It's a tough business, getting your music in front of reviewers. I know, I've tried it myself and had both good and bad responses and, inevitably, far more cases of no-response-at-all than either of the former.
The sad fact of the matter is that this blog gets sent far more music than I can ever hope to listen to. From my point of view this is fantastic. It means I get to cherry-pick only the best-of-the-best to write about. And a steady stream of emails asking for my opinion is a welcome ego boost. For those who want me to write about their music, it means it’s quite hard to stand out from the crowd.
Covering ‘big’ releases can be useful. Those reviews provide a universal point of reference. They also help bed the more obscure reviews in the contemporary musical firmament. But what gets me up in the morning is finding great music that is so new hardly anyone’s heard of it. That is what has kept me writing this blog for no money for all these years.
I never intended to be a ‘buzz blog’. It can take weeks or months or years to absorb a record enough to review it well. That said, being one of the first people to give a leg-up to a new young band with oodles of potential is a great feeling.
What all this means is that you should still send me your music. No matter how much of a long-shot it may feel.
Of course the music is the only real deciding factor in whether I write about you or not. Despite this there are still a few things you can do to improve the chances. Getting your foot in the door is not an easy task regardless of the quality of your music.
Eaten by Monsters’ draconian and highly arbitrary submission guidelines
1. Use Soundcloud.
Other streaming services are available, but this one is the easiest to use. If there are no other alternatives then I’ll host a file myself. But embedding a Soundcloud link is much quicker and looks much better. Bandcamp is a great service. I’ll include ‘buy it’ links to a Bandcamp page whenever I have one. But their embeddable player is not the best, and I tend to save myself the hassle and avoid it all together.
2. Send vinyl.
There are precious few new bands that can afford to press their own vinyl. There are even fewer who can afford to give that vinyl away, so this may not apply to many of you. But there is no better way to get to the top of my listening pile than to send me vinyl.
It still won’t guarantee you a review. If the music’s not interesting I won’t write about it, plain and simple. Don’t get your hopes up, no matter how much it cost to post me your quadruple-gatefold box-set from the Antarctic. If you want to send me your exquisitely hand-crafted package, you’ll need my address. Drop me an email and I’ll give it to you.
3. I’m a big believer in ‘the album’ as a format, so if you can send me a complete work then do so.
Edit: A great many of my reviews of late have been of 7” singles, so you can feel free to ignore guideline #3.
4. Have a thick skin.
It’s something I try to avoid doing, but I’m a master of the backhanded compliment. Unless I’m going on a vitriolic rant (which I only do once in a blue moon) I’ll only write about a record if there’s some kernel of worth within it. What I won’t do is skirt around aspects of the music that I don’t like. I’ll be constructive when I can be, but I’ll never say a record’s better than I actually think it is. Remember, I’m rating records against every other record ever released. I’ve had the pleasure of discovering a great many new bands who’s music is better than Zeppelin, The Clash, The Specials et al, but the truth is that not much music is that good. There’s no shame in not being as good as talented as Jimmy Page. Few of us are. If I’ve written about you at all it’s because I think you’re better than 90% of the music that’s ever been made. There’s a lot of crap out there!
5. If your band is completely unknown then I’d recommend the personal touch.
There are PR companies who send generic email updates. Whether I read them or not is a question of trust. If I know the company has a good track record I’ll dig deeper, even if I’ve never heard of the act before. And bands and labels I’m familiar with can get away with an impersonal mass mail out too. Here it’s a question of authority - I want to hear their music far more than they need me to hear it.
Where I like to think I can be useful is in getting smaller bands in touch with new audiences. For that kind of band I like to think I’m worth a bit more of their time. I’m not expecting (or wanting) crazy stalking and payola or anything. But knowing my name (Tom) and having a vague idea of the kind of music I write about helps a lot. I’m quite vain, and if you’ve taken the time to write me a personal email then I’m much more likely to listen to your record.
6. It’s pretty easy to tell if a writer’s tastes are in line with yours, so read a couple of my reviews.
I like to think that I have eclectic, catholic tastes. I like to think my interests encompass the length and breadth of musical experience. But if you’re sending me your latest EDM track that’s been dropping phat beats on the club scene then it’s going straight in my trash folder. I suppose ‘alt. rock’ is my milieu of choice, but I try to be open to anything if it’s good enough. I’ll often feature post-rock, contemporary-classical, jazz, folk. I actively avoid hip-hop, grime, soul, r’n’b.
7. Tell me about yourself, but don’t go crazy.
I like to have details of the full band line-up and a brief biog. I also like to have producer, engineer and mixer credits. I have a soft spot in my heart for little indie labels. If you’re on one, or represent one, then any info on the label as a whole is also welcome. I always use the record’s artwork as the image for a review post. Sending me that’s essential, but feel free to throw in some promo pics too, if you like. The key here is concision; give the facts, skip the hyperbole. Wild exclamations about how great a band is just sound like lies, and those emails get deleted. I’ll be the judge of whether you’re the next Beatles or not. (And for the record, I hate the Beatles).
8. If I’m reviewing an album I usually include two tracks off it to stream and for download.
This is something I’ve been doing less of lately. The beauty of Soundcloud embeds is that the band themselves can decide whether it’s available for download. And as iTunes and other digital services get better and easier, there are fewer and fewer reasons to include ‘illegal downloads’ with a review. Still, the whole point of an mp3 blog such as this one is that people can hear and keep your music.
If you’d rather I didn’t include a download then say so straight away. I completely understand bands who want to preserve the value of their songs. I won’t think less of you if you don’t want to make a download available. Most acts are eager for the added exposure a download brings.
For EPs I generally include two songs to stream but just one to download. For singles I stream the A-side and put up the B-side for download. Again, if you want me to do things differently then just say so in the email. I like to think I’m a pretty accommodating guy.
9. For the love of all that is good in this world…
DON’T SEND ME REMIXES!
None of this guarantees I’ll listen to your record. That’s just the nature of the music industry at large at the moment. Now, more than ever, it’s a buyers market. Just using common sense will get you farther than anything else. At the end of the day I do this because I like hearing new music. If your stuff’s good then I’ll be glad to hear it.
Do be aware, though, that if your music is bloody awful then I will say so publicly. People’s dislikes are just as important as their likes. I think it’s important to write about bad music from time to time. I always try not to be nasty. If your stuff is just a bit under-rehearsed or badly-recorded then I won’t go out of my way to say bad things. Every band has to start somewhere, and I’m not interested in picking on people just because they’re not quite ready yet. But if a record’s truly awful and I’ve taken time out of my day to listen to it, it’s a different story. Then I’ll need to blow off some steam, and I’m most likely to do that on these pages.
If all this still hasn’t put you off, then I salute you! And I look forward to hearing your record.
If you have an issue with any of the mp3s posted here then get in touch. Use the address above and I’ll be happy to remove the file. The mp3s I post are a promotional tool to generate interest for new bands. It is not my intention to encourage sneaky file pinching.