark is also a not-so-successful, but vigoroulsy adamant independent electronic musician. You can find him on Facebook & Twitter.
Photo by RevDanCatt