While getting your music featured on Pitchfork or NPR may be the PR dream of most artists, achieving such a high level of exposure early on is not something any artist should expect. Here we look at a list of more accessible sites where artists can get their music showcased.
Guest post by Zachary Lipez of CASH Music
I don’t know much but I know I hate advice. About anything in general, usually writing in specific, and, for the purposes of this argument; the industry. It’s not that the advice is bad, hell if I know, it’s just usually comes from this Zen place of accomplishment that makes me want to punch a cloud. All these successful artists or editors or label types telling credulous twentysomethings that doing it yourself and just being true to your vision will lead to happiness, all the while I know and drink with these goons. I know the compromises they made and the various Rosemarys and various babies they’ve thrown beneath Satan’s metaphorical Choo Choo, all the while whistling various Fugazi instrumentals as the world around them burned in sponsored content. And I don’t blame them. Good for them and some of the greater good they’ve created from their various transgressions. I am the spirit of compromise itself, just with less to show for it. But, as far as advice goes? From industry sages? I pass with Ghost Riderian spite and speed.
So, in lieu of advice I have links.
The industry is wild and tedious and nobody knows how anything works. I saw that CLRVNT has gone the way of all flesh and that’s one less website for mid-level bands (or bands without pull or PR or “buzzzz”) to submit to. A lot of the larger sites hate song premieres from anybody, even bands you and I would consider “big”. Premieres just don’t get hits. But I also know that smaller/medium bands are caught in a weird trap where you’re being told that “buzz” has to be self-made and grassroots, while at the same time getting online equivalent of a brief show write-up in the Village Voice (which was a small thing but tremendously helpful too…) is a huge pain in the ass, requiring the shelling out of hundreds of dollars to a publicist. And publicists don’t have it easy other. It’s an incredibly difficult job. I know how many emails by these poor motherfuckers I ignore and I’m only a freelancer.
I just wanted to compile a list, one that can continuously be added to, of music sites that actively cover musicians that have either no PR or PR that isn’t one of the three or four companies that can guarantee coverage of the acts on their roster that they care about.
Not that these listed music sites aren’t open to bigger bands or ignore hype, just as the larger sites aren’t necessarily avoiding small bands and only following hype, but rather that these smaller sites are more active in discovery. And I don’t mean to dismiss them by calling them “small.” For the purposes of this list, “small” just means “Not Pitchfork or Noisey or Stereogum or NPR.” Those are the four that publicists always pitch at first and, for a variety of reasons, they’re hard(er) to get into. And arguably you should stop worrying about it. Those sites will cover you when and if they do, and that will be a splendid day of wine and roses and laughter that makes babies dance on the bar…but you’ll get just as many eyes on a midlevel site, that you promote the heck out of, as on a site with a well-known brand that people are mainly visiting to see what Father John Misty has to say about Haim at any given time. I don’t even, truth be told, know that premieres do anything at all for the artist. But I know they emotionally matter to me, and probably to you, and so…a list.
All the sites I’ve listed are ones that I either already read or were suggested by readers on twitter dot com. Using Twitter as my main resource pretty much invalidates any claim of this list to kinship with Book Your Own Fucking Life but here we are, compromised and sorry as we ever were.
As with all these things: Read a site before you submit to it (SOME OF THESE SITES DO REVIEWS BUT NOT PREMIERES OR ONLY COVER DEATH METAL OR NEO FOLK OR WHATEVER. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LIFE IS SHORT SO DON’T WASTE YOUR AND THEIR TIME). Personal emails are best. Don’t contact people on Facebook. Don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back and don’t be shy about a follow up. Don’t take it personally if they say “no.” Just kidding. Of course you’ll take it personally. This is your fucking life. Everything matters. Keep grudges. But keep that shit to yourself also and be sure to submit to them next time you have a song/angle maybe more up their alley.
Oh yeah, if you get a song/video premiere accepted by a smaller site and then, before it runs, a larger site offers to run it, well, as much as you want those big city mouse hits…the correct thing to do is to dance with the one that brought ya. If yr unconcerned with the ethics (and god bless you if you are…you have a bright future in this biz called show), stay with the initial site in the name of grassroots base-building. You’ll be glad in the long run that you left the bridge unburnt.
I want to be very clear, for both avoidance of bridge burning of my own “career” and also because it’s true; the larger sites are hard to get premieres in for reasons that are not necessarily nefarious. They have smaller staffs than you think and they get thousands of submissions a week. For some, they’re just too big and diverse for discovery to feasibly be a mandate. There’s also an industry-wide move away from premieres. There is no moral component to this. There’s a place for both Rolling Stone and MRR and VICE and the smallest, most niche blogs. They all serve a valuable function for music fans.
Again, after all these years, I STILL HAVE NO IDEA HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS. It’s easy to be mad at publicists or writers or editors or God or whomever but, for the most part, it’s all (with the possible exception of God) just sweet nerds who love music. (OK, some are pure evil…but they’re friends of friends so you’ll just have to learn who they are on your own.) I will never know why some things get covered and somethings don’t. (Caveat to the Caveat: I don’t think even the staunchest defenders of the large sites would disagree that there’s, cough, a fair amount of overlap in most sites EOY/mid-EOY lists. Again, I ascribe nothing nefarious. Maybe there really are only a hundred or so good albums a year. But, while I have you here, let me please put forth the humble suggestion that all lists and reviews mention the PR firm repping the artist as well as the label. It would do no harm and would be awesome.)
The list I have is largely guitar/synth stuff. It was from a thread I started about the vacuum left by CLRVNT. I welcome additions that focus on hip-hop and dance and country and klezmer and whatever. This list also veers a bit towards metal and hardcore because I am a wicked tough and kvlt human person. Hail.
Some of these sites are tiny, laser focused blogs. Some of these sites are large enough that the difference between them and the aforementioned larger sites is extremely blurred. I decided that it was better to let this list be determined by social media suggestion alone, as I don’t trust my judgement entirely. Just because I couldn’t get my band in a particular site is hardly indicative of them being difficult to get in. They might have just not liked my band. Just check the sites out and see what feels right.
ANYWAY: A bunch of sites! In no order whatsoever! That you should consider submitting music to! Please send more my way. I’ll maybe at some point divide and classify the list more but, for now, I think I’ll keep my own opinions and biases out of it and let’s let the list be wild and free like the Summer wind.
Brooklyn Vegan- For many years, they were not a publicist’s first choice because the comment section was so hateful. But it’s cleaned up and moderated now and the site has always had solid writing and editorial vision. So let’s reward good behavior…
Tidal - uh, obviously not small, but Brenna Ehrlich from Talkhouse recently moved over there and is actively looking for exciting new stuff.
The Le Sigh - Female identifying and non-binary artists.
Song Facts - Just interviews about…song facts. But they cover smaller artist.