Music Curators, Bloggers And Their Dirty Little Secrets
Picture this, you are a young aspiring artist and you’ve just gotten your song back from mastering. Now, it’s time to unleash your music to the world so millions can hear it and be dazzled by it.
You upload your tune on Spotify and Apple Music through TuneCore, CD Baby or some other aggregator.
There’s only one problem.
Nobody knows it’s there.
Weeks go by and you aren’t hitting that magical 1000-listens barrier.
You keep checking Spotify For Artists every day, maybe the needle has moved on your release after all. Only it hasn’t and ultimately, you come to the conclusion that you need someone to discover your music and then hopefully, rave on about it so people will listen.
This is when you most likely cross paths with music curators and bloggers. You realize that the virtual world houses a plethora of our kind and you can’t wait for us to hear your music. Surely, we will be fighting over who gets to write about your tunes first.
How many of you reading this know what happens next? Answer:
Most likely nothing.
Months go by and nobody even bothers to get back to you. If you are lucky (and genuinely very, very good) a few bloggers will repost your track on Soundcloud or share it on their social channels. Perhaps somebody even gives you a short write-up!
You could also be added on a Spotify playlist of 700 tracks, lucky enough to get a dozen listens or so. Your eyes glaze over and you realize that in terms of exposure, the competition is bloody and the pickings are slim.
I thought it might.
Welcome to the modern music biz, where artists are a dime a dozen and music curators and bloggers are gods…well, at least demigods…okay, we are important people…fine, people who love music and write about it.
But seriously, why is it so hard to hear back from us and nearly next to impossible to get any feedback
Dirty Secret #1
Well, one main reason is that we are incredibly busy. Our inboxes and submission pages are crammed with tracks and the first one of our dirty little secrets is that we will probably never get through all the submissions, at least not in this lifetime. There are way more artists than there are bloggers and music curators. Even if we wanted to, we just wouldn’t have the time or the resources to accommodate everyone.
Trust me on this.
It’s now November and I can honestly say that I’m listening to songs that were submitted to me in May.
And more are coming in every day.
On its best day, Music To Celebrate Life has received 70 submissions and this is a tiny blog just beginning to pick up steam. I can’t even imagine how many daily submissions larger and trendier blogs receive.
My guess is that the number is in the hundreds.
And what about the songs that we do have time to listen?
Well, the acceptance percentage varies but mostly, it’s between five and ten percent.
Don’t believe me?
All you need to do is check the blog statistics in SubmitHub and you will be convinced of this rather grim reality.
Just out of curiosity, I calculated my acceptance percentage.
It’s roughly nine percent.
I was amazed.
Am I really declining so many tracks?
It seems I’m always writing posts, always promoting some artist or track – I mean just nine percent!
I double-checked the numbers and much to my disappointment, I had done my math right. This means that roughly 90 percent of all submissions are turned down by me or a fellow blogger somewhere in the world. That’s a whopping large number when you think about it.
Is it because these tunes are substandard or bad?
Not necessarily, although some of them are. During the two years I’ve been a music blogger, I’ve listened to some pretty weird stuff – some of it so bad it’s hilarious. However, here’s where things get a bit tricky.
Dirty Secret #2
You’ve got to keep in mind that not every blogger or music curator is an accomplished musician, so sometimes an incredibly cool track is declined and other times a multitude of sins get overlooked and a performance that should have never seen the light of day receives the coveted artist-spotlight feature or track-of-the-month post.
Sorry, it’s just the way it is.
And don’t get me wrong, I understand the frustration.
It’s one thing to be turned down by a professional musician with a few hits under his or her belt, who will tell you in detail why they think your song didn’t cut the mustard; quite another when clearly a musically illiterate blogger sends you feedback saying,
“the vocals were out of tune”
“the guitar solo seemed off beat,”
when you know he or she is dead wrong.
Be that as it may, most musicians struggling in the “blog hell” will receive both types of feedback and everything in between.
Bloggers and music curators might hold the keys to the kingdom but at the end of the day, we are just people regardless of our god-like position of deciding who gets coverage and who doesn’t.
Again, another dirty little secret unveiled, personal tastes differ, as does the level of our musical expertise.
Be that as it may, most musicians struggling in the “blog hell” will receive both types of feedback and everything in between. Bloggers and music curators might hold the keys to the kingdom but at the end of the day, we are just people regardless of our god-like position of deciding who gets coverage and who doesn’t. Again, another dirty little secret unveiled, personal tastes differ, as does the level of our musical expertise.
Dirty Secret #3
Does this mean that if you find a musically savvy blogger or music curator and your stuff is excellent that you’ve got it made?
Well, here’s a third dirty little secret, even old professionals like myself have chosen a theme for their blog and playlist, something that ties it all together and assures that we don’t end up with playlists that sound like a an album that was recorded at the height of flower power and psychedelia some fifty years ago.
This fact actually bothers me a bit because I end up turning down quite a few brilliant submissions based on the fact that they are not good fits for what my blog stands for lyrically or musically.
My blog, Music To Celebrate Life, is about meaningful lyrics and tuneful melodies (indie pop/rock, alternative pop/rock and folk mostly) but that’s obviously not the only type of music I like. It’s just that it’s easier to do quality/intriguing write-ups when you deal with tracks that have lyrical depth and artists who have thought out each and every word they sing.
However, let’s not blame the difficulty of getting coverage on the pickiness and busyness of music curators and bloggers solely. The fact remains that it has always been tough to get exposure, and save a few one-hit wonders, the road to success has never been particularly short. Many famous artists have had to fight tooth and nail for their success and have as a result, suffered through many a desperate moment, of which there are many famous stories.
One such story is immortalized in the liner notes of the bonus-track edition of The Smithereens’ Especially For You, where Dennis Diken, the drummer and co-founder of the group, takes a walk down memory lane and reflects on a telephone conversation he had with Pat DiNizio in the summer of 1985.
I recall a desperate phone call from Pat that summer. And I paraphrase: ”Den, I don’t know what to do anymore. We’ve got these fabulous tracks and everyone is turning us down. I don’t want to go back to being a garbage man. I really don’t.” Fortunately that talk was soon nothing but trash.
So, to say that getting a band off the ground is more like a marathon than it is a hundred-meter race is probably a vey accurate comparison. Point being, don’t give up even if you are not getting the exposure you think you deserve. It’ll come at some point if you are good enough.
Additionally, also remember that we live in a world, where a group like The Smithereens remained only marginally popular, while some half-naked male and female artists danced their way into the hearts and minds of record buyers and sold billions of albums that had very little artistic depth.
Expecting fairness in such a setting is a bit naive.
There has always been very little room for music in the music business as far as mass media and large record labels are concerned, and I doubt that will ever change. The great thing about bloggers and music curators is that they are, for the most part at least, independent. This means that if they so choose, they are still able to go for the artistic end of things. You might not always agree on their choices but at the end of the day, most of them are running their blogs on their free time. They’re not in it to make money but to promote artists and music they believe in, which is something you definitely cannot say whole-heartedly about the music industry at large.
To best explain what music curators and bloggers are about and why they are doing what they are doing, I will leave you with something that Andrew McCluskey, the CEO of Music to, says on our webpages while describing an ideal candidate for our community:
Music is probably the biggest thing in your life.
Oh sure, you have family — parents, siblings, spouses, you might have close friends, a job, studies — all those things that make up a life but deep down you know that ultimately, all those things could come and go whereas music, well — music’s been with you forever, it’ll never leave you and will never let you down.
Sounds like a pretty cool hobby, doesn’t it…perhaps, more than a hobby…a way of life.
Before closing I have one request, when you get frustrated with us, please overlook our dirty little secrets. After all, we’re here because we love music with all our heart…just like you.
If you’d like to learn more about curating a playlist with musicto, we’ve written a couple of pages that break down exactly what we’re looking for and what it takes. Curious? Come and check us out:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tommi Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in. To him, they are a way of life.
You can check out his current band The Impersonators here:
And the music of his previous group Carmen Gray here: Spotify