Written by J. Simpson with Benjamin Groff
It’s no question the internet has opened a lot of doors and leveled the playing field for up-and-coming bands, musicians, and producers.
It's like an endless hallway full of unlocked doors, with virtually every single professional working in the music industry available or accessible in some form (email, DMs, @ mentions, etc), from the president of Universal to the most respected music critics and all influencers in between.
This access has also totally scrambled nearly every aspect of the music industry, from how A&R is handled to how much time, energy, and resources are invested in musicians.
It's a camelot and a Golden Age for musicians, in many regards, but on the other hand, it can also be a dystopian hellscape for nearly everyone involved.
Simply put - how do you break through? How do you promote your music?
It doesn't take a great stretch of imagination to envision what happens next. There are currently 7.674 billion living humans. If only .001% are reckless and foolhardy enough to barge into a record exec's office, that's still 767,400 showstoppers and unwanted intrusions.
Unsurprisingly, this contradictory condition has created a huge demand for access.
The search engines are full of music promotion services, promising to get your latest single onto influential playlists, onto commercials, movie soundtracks, TV, and so on.
The end result isn't that different from the musical model of yesteryear.
Success still largely depends on someone with some pull in the music industry taking an interest in you and your music - and no doubt, for yourself and your music to be incredible.
Yet these tools can be leveraged to further your career, art, and craft if you're savvy.
On that note - we're going to take a look at some of the popular music submission sites and services to see if they're worth their (and your) salt.
On that note - welcome to the core part of our article, where your answers on how to submit music to blogs, to YouTube channels and even digital distribution services will be enlightened. And also, if you are a DIY, independent artist - it might be a crucial step to check out Benjamin Groff’s DIY Release Blueprint Teachable course - it’s chock full of 2021 music marketing strategies, a label release plan and in fact there are over 70 video modules telling you exactly what to do when with your release. Check it out here while the 10 hours of content is still under $100! OK - let’s get started!
Let's be real - the online music submission process kind of sucks, for all parties involved (but there are some valid solutions out there). And hey - it’s probably a much better avenue than asking yourself, how to submit music to A&R people. Either way, the process can kind of feel like this...
Have you ever applied for a job online? What about internet dating?
It's 2021, and there's a global pandemic going on, so we're going to assume the answer's "yes."
Imagine going through help wanted ads, line by line, and taking the time to submit a long, thoughtful, heartfelt message why you were born to do that job along with your meticulously crafted, curated resume.
Odds are good you don't have to imagine because you've probably done this a thousand times. You're likely no stranger to the soul-crushing grind of throwing letter after letter after missive after inquiry out into the yawning digital void, usually to no response.
If you’re looking to get your music to the right people with a smooth submission process (and willing to pay extra to get to the top of their list), this is where SubmitHub comes in.
SubmitHub is a portal where musicians can submit their material to a vast swathe of bloggers, music journalists, playlist curators, and other music professionals.
On SubmitHub, influencers have to listen to at least 20 seconds of a track before logging a submission.
For music bloggers, this isn't that different from going through your email in the morning. Most people working in the music industry know what they like or what has potential within 20 seconds.
It remains to be seen whether or not SubmitHub would yield you any more access than submitting to blogs and music sites manually. And there is definitely something to be said for developing those media and influencer relationships. In fact, I remember that’s really how The Chainsmokers got started. They would submit music to blogs, email every blog directly, start a dialogue - and it worked for them.
Never forget that this is a business of relationships. However, if you want to spend no more than 10 minutes having a service handle it all for you...keep reading!
SubmitHub's main strength as a music promotion service is a streamlined dashboard, making submitting your music far more efficient and pleasant for all parties involved.
The main criticism geared towards SubmitHub is that music blogs aren't as influential as they once were. Maybe. Maybe not. Or it depends. If they can move the needle for your music - then, that’s influence.
You can also just look at the site traffic. It’s no doubt that music blogs like Gorilla Vs. Bear or Stereogum aren't, in many people’s opinion, the tastemakers they once were.
That role falls on the playlists these days. Whether or not submitting your music via SubmitHub lands you on a Spotify Selects playlist largely can be a toss up.
Keep in mind however, that most influencers on SubmitHub now - also offer Spotify playlisting, or some of the curators on SubmitHub are more apt to place your song on their own UGC Spotify playlists. Drag and drop. Done! (Do you really need to read their 100-word-mostly-interchangeable-description-opinion of the song?)
Additionally, when it comes to the question of “how to promote your music,” some of these SubmitHub curators also have YouTube channels. They may want to create their own UGC video content for their YouTube channels using your music, in return for allowing them to monetize your content.
So yes, there’s lots going on here. And one of the secrets to having success with SubmitHub is simply - knowing what you're looking for ahead of time. Their directory of music influencers alone is worth its weight in platinum records if you know what to do with it.
Decide ahead of time if you're trying to get playlisted, get your music picked up for a synch license, or get written up by blogs. And do your research! In other words - know what genre the influencers play in! No need for you to submit in the alternative rock lane if you are an EDM artist and vice versa.
While some are dismissive of the power of a good soundbite, we all need to get our first ink somewhere.
Lastly, when it comes with SubmitHub or any influencer submission site - you can, pending the song and artist, get a long way just with these submission sites. This is also in lieu of actual high priced publicity.
Keep in mind that many of these submission sites have their own charts.
In SubmitHub’s case they have charts for different genres and who’s rising to the top.
So imagine this scenario.
You spend $100 or hell, even $50 in SubmitHub credits and everyone you submit to loves the song!
The blogs start posting it, add to their playlists and voila - the song shows up in a key SubmitHub chart.
This interest compounds and perhaps, your song starts showing up in Hype Machine in the Top 10 (and yes, believe it or not, Hype Machine still matters!).
This drives other bloggers and playlisters to pick up on your song. Maybe someone hears the song in one of these portals - and decides to make a TikTok that goes viral?
Suddenly, your song is gaining exponential interest on the DPS (Apple, Spotify, etc).
The algorithms take notice and signal other curators that “this song is hot.”
Now, perhaps you start getting some official editorial playlisting - or perhaps, one of those curators or a music supervisor reads and hears about the song on their favorite blog, which is within the network of Submithub!
Bottom line is it only takes (sometimes) only one domino to fall - and then one by one - everyone else starts taking notice. Then, instead of wondering “how to submit music to A&Rs” - you’re creating the spark and lighting the match for hopefully those record labels to reach out to you (assuming your “spark of music” can ignite a fire!).
In review, SubmitHub is a low cost but potentially highly rewarding outlet to get your music heard and submitted. Keep in mind that some of the biggest blogs in the world are on there...as well as many that get 5 (if that) readers a day. In other words, just like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - “choose wisely.”
Oh, one other idea - if you’re submission your music, we assume you already have music released - or if not, or if you’re considering your digital distribution options - you can always check out our Top 7 Digital Distribution Company Review!
(Benjamin’s Note: As a long term curator at Fluence - keep this space posted for some potentially extremely exciting changes on the way from the company!)
Like SubmitHub, Fluence.io pays off when you know what you're hoping to get out of it.
Fluence's premise is simple - they put musicians in touch with influential music professionals, who charge an hourly rate for their time, whereby you usually only use a small portion of their said time. If you’re looking to submit music to blogs - Fluence can be a great potential solution.
In essence, Fluence allows you to pay for just 5-10 minutes of a curators time! Their network of influencers range from popular producers, radio DJs, promoters, curators, bloggers, and others with golden ears.
Think of it this way - you can spend $3,000 easily on a monthly publicity campaign - and let’s be real, who knows if those gatekeepers you’re trying to reach - will actually listen.
Or - maybe the Music Editor of the Los Angeles Times is on Fluence (if not now - maybe in the future?) and you can pay this person or company $300 an hour for their time?
What you say?! $300!!! That’s crazy! Well, not really - look at it this way.
The cash register on Fluence only starts “ringing” once a Curator clicks “play” on your piece of media.
If your song is about 3.5 minutes long - you’re paying for 3 and a half minutes of someone’s prorated $300 an hour time. That comes out to 300 / (divided by) 60 minutes = $5 a minute! Or in this case 3.5 minutes (the length of your song) x $5 = $17.50 for a heavyweight influencer to not only listen to your song - but also to comment and give feedback! And - they might not listen all the way through...so that’s even less expensive!
The upside to Fluence resonates on so many levels...for instance:
In fact, you can check out Benjamin Groff’s profile right here as well as the type of feedback provided, (just scroll down in the profile).
Or here’s an example (note you can also choose if you want your submission / feedback to be public or private).
Overall, when it comes to music promotion services, it’s our opinion that Fluence.io is a little more realistic about what they can offer musicians.
When you submit to the Curators you ask the curator for either feedback or help promoting their song. Fluence doesn't promise that you'll get put on prominent playlists or get signed to a hot, rising indie label. But they do promise an amazing, robust marketplace where you can unquestionably (and measurably) get your music heard - with feedback provided!
As a bonus, music professionals, executives, playlisters, etc are free to take an active interest, if they like what they hear. This means potential blog write ups, playlisting to even real music publishing or label deals!
While the music industry has largely been democratized and there's the myth that expertise no longer matters, you simply cannot overemphasize the insights of people who make their living listening to music all day, every day and the connections they have, especially if their career extends decades.
ProTip #1: When it comes to submission sites you might be thinking - I just submit once, and then I’m done. Well - perhaps! At my own label, we’ve submitted songs even a year later that we still believe in - and often still get additional pick up!
Now, it used to be that your release had a window of about 1-3 weeks to get the “right” attention. After that - it’s old news. Not so much anymore, in my opinion. I’m willing to find great music outlets who are willing to support great music - period. No matter the release date. And I love that. Because great music shouldn’t have an expiration period for attention.
On that note, a great recent example of a song catching its second wind - is the #1 smash “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo. This song was out for nearly 2 years before it got the right attention via a both a Netflix placement and a viral TikTok moment! The rest is history.
On that note, feel free to check out another one of our posts here, 50 Post Release Marketing Ideas. I think you’ll find some awesome insight on continuing to promote your older releases - as much as your current releases! You never know what match you strike - just might light the fire for your music.
These days, it's increasingly common for musicians to work entirely on their own - writing, performing, mixing, and sometimes even mastering their own material.
Sometimes you just need a second pair of ears. That's also one of the ways Fluence really shines!
In summary, Fluence is also one of our top favorite music submission sites. And … you’re not just limited to submitting audio. You can, just like Submithub, also submit a video. But please note you can generally only submit one link - per submission. In other words - an audio link (i.e. Soundcloud, Dropbox, Spotify, Apple, etc) and a YouTube or Vimeo link - would require two separate submissions.
As we stated earlier, editorial and playlists on the DSPs, is really where it’s at these days, if you're trying to get discovered (barring your silly #TikTok challenge popping off).
Getting picked up by a Spotify curator is the equivalent to a glowing review from Stereogum or Brooklyn Vegan circa 2007.
Getting picked up by official editorial playlisters might be even tougher than getting a blogger in 2005 to write up your single, though.
Enter Indiemono. Indiemono is a service where you can submit your songs to potentially get picked up on one of their Indiemono playlists.
You can submit music for free, but you pretty much have to be one of their Patreon supporters to have any real chance of getting picked up. It's only $3/month, though, and with over 100,000+ followers, it might be worth your while if you're trying to generate some juice on Spotify. But to be honest - recently I’ve felt a little lack of love and attention recently on the submission front but just like anything else - sometimes you just gotta stick with it.
YouTube is actually the second most heavily frequented search engine on Earth, right behind Google, as any content marketer will tell you.
If you're trying to gain some traction with your music on YouTube, EDM District - also known as The District - well, this could be 1000% worth your while, as I’m sure Benjamin will tell you from his own experiences.
The District is actually a YouTube network, as they partner with a number of other immensely popular channels and playlists as well. And while the focus is on EDM, dance music and chill - there’s YouTube channels for most genres - here’s looking at you, Indie Air. You can check out all the channels under their network right here.
Just being in the orbit of Trap Nation, with an intense 29.7 million subscribers, means that you shouldn't overlook The District as part of your promotion strategy. If you can figure out how to submit your music, that is.
It’s a little mysterious - and that’s probably for good measure. I’m sure these channels just don’t want everyone who has GarageBand to be making copious submissions.
I think if you’re serious about getting in their network you should find EDM District on their socials and find out how to become part of the network.
Or you can also check out your favorite EDM and Chill key YouTube distribution channels and look in the description field.
There’s usually a portal or a way to submit your music.
I’ll give you a great one here and one of my all time favorites, Mr. Suicide Sheep.
The Mr. Suicide Sheep YouTube channel has 12.7 Million subscribers - and in the description field / About of the channel you’ll find this link:
There are plenty of other amazing channels though like Majestic Casual, Monstercat, Proximity, Chill Nation, Trap City, just to name a few!
The other bonus here is that The District is really one of the only great free music promotion sites / networks and - if accepted, that YouTube channel will make a YouTube video at their cost! However, please note that you will be expected to sign a standard waiver allowing that specific channel to monetize your audio. It’s all completely standard and in my opinion, an excellent trade.
We’re rounding the home stretch!
In summary, you might still be wondering "Are music submission services worth it?"
The short answer is - sort of? Not really? It depends? And Hell, Yes!
As mentioned previously, just keep in mind that for every notable blog or curator on some of these services who can move the needle for you - there are 5 others who are bedroom bloggers and playlisters with little to no following.
ProTip #2: If you install the Alexa chrome extension / toolbar - you can actually see the Alexa score of each site, as well as how much time people are spending on the site. This will help you figure out if a website, media outlet or even a playlist submission service is with your time, “legit’ or not really.
Of course everyone starts somewhere. For instance, the BenjaminGroff.com blog (*yah, the one you’re reading now) has been around for about 2.5 years. Below is both the Alexa Score for BenjaminGroff.com and Benjamin’s other music blog/filter and label, We Are: The Guard. Not bad :) Keep in mind this is the ranking out of ALL the websites in the world, which is currently 2 Billion! (that’s a real fact!)
The long and short answer, although music promotion services can be great, it may be one you don't want to hear, is there are no shortcuts to internet fame and fortune.
This is keeping in mind the music industry is almost completely recognizable from the process of: 'start band, write songs, play shows, record demos, get signed, live happily ever after' template of musical stardom that's been pretty much extinct for most of the 21st Century.
What you want is for record labels to come to you. Yes! You don’t want to be asking yourself ‘How to submit music to A&Rs?” Let’s flip the script and get the label executives to come to you! That means you're going to have to hustle and grind when you're first starting out.
You're likely to have to do everything yourself unless you feel like paying out of pocket for people to help.
For better or worse, you're going to have to become a jill/jack of all trades and master of all of them (at least in the short term). Not only are you going to have to write great songs - bonus points if you can perform them well - but you're also going to have to create great content for your social media accounts and become at least somewhat proficient in graphic design to make your recordings stand out in the endless sea of new releases.
Finally, you'll need to become at least proficient if not masterful at sound engineering or production if you're going to go the DIY recording route. Though, I often say it’s best that when you can start affording it - hire those people who have the right expertise!
Luckily, there are so many great resources for each one of these steps. Like our very own Benjamin Groff's How Do I Get A Record Deal? Sign Yourself!: Earn Your 1st Million Streams & Find Your 1st True 1,000 Fans.
So, yes, it is a lot of work to "make it" in today's music industry, regardless if your definition of "making it" simply means "paying all of your bills solely with income you generate making music."
It is possible, though, and it is worth it for those of us who are obsessed with music in all of its forms.
With that being said there are plenty of other submissions sites out there be it for instance JJJ Unearthed (JJJ is Australia biggest indie cool radio station) https://www.triplejunearthed.com/artist/submission or even your local radio station who probably has some type of local battle of the bands night.
Here’s also a little secret - there are platforms out there, where you can also submit your music videos! Now, of course, I always say that if you have a great music video, you should not just put it on YouTube - but how about also Vimeo, Facebook Video and any other video services you can think of?! You never know which community might embrace your video piece.
Let’s think about this too - will Facebook be more apt to get your video in front of more people on Facebook - if you’ve uploaded it directly to Facebook, versus say YouTube?. Hmm.
On that note - here’s another music industry insider tip when it comes to music video submissions. Both Apple and Tidal, not only do they have music videos as part of their platform - but you can also submit your videos for editorial placement! Yes, really. I swear I only learned this earlier in the year. Now, actually accomplishing this, is a little more of a mystery, as it’s not a well known “check list” item in your music release. The best thing you can do is to get in touch with your digital distributor and ask: “How can I submit my video to Apple and Tidal.” They probably have an internal form to take the next steps!
And while we’re on the subject of music videos - don’t forget to upload a snipped of your video or make one specifically for Spotify Canvas! Yes, if you’ve ever seen a video clip on Spotify looping while you’re listening to the song - that’s Spotify Canvas.
There are always going to be people and places and portals out there to submit your music and get heard.
Bottom line is, if you haven’t already - start submitting now - and be open to comments, critiques and the process. Adapt and keep hustling!
Also remember, rejection is part of the game. It’s a “business cost” of the process. On that note - what was Michael Jordan’s famous phrase?
This is the truth:
Also remember - that it only takes one “yes” to change your whole career and your whole life.
So start submitting and pitching and putting your best music forward - either through submission websites, in person, through networking, DM’ing someone - whatever road that might take you.
Lastly, no matter how long you anticipate being in the music business - no one (even the greats and the superstars) ever really stop hustling.
It’s part of the gig.
See you on those playlists and good luck with the submissions!
P.S. if there are other music promotion and music submission websites you are loving - hit me up in my contact form here on the website - I’m always looking for the best new ways to promote our own label releases.