Inspired by the great article of Brian Hazard on Passivepromotion I tested Submithub with two songs of my latest album. The service promises an easy way to reach musical blogs. While there is a free option you can also pay and get benefits like guaranteed feedback, a fixed response time and a higher response rate. The bloggers are forced to listen at last 20 seconds and to leave a minimum of ten words feedback.
Why paying for something, which you can easily do yourself with sending your material to the relevant blogs via Email? In todays overcrowded music world bloggers get millions of submissions. Response rates are very low and nobody will tell you why your submission was declined. And how can you develop your music without feedback? Many of these blogs are mighty voices in the market, so when you get a feature you could achieve a massive popularity boost. These people are listening to a lot of actual music and are on the pulse on time.
I purchased 80 credits for 61$ and created two campaigns, each song was send to 35 blogs. One submission is charged with one credit, so the service is quite affordable. Besides the hope to get featured by one of those almighty tastemakers I hoped for some objective feedback from experienced music writers. You have to keep in mind, that bloggers are not musicians, so you can not expect detailed technical feedback like “I had choosen here a Minor chord” or “Around 120hz the mix needs a boost”, but you get a listeners perspective.
Because the service lacks the genre “Progressive Rock” or “Classic Rock” I chose two of the less complicated songs of the album:
1. “Hope is a thing with feathers” based on the poem by Emily Dickinson
2. “It was not death, for I stood up” also based on a Dickinson-poem
Both songs can be tagged as “Rock” and I described them as a blend of Captain Beefheart and The Who. While the Captain Beefheart-reference was often repeated by the bloggers, nobody referred to The Who.
Now it comes to the results (deep breath). Both songs were declined by all blogs, I got not one approvement. Though the genre, which I am writing for, Progressive/Art rock, is not covered by the blogs, I had some hopes to succeed, because I had choosen two songs, which can also fall in the genre of Alternative, Indie Rock. Therefore I had selected mostly blogs of these two genres with a high response rate. As expected the feedbacks are short, but interesting, when I started to analyse similarities. Many feedbacks contained the same positive or negative critic, therefore I have created an excel-sheet to visualise the result.
The color Blue represents my song “Hope is a thing with feathers”.Color Red represents “t was not death, for I stood up”. First we start with the positive elements of the feedbacks. I pay not much attention to “like the vibe, mood”, because naturally everybody wants to say something positive and vibe and mood is far too unspecific. Most feedback started with “like the vibe” or “fun track” or similar and continued with “but”. Besides that I got the most positive reactions on the guitars on “Hope is a thing with feathers”, where I had downtuned to dropped D to achieve a modern low heavy sound of the guitars. The overall concept of heartscore with the use of poems was also praised significantly. Reading the comments I felt encouraged to go on with the concept, one blogger loved for an example the unique approach. Other instrumental elements were not mentioned often, some liked the singer and the drums. The choir arrangements were not mentioned positive, nor the production.
Now let’s take a look on the dark side:
I am not surprised by the amount of “song lacks coherence”, because my songs are more quirky than the usual Alternative Rock, though I expected, that especially “It was not death, for I stood up” could also succeed in the Alternative genre. What strikes me at first is the decline of the singer. The critic about the vocals ranged from “not fitting for the song” (mostly on Hope is a thing …) to “too stressed” and a general dislike of the timbre.
The funny thing is, that my older albums were mostly criticised for my weird lead vocals with an obvious german accent, when I still sung myself. So this time I had decided to work with an american native singer to improve the quality of my songs and I still think, that the singer is great. Often the decline of the vocals was combined with praise of the song and also more than one comment recognised a mismatch between the music and the vocals. And this is exactly the point, which makes me thoughtful. There are some things to consider:
My favourite artists are from the 60s and 70s. Of course I have choosen a singer, who sounds similar to my idols, a blend of Roger Daltrey, Captain Beefheart and Howlin Wolf maybe. These kind of vocals with a strong focus on Blues and Soul and a raw edgy timbre are not present in todays mainstream music. I would go further and suspect, that you will also not hear a voice like this in actual Alternative Rock, Prog Rock or other Rock genres. Todays singers are not as close to the Blues-roots, more polished. I insist, that the singer is brilliant, but not the kind of voice you expect in 2016.
Another conclusion could be more important, some of the bloggers registered a mismatch between the vocals and the music. And here I have to ask myself, if a muscular, american Rock-voice is a good match for the sensitivity of poems, though the music contains Rock with heavy guitars, but not enters the Hard-Rock area.
To sum up I am sure the vocals are declined for two reasons: It’s not a singer for 2016 and the lyrics, poems could benefit from a softer interpretation.
The other big point I have to deal with is the term “dated”, which was used for the music and also the production many times. With “heartscore” I wanted to follow the tradition of the great artists of the 60s and 70s, so I could take it as compliment, though I also think over, if the world needs music, which sounds like 50 years old. In my own opinion the best music is timeless, doesn’t matter, if you listen to the Beatles in 1969 or 2016. But The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and others were innovative in their specific time-periods. They all build their style on tradition, but added innovative elements besides splendid songwriting and a key-element of progress was sound and studio innovations. In my own opinion I have not used anything on my album, which sounds newer than … 1975. There is definitely nothing 80s, 90s or later on it. I am not whining, because I wanted this album exactly as it is (except I had booked a professional mixing and mastering, if it had been affordable).
But thinking on how to go on with “heartscore” I am feeling motivated to try something different the next time while keeping the key elements of the project.
The feedbacks of submithub help me to objectify the view on my music, so when you ask me, if it’s worth it I say: Yes.
How could I transform the heartscore-concept to a more modern and actual sound?
I have already some ideas and will reveal it the next time …
Meanwhile you can listen to my album on bandcamp: