6.9 Tips for Dropbox Submissions (and submissions in general)
I run into a few problems here and there related to mp3 submissions. They can be frustrating, mildly annoying and in the worst case scenario, make it impossible to nearly impossible for me to include the track in the playlist. You have no idea how terrible it feels when I have a track sitting in a folder, a track that sounds amazing, only to find out that the track is called “song name.mp3″…….
Then I think to myself.. no problem. I’ll just check the id tags.
Double ouch. Nothing there. Not even the song name in the file name. So what do I do? Start a full investigation? Rely on my superpower (addled memory)? No, I simply have to move on. And that is very, very sad. I’m not being facetious! I find it genuinely sad when there’s a track I cannot attribute to an artist at the very least. And the file names that are truncated or incomplete are NEVER the band names or artist’s names, they are always song names. And in most cases, the song titles are common and could be any number of artists. Truly a shame.
So I thought now would be a good time to do a sort of “best practices” post regarding mp3 files, submissions and related things. I bring to you…
6.9 Tips for DropBox and E-mail Submissions
Tip 1 – If at all possible, find a way to e-mail tracks to me instead of using a dropbox. Yes, it may take a few moments longer, but in the end it’s better for both of us. I pay closer attention to e-mail submissions, and they are easier to keep track of in my gmail. Then, if something does go wrong, I can hit reply and clear it all up rather than having to sign into a site again, find the track on a long list of tracks and hope that the information I’m looking for is there. ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Tip 2 – Get your file names and id3-4 tags right. If your song spreads around, as you probably hope it will, virally even, it will be important to you to make sure a few details are present in the file. Things like, oh.. I dunno.. your name or the band’s name? The name of the song? Less importantly, the name of the album or maybe even your web site urls? Cover art is a nice touch, even if it’s a digital only release. You can edit these tags easily with programs like Winamp just by opening the file and clicking in the part of the program that typically displays such information. This will allow you to edit the info and save it very easily. There are also nice programs out there such as MP3Tag – The Universal Tag Editor . MP3Tag is freeware and works wonderfully. It’s easy to use, powerful and versatile. Never trust iTunes, as wonderful as it is, to do all the work for you. MP3Tag will let you add cover art easily, edit extended tags, and supports ID3v1, ID3v2.3, ID3v2.4, iTunes MP4, WMA, Vorbis Comments and APE Tags. Good stuff.
Tip 3 – When you are choosing encoding quality, choose wisely. Even if your track is lo-fi. I’ve met completely unknown artists, I mean completely unknown, who are severely and unrealistically paranoid about their music being “stolen”. Look, if you want your music heard, the only way to do it these days is to put it out there to BE heard. It’s your right to keep it to yourself, of course. And it’s your right to decide how it’s shared, if you believe there is power in that somehow. But if your intention is to have what you created heard by an audience, you will find that the “industry” is unwilling to take chances on emerging talent when it comes to exposing your music to a large audience. If what you created is something you believe is worth hearing, and you release it to the wild in the right ways, it WILL be heard. It is my opinion that in most cases this type of paranoia is usually not what it seems to be on the surface. I believe it is a sort of masked self-sabotage or fear of failure. Some of these people feel that if they release a low-quality mp3, people will be encouraged to buy a CD or a higher quality download version of their song or album. In my experience, this is not the case. What it really means is that the track you sent out the the public, the track that represents YOU and your new work, simply sounds like crap and will be perceived as such. There are really no subtleties and strategies here. If what you put out is crap, people will remember you as crap. Use the best quality encoding you can, at the highest bit-rate possible. And if you really want people to hear the subtleties of your recording, give people lossless versions of your tracks on your own site.
I would be so happy if there were even enough new lossless promotional tracks out there monthly to fill a new lossless playlist even 10 tracks long each month. But I just do not encounter enough of these monthly, at least not from genuine sources. The world of piracy seems to be the only true domain of quality currently, with a few exceptions. It’s not as if our portable music players don’t have the space needed to store these tracks, they more often do now than do not. For most people, mp3 is simply good.. enough. It will take a willingness and enthusiasm on the part of artists to encourage the use of lossless formats, because the common listener clearly is not asking for them.
But back to reality here. There are options, and the quality of encoders do vary. While the rest of the world of encoding rests on its laurels, the LAME project has and does continue to develop and improve mp3 encoding technology. LAME is only released as source code because of patent issues, but many open source, closed source, free and paid encoders use LAME to encode mp3 files. You can find a list of these programs HERE. UberStandard has a fantastic step by step guide to getting the absolute best quality CD rips (if you are ripping from a mastered CD of your own rather than from a mastered, higher bit-rate, lossless digital file) that makes it all very, very easy. There are other guides out there, as well as other encoders. Look around. But do your research if you care about your music and how it’s presented.There may be some controversy surrounding the various mp3 encoders out there, my advice is to try a few different things and go with the one that suits your ears and maybe a few other ears as well.
Tip 4 – Include some information about your project/recording/band/process/history along with your file. Many artists may feel uncomfortable with what feels like self-promotion, but if you truly are doing it “indie” or “DIY”, you should probably relax your self-promotional standards a bit, as doing otherwise would go a bit against the whole idea of DIY/Indie projects. If you just cannot bring yourself to write your own bio, get a friend or a critic familiar with your work to do it for you. Make it short, informative and fascinating. If the whole project cost 15 dollars to make and you used all borrowed instruments, mention it. Figure out what makes your project stand out and focus a little on that.The music will speak for itself, and any context you add that is appealing, unusual or fascinating will improve that first listening experience. Include a little info on the other people involved in your project, to a point. But I don’t need to know who your management is or the name of the guy that loads your gear and who he toured with before becoming your personal slave.
Tip 6 – Exclusives feel good. Yes, you want your track to reach as many ears as possible. But when I get an exclusive track, even a few days early, it feels great. And I’m going to be paying closer attention. This may or may not be true for other playlist peeps. And I’m not sure many artists actually realize the size of the audiences we reach (collectively) every month quite yet. When you consider the number of monthly playlists out there now, and the various ways some of them make the files available, you have to imagine it’s in the hundreds of thousands at this point. I know Blalock’s and Criznittle’s playlists get TONS of downloads every month alone. Add in the rest of us, and you’ve got some pretty big numbers, rivaling most blogs out there. But the focus still seems to be on giving bloggers the exclusives. And that’s fine. When I get them, I smile. When I do not, I don’t frown or anything. That’s for others to do. Like you when you reach 400 people instead of 40 thousand, along with a snarky review that compares you to the flavor of the week because it makes them feel like better critics. Don’t get me wrong, I loves the music blogs. Without them I wouldn’t be doing all this. And I am kinda one of them. I just tend to focus on what I like and do not spend a lot of energy on tearing down the tastes of others, as much as I respect the art of criticism. I just see a lot of really underdeveloped, deceptively polysyllabic critics on overly-respected blogs lately. While a lot of the less-read blogs are doing the real work out there and following their own trends. The point is…. notice us. We’re working hard to get the music out there because of pure love for it. And I think we’re all doing a better job of it than many of us get credit for.
Tip 6.9 – If you submit a track for a playlist, be sure the track can actually be downloaded. There have been several recent SoundCloud submissions that have been stream-only. Know what you’re submitting to. And, (here’s the .9 part) don’t suc…
I hope this has been helpful to some of you out there, and not too snarky. I cannot wait to hear your music. Genuinely.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/darwinbell/2936681653/
Image and this document licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license.
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