The tip to check out SubmitHub came in after a blogger-to-blogger-to-radio/label dude-to-blogger group email chain had ventured into the murky waters of discussing how little sense/cents it made to keep a music blog up and running.
You see, when a blogger gets reckless enough to take a minute to stop naively ignoring how close to $0 the yearly incomings are, and especially if one factors in all the literal outgoing costs (web hosting, domains, monthly services/subscriptions, apps, albums, coffee/writing juice, etc) PLUS the huge amount of unpaid time that goes into running said blog—time that could be re-allocated towards actual jobs that earn actual money, not that anyone needs to point that out MOM—things can get real real, real fast.
I guess that's why bloggers tend to block out the stressed accountant in our head by keeping the headphones on tight and the volume turned high. Avoidance may not be the best way to deal with things, but it is a way.
Anyways… it was during one of those shared moments of blogger depression confessions that a glimmer of light was introduced into the darkness:
"Have y'all ever heard of SubmitHub? It isn't much, but I usually make a few hundred dollars every month fielding music submissions on there…"
I believe the replies to the above revelation was a collective "you had me at a few hundred dollars every month".
I start this SubmitHub review off with that story because it's a tale that is not often told within the music industry echo chamber: Most people that run independent music blogs are actual normal people that live actual normal lives with all the same actual normal living expenses and actual worries that everyone else has. And they just so happen to also like music a lot.
And you might say "no duh" to the above statement, but there are plenty of entitled examples out on the internet of people completely duh-mping all over the poor overstretched music blogger, as if they're all a bunch of grossly unnecessary bottom-feeders that provide no value to the musical ecosystem (especially if the music blogger doesn't write about / share their music).
But here's the reality: Most independent music blogs make ZERO money from the countless hours they put into blogging. In fact, as if making no money wasn't bad enough, almost all of them actually LOSE money.
Enter Submithub, Stage Right
By creating a system where music bloggers can actually get paid for some of their music blogging tasks, earning a little money to pay for their costs + maybe a little bit extra to put towards their staying alive expenses, SubmitHub has the very real potential to be a much needed game changer to the music blogging world.
For a very real example of how: I earned $450 US DOLLARS in my first month of using SubmitHub (only worth noting the US DOLLARS bit because I live in Canada and get to be on the right side of a currency exchange for once). That is 450 more dollars than I have ever earned from my music blog before—which is, like, a 450% increase or something. Here's some actual stats to get a sense of my first month on SubmitHub…
So how did I earn that money?
Well, I earned it by simply doing that thing every music blogger that's been at the game awhile has long since grown to dread - I've been listening to AND replying to the daily barrage of music submissions that get sent my way (over 2000 submissions in my first month on Submithub).
Here's the simple breakdown of how things work:
In a nutshell, artists/pr/label people choose the blogs that they want to submit their music to and they can do so as either a Premium submission (paid) or a Standard submission (free).
Important Note: A blog can only earn as much as is submitted to their blog, so it's not like there is this unlimited gravy train to hop on board; if no one sends anything to your blog, there's no money to be made. Which, it should also be noted, makes perfect sense that it would work that way.
PS - My post is about how SubmitHub works from a music blog's perspective (because I am music blog). For more details on how things work from an artists perspective, here are some detailed reviews from two different 'working musician' blogs: ARI'S TAKE and PASSIVE PROMOTION (for what it's worth, I prefer the Passive Promotion breakdown, as it is noticeably more level-headed).
Premium submissions automatically get bumped to the front of a bloggers submission queue + the agreement is that a blogger has to listen and respond to a Premium submission within 48hours in order to get paid the 50¢ a blogger gets paid for every Premium submission they listen/respond to.
As the blogger, if I don't like a Premium submission enough to feature on my site (which happens a lot, but also happened a lot with email submissions) I have to write a short explanation as to why I didn't like the song (which is something that didn’t happen a lot with email submissions). Copy & pasting replies is prohibited, so even though you do end up saying similar things often, you have to type all the replies out by finger. You also have to listen to at least 20 seconds of the song before you can pass any judgement (update: there is now also a ‘have to listen to at least 90 seconds, but don’t have to leave feedback’ Premium submission option).
Once you've met the listening/feedback requirements of a Premium submission, you can officially decline a song—which will remove the tune from your queue, bank your 50¢ and automatically have the next song in line start playing. It's that simple.
I've personally found that I listen to at least a minute or two of each Premium submission, if not the whole thing, by the time I've officially made up my mind. I've even had a couple times where my initial gut reaction to a song was "nah", but after having to actually write a reason why I was saying "nah" I realized that I maybe kinda liked the song enough to find a home for it in one of my playlists. But, more often than not, the reaction in the first 30 seconds often holds true.
If I like what I'm listening to, I have to commit to sharing the track with my audience in some way, and there are a few different check boxes to communicate how/when it will be shared (as a blog post, in a playlist, this week, later, etc). This starts a dialogue with the artist and moves the track to your Approved folder, where you can find it later when you are confirming that the song has been officially posted (a link to how/where you shared the song also needs to be sent to the submitter in order to close the loop).
Only after all those steps are completed can you official 'approve' a song and bank the 50¢ for it.
As you can see, it is 50¢ for the blog whether they like or dislike a track—which means that the artist/pr/label is mostly just paying for the guarantee that someone will listen and respond in some way to their music. Which, if you've ever seen the inside of music bloggers gmail inbox or had zero replies to your pr campaign, this is a pretty big problem for SubmitHub to be providing such an effective solution for.
Frustratingly, it's not always clear how well this fact is being communicated on the submitters end, as there is definitely a lot of signs on the blog side of things that implies submitters might be expecting way too thorough of feedback and/or guaranteed write-ups on blogs for their credits.
I've definitely had a few snapbacks with SubmitHub when I was sent semi-automated emails implying how my habit of only putting a song I liked in a Spotify playlist would be frustrating for artists, or how my similar sounding 'trying to be nice' rejections should be more specific with details on exactly why I didn't like a song (even though there is a Twitter account dedicated to the laughably bad/mean results that happen when you make bloggers get specific about subjective things, 100s of times per month—something I feel generates more bad blood between Artist-SubmitHub-Blog than it does any good).
This was especially irking because I was getting contradictory signals from most of the artists I was communicating with on SubmitHub, not to mention it running counter to how I think about music blogging (ie. adding a song to a Spotify playlist may be the first interaction, but it really is just the start of putting an artist past a bloggers firewall and from that point there can be Q&A's + other mixes + retweets +et cetera — and that sort of stuff is hard to capture with pre-determined check boxes).
Hopefully this is just a communication wrinkle that gets ironed out as SubmitHub figures their identity out—an identity that I hope leans more towards 'revolutionary tool for the music blog ecosystem' and not 'vending machine for getting song feedback'. Because the reality is, you can only get someone to do so much for 50¢ out in the real world. Most people would tell you to kick rocks if you offered them 2 quarters to go do something. I know sometimes ‘money for time’ works differently on the URL’s, but we’re also all out here trying to survive our IRL’s too.
The jury may still be out on how big a piece of the music industry pie independent music bloggers deserve to share amongst themselves, but the fact that I was sent 900 Premium submissions to check out in my first month on SubmitHub, that should give you an idea of the messy slog a music blog is asked to sort through on the regular.
And that was just my Premium submissions. I was also sent a further 1100 Standard submissions that first month. That's over 2000 songs HIGH FIVE FOR was sent to check out in one month (not including my email inbox). And my blog isn't even that popular. Doing that via email is literally unsustainable.
A blogger doesn't earn anything for the Standard submissions on Submithub—and an option does exist to turn Standard's off, which some blogs do—but since I can listen to Standard submissions whenever I get around to them and I don't have to give a reason for why I pass on a song, I like to keep the option open. I do this partly because you never know where the good songs are at, and I've definitely unearthed a few gems in the Standards, but I mostly do this because of the other major reason that SubmitHub is an amazing tool for music bloggers:
The System for fielding Music submissions Is Infinitely better than Doing it By email.
Besides the obvious fact that a blog can earn real money that can than be used to buy real sandwiches, SubmitHub has setup a super smooth and efficient and well-thought out site. There's no opening emails and digging through PR ramblings to find a link that you can listen to anymore. Every track you get sent is queued up in a playlist and you just press play and go from one song to the next, only really stopping to learn more when something catches your ear—which feels a lot closer to how dealing with music submissions should be (especially when compared to finding 50 new emails in your Gmail every morning).
When you like a track on Submithub, it gets saved in your Approved folder and a chat is started up with the submitter (I also include a link to this info for my blahg). When you're not sure about a track, you can put it in your Maybe folder and come back later (you can even add a note on the track for when you come back to it). When you pass on a track, it gets put into your Declined folder and the submitter is notified that their track has been listened to and a decision made. Simples. And obviously built by a blogger.
The whole thing really is a pleasure to use and frees up more time / energy to put towards things like actually updating your blog. Hence the existence of this new blog post.
Even if SubmitHub wasn't providing music bloggers with a humble way to earn a few coins, it would still be a site worth exploring as your blog's new method for fielding submissions—the system is just that smooth of an improvement. The fact that you can earn a few dollars using it just makes SubmitHub that much more of a vital tool to have in your music blogger belt (good news… you'll soon be able to afford a belt!).
I mean, if it wasn't for SubmitHub providing the right combination of incentive and convenience, I would still be operating this blog at a total loss and there is no way in hell that I'd ever have given 2000 email submissions a fair shake of the stick in a single month. That's '2 birds, one stone' level shit.
In fact, I'm so pleased with my first month—and so over fielding random email enquiries in my inbox & the anxiety that goes along with an overrun inbox of unanswered pr / spam—I'm going to start only accepting music submissions through the HI54 SubmitHub page from here on out.
Because it really does feel like the only way to keep fielding new submissions and not end up in Music Blogger Burnout Heaven before my time (and I say this as someone who has visited Music Blogger Burnout Heaven many times and still checks out the brochure every time I see another music blog go tweet with the fishes).
There were a lot of tangents I didn't have time to go down, so if you have any questions or comments about SubmitHub or music blogs or etc, feel free to drop them off in the comments below (or shoot me an email / holler on the socials) and I'll do my best to reply in a timely matter. If I’m still using SubmitHub in February 2019 I’ll try doing a One Year update, as things change super fast on Submithub (for real, I don’t think I’ve ever used a service where you can suggest a change in the chat and 20 minutes later the creator will say, “refresh, that change has been implemented”).
However, for now, it looks like I have about 80 submissions piled up over in my SubmitHub queue that I need to go take care of—and since half of those are Premium submissions, that's about $20 more than I'm getting paid to finish writing this pos…