I’ve been using Submithub to handle all the HI54 music submissions since mid-February 2018, and in that time I’ve received almost TWENTY THOUSAND submissions (19,972 submissions and counting as of the afternoon of May 16th, for anyone counting). Twenty. Thousand. Submissions. No matter how you slice it, that’s A LOT of people asking me to listen / review / share / consider their music.
But, if one were to slice it, the most logical cut would be between the two Submithub submissions types: Standard Submissions (aka: FREE submissions) and Premium Submissions (aka: I get 50¢ as long as I complete the extra listening/feedback requirements within 48hrs if declining the track OR I only get the 50¢ after I share a link with the submitter to where/how I have shared their approved track) — and that split has been pretty close to 50/50 (aka: 10k /10k ).
My overall approval rating across all submission types has consistently been around the 7% mark — which I suppose is the polite way of saying I decline about 93% of the submissions I get sent. And that sounds like a lot of rejection for one guy with a blog to be dishing out—and it is, given the scale of what I’ve been sent—but it also works out to me approving / sharing over 1400 songs from Submithub into the internetverse (1000 from Premium Submissions, 400 from Standard Submissions) and one could argue that’s a lot of acceptance for one guy with a blog to be dishing out too.
I guess the cup runneth 93% empty or 7% full, depending on how you look at things/life.
For those who have not already done the math in their heads, the above numbers crunch out to me making about $5,000 US dollars on Submithub in my first 15 months. That further maths out to me earning about $333/month — a figure that is both a drastic improvement when compared to the previous $0/month my blog used to make prior to Submithub, and a little depressing when compared to the amount one could make in a month if one were to do something more lucrative, like, say, work a part-time minimum wage job instead. But that’s the thing about having a blog—and really, the thing about doing anything creative—financials are never the reason one gets into it and they definitely are not the reason one keeps going year after year (in fact, it’s usually the ignoring of finances that helps one stay on course).
What people get wrong about Submithub (and music blogs / bloggers in general)
I mention all of the above to hopefully provide a bit of transparent, real-world context to a lot of the misconceptions people have about Submithub and, in a roundabout way, what people get wrong about what it’s like to actually keep a music blog going.
Because one thing that is quick to come up when searching “Submithub” on the internetz is a bunch of folks calling the site a scam and the blogs who use it a bunch of money grubbing leeches. Sometimes they use different phrasing, but often times that’s pretty close to verbatim. For example, here is a recent article published on Music Think Tank objectively titled ‘Submithub - A Scam’ (hence the working title for this blog post); and here’s a snapshot of some of the bitterness out on the Twitterverse.
In that MTT article, the author makes a specific mention of some blogger “boasting” about making $450 in one month on Submithub. And since I am the aforementioned ‘boasting blogger’ (here’s the link to my ‘boasting’ blog post since the author didn’t include one), and since making $450 in one month is nothing to boast about (averaging out at $333/month being even less to boast about), and since it is always a bit disheartening to know that there are people out there indirectly throwing misguided shade in your blog’s general direction, I figured it was time to write a(nother) blahg post that attempts to bring a little reality & logic into the often one-sided public venting about Submithub.
So… here is 5 things to consider for anyone wondering whether Submithub is a scam or not
(spoiler: the answer is “not” for those who hate reading)
Thing #1 -When you send a blog a music submission, you are literally asking another human being to spend some of their time / energy on YOU. And since there are thousands of others just like you doing the exact same thing, 24/7/365, the scale at which a blogger’s time is being asked to “check this music out” has become completely unmanageable. Which is why so many email submissions continue to sit unopened / get deleted without a reply; the old email system is broke and it was ironically broken by too many emails.
And you might think that it should only take a few minutes for a blogger to properly read / listen / reply to YOUR submission—“so what’s the big deal?”— but that is also what every other artist / pr / label thinks. And the “so what’s the big deal?” math quickly adds up to a workload that is completely unrealistic, if not a little bit cruel, to just expect someone to deal with all day, err day for free, just because that person had the audacity to create something to try and tell other people about stuff they think is great. Sure, it all starts innocently enough, but eventually the innocence gets lost (especially once your email address gets out there).
All Submithub has done is acknowledge how out of control blog submissions have become and create a streamlined system where a small financial incentive can be earned by blogs to actually listen & reply to all those previously ignored stacks of unsolicited submissions (for those unfamiliar, here’s more info on how Submithub works). And the need for the site was created by people becoming disconnected from the real life humans on the other end of all those bulk emails asking for “just a few moments of your time” by the hundreds/thousands.
The people that are most mad about Premium submissions existing on Submithub seem to really just be mad that someone said, “hey, maybe it isn’t cool to continue expecting a blogger to just owe their time to anyone/everyone who happens to ask for it” — and those same people really don’t like having this pointed out, because they like to think their hate for Submithub is coming from a more pure place, a position of standing up against another greedy entity trying to nickel and dime struggling artists, instead of acknowledging how dysfunctional and burdensome all the bulk email asks have come to be for those on the receiving end (and their active participation in that dysfunction/burden).
I get the annoyance of a new cost emerging for something that didn’t cost artists before—and we don’t even need to get into the fact that there is already an existing industry called PR that charges artists money for trying to get their music heard, and which most people seem to be pretty ok with existing—but the reality is that all those free-to-send submission emails actually have a cost to those people receiving / expected to deal with them by the hundreds every week.
And for those of you feeling a burning ball of “well, it’s still not right for a struggling artist to have to pay some no-name blogger to check out their music, even if it’s an unsolicited request of time from one stranger to another, and even if it is happening on a scale that is completely unsustainable…” building up in your throat, take a deep breath and, when you’re ready, check out the next item on the list.
Thing #2 - You can send FREE submissions on Submithub. This tends to be every Submithub haters favourite fact to ignore. I guess that’s because everything about the theory that Submithub exists to scam artists out of money and line bloggers pockets with coins kinda crumbles if one remembers that you can send submissions for free if you want. Frustrating, right?
Usually when you remind someone that they can send submissions for free, their counter-argument is to point out how it’s not fair that the Standard submissions don’t come with the same listening / feedback requirements that the Premium Submissions come with — which is a little bit like pointing out how it’s not fair that the free hamburger doesn’t come with the cheese that the $1 cheeseburger comes with. Like, you can get the burger for free, or you can pay $1 to get the cheeseburger… but you don’t get to complain that some people are fine with paying for a cheeseburger and all you’re stuck with is the free non-cheese burger.
Or, I suppose you can complain (and boy some people do), but just know that now your complaints are starting to reveal themselves more as the bitterness that comes with getting your music rejected and not so much about how it’s not fair that there aren’t free burgers anymore, because there are totally free burgers (sorry, I think I may have gotten too far into this burger metaphor that I’ve lost track of what we are actually talking about — also, I’m a little bit high and it’s a little bit past lunch).
Thing #3 - Submithub is not Payola. When someone chooses Premium submissions, all they are paying for is a guaranteed minimum listening time and, if they did not choose the higher 90 second minimum listen and if their song is not approved for sharing on that blog’s platform, some written confirmation on why their track was declined—and they get all that within a 48hr window, or else their credit is refunded. That’s it, that’s the whole totally transparent transaction. There is absolutely no extra incentive to accept a Premium submission and blog about it — I either get 50¢ for meeting the listening/feedback requirements for a song I decline or I get the 50¢ after sharing a track that I liked enough to blog about it. Accept or decline, it’s 50¢ either way. And that is clearly not payola.
I think people often throw the “payola” phrase out there because there is a higher approval rating for Premium submissions than Standard submissions, so their interpretation of the data + a misunderstanding of what “payola” really means = a direct correlation for confirming their payola theory.
But the truth is, there is just a lot more lower quality submissions in the free / Standard submission category, hence there is a much lower approval %. It’s that simple. And the reason people don’t listen as long or usually don’t give any feedback on the free / Standard submissions is because those extra perks only come with the Premium submissions. Not to beat a bad metaphor into the ground, but… if you didn’t order the cheeseburger it makes sense that you didn’t get any cheese on your free burger, right?
Besides Submithub’s business model clearly not being payola, there is actually a very hardline and frequently communicated zero tolerance to blogs using any practice that resembles actual payola outside of Submithub. Any blog caught charging money for posts/promotion on their own site or using one of those other submission sites that actually do charge fees for writing content, those blogs get kicked off of Submithub.
So, besides not being payola itself, Submithub is actually aggressively anti-payola in how it is run.
Thing #4 - Music taste is super subjective. We all like different stuff and we all like different stuff for different reasons. We all know this to be true because we have all not liked something that other people loved, and we’ve all loved something that other people didn’t like. And sometimes there is no good explanation as to why you like or don’t like something, you just do (or don’t). Unfortunately, most of us tend to forget this truth when it comes to getting contradicting declines from different people about our own art.
“How could one blog say ‘the vocals are too loud’ when another blog says ‘the vocals weren’t loud enough’? Obviously these bloggers are just robots copy/pasting feedback & no real humans are actually listening to the music!” they’ll tweet, completely forgetting about that time when their mother said the salsa was too spicy while their father said it wasn’t spicy enough.
It’s also important to remember that a music submission is really just asking someone if they like your music enough to go blog about it / tell other people about it — so the majority of the time a decline doesn’t mean they hate it or think you suck, they just don’t like your song on the level where they feel passionate enough to go publicly put their blogs ‘stamp of approval’ on it. And trying to uniquely communicate this to the 1000th artist for the 1000th time is bound to get repetitive or occasionally non-sensical.
And since we’re being honest with ourselves here, getting a bunch of declines right now probably just means, if you keep working at things, in a couple years even you’ll look back at what you were creating at this time and realize that you weren’t as good as what you became. Because that’s how this stuff works; we’re all at different stages of sucking less / getting better, and odds are decent that you’re competing against someone else who is a little further along that path than you are right now.
So, if a blog approves your song on Submithub, awesome; if they decline your song, bummer + it doesn’t really matter what else they have to say, because music taste is subjective so maybe that person is just the wrong style of ears for what you’re putting out there. I’m sure plenty of folks out there rejected Mac Demarco back in the day and the reason they gave was that his music sounded like the guitar was out-of-tune and being recorded underwater, but he probably just brushed that off as a subjective opinion and kept on trucking with what felt right to his ears & eventually he found his lobsters.
So if/when the rejections start piling up on Submithub, just try to remind yourself of all the stuff other people have created that you don’t like yourself. Notice how there isn’t any ill-will in your disinterest of, say, your neighbour’s poetry slam, it’s just not your cup of tea — or at least not on the level where you feel comfortable vouching for the upcoming event to all your friends. And that’s ok.
We all like different things for different reasons, and it’s probably not all that helpful to anyone to try and go into specific detail about why.
Thing #5 - Submithub is not some non-stop gravy train of easy money for bloggers to come cash in on. A blog can only earn money for the Premium submissions that someone has specifically chosen to send to that particular blog. If you’ve only got 5 Premium submissions in your queue today, that means the most money you can make is $2.50. If you’ve got no Premium submissions in your queue, you earn nothing. There isn’t just some 50¢ tap that you can go turn on and let run all day whenever you want.
Despite people writing articles theorizing “what exactly is stopping someone from making a fake blog, buying thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, setting themselves up on SubmitHub, and waiting for the money to start rolling in?” the truth is that that is really stupid fucking theory. But by all means, start a music blog, buy fake followers, and come see how much time/effort goes into earning less than minimum wage for dealing with the finite amount of submissions your fake blog can draw on a week by week basis.
Don’t get me wrong, earning some money for some submissions is a massive improvement when compared to previously earning no money for all submissions, and this paradigm shift has really helped me develop a more realistic outlook on the time that goes into running a blog as an adult human with other more pressing adult responsibilities, but the main reason I continue to use Submithub, and why I feel the need to write a long ass blog post defending the merit of the site, is because of the overall super efficient system created for dealing with submissions and keeping my music blog tasks organized and in one place. That’s why I also accept & listen to the free / Standard submissions — because the money, and the amount of work that goes into earning that money on Submithub, is not near enough of a reason to still be using the service 15 months later.
In fact, Submithub is so much more of a useful blogging tool than it is a viable money making option that I—and a lot of other blogs on there—take advantage of the built-in ‘Weekend Mode’ feature which actually lets blogs restrict people from sending any submissions on certain days (for example, I only accept submissions from Monday - Thursday). Being able to create this cut-off point to how many “hey, check my song out” requests I have to deal with each week has probably been the most valuable Submithub feature, as it’s meant I actually have more time/energy for listening to music organically on my own (ie. going through my Bandcamp Music Feed, or checking out a playlist from a fellow blogger, or clicking an album link in my social feed, or just re-listening to music I know I already like, et cetera etc). And since any emails submissions I receive now get sent a canned response redirecting them to Submithub, for the first time in my blahg life I’ve been able to stay close to Inbox Zero and the calming feeling that comes with it.
Which probably sounds crazy to those conspiracists out there who’d think us money-grubbing bottom-feeder bloggers would want to just keep that 50¢ Submithub gravy train turned on 7 days a week… but it turns out that it doesn’t work that way + even if it did, there is a lot more to running a music blog than just listening to music submissions all day, every day.
Turns out there’s a lot more to life too (hashtag bloggers are people too).
Ok, that list ended being a lot more words than I was planning for. Apologies.
The overall point here is that Submithub is not a scam. For artists, it’s a simple tool for actually getting your music heard and actually getting confirmation that your music was listened to. For blogs, it’s a necessary tool for dealing with the out-of-control reality of how many people are making music (and therefore, asking blogs to consider their music). Whatever comes after getting your music heard on Submithub, whether it’s a decline or an approval, that’s a whole other conversation.
For example, a point people often like to scoff about is how little value there is in even getting a blog to share your music because who cares about blogs anymore — and that’s a fine enough point to make as long as you are not also still sending your music to a bunch of blogs “just in case” because you never know what the chain reaction of getting coverage from even a small blog might lead to. You don’t get to do both.
Likewise, I’m 100% in agreement that whether some guy like me likes a song or not doesn’t matter because who cares what the opinion of some guy like me is — but if you send someone your music asking for their opinion, you don’t get to fall back on this position just because they say they didn’t like it enough to share it on their stupid blog. The answer to a “well, who asked you anyways?!” outburst should never be able to be traced back to a “you literally just asked me” answer.
And I totally hear you on how much it sucks that people don’t buy music like they used to, but that is a broader conversation that needs to be directed at listeners / fans / the general public in general, and it’s really not fair to use it as a reason to continue not considering how much unpaid work is being spammed into the inboxes of the so-called allies actively trying to get people supporting more music. I’m not saying you have to change your approach to music promotion, but at least consider what it looks like on the other side before angrily shaking your fist at all those who don’t return your emails.
Submithub may not be THE answer, but it sure feels like a part of a solution.
And since I’ve internet argued with people about Submithub enough by now to know the circular nature those arguments take, I feel like it’s important to remind anyone about to leave an angry comment below, or for anyone feeling the urge to go rant somewhere else online about how Submithub is still a scam and any blogger who uses it is a cancer to the DIY music industry, don’t forget:
YOU CAN SEND FREE SUBMISSIONS ON SUBMITHUB
And on that note, if you’ve made it all the way down here and you’d like to send me your music for consideration, my Submithub queue is currently open from Monday to Thursday at noon (Mountain Time)…
…and I listen to everything I am sent, whether that be Standard or Premium submissions (here are some of the ways my stupid blog shares the music I like).
And I totally understand if you don’t want to use Submithub, and in return I hope you’ll also understand why I don’t deal with submissions via email or dm’s anymore. The reality is I can’t listen to everything anyways & being directly sent music isn’t the only way to discover music, so hopefully whatever is a good fit for my ears that doesn’t end up in my Submithub queue will find it’s way into my headphones some other way.
The good stuff usually does…
And if it doesn’t, it sounds like we’re all going to be dead from climate change in 12 years anyways, so…