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6.9 Tips for Dropbox Submissions (and submissions in general)

March 13, 2011 1 comment

box 69

drop box 69

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″…….

Ouch.

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…

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6.9 Tips for DropBox and E-mail Submissions

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Tip 1If 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. ( indiesixtynine@gmail.com )

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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.

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Tip 3When 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.

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Tip 4Include 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.

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Tip 5Check your links. If you are not attaching a file, and are instead pointing to a download, make sure that the download works and if it does work make sure that the number of hoops I have to jump through to get said file(s) are as few as possible. I recently was sent a link to an mp3 submitted for the playlist that sent me to a site, which required that I join the site, then wait for a confirmation e-mail containing a link to the file. When I finally got the automated confirmation and reached the link, I discovered that in order to download the file I needed to allow javascript for approximately 9 domains. (NOT an exaggeration) Then, after allowing all that scripting, the file still would not download. I simply had to set it aside and move on.I realize that this type of process is very common and somewhat popular, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck the stink out of rotten eggs. Because it in fact does. I also realize that this is sometimes not the fault of the artists themselves. All they know is that the service they are using is common and widely used. My suggestion is that if you are using a service to reach fans and/or promotional resources, try the service first as if you were a fan or a blog (or playlist). Then count how many seconds pass before you want to go do something else. Direct downloads and attachments, the “old fashioned way” (in other words, 2009) is always best. Keep it simple, make it fun (or at least not annoying). And try to remember exactly what it is you want to do by making a file available for download and stick to that one task. Any service that is trying to DRAG a fan to a site and make them stay there or force return visits for something as simple as a file download, is repelling to fans. A compelling site brings fans back because when they last visited, they found what they were looking for, hassle-free. And when it comes to critics, you don’t generally want to piss them off right before they listen to your music, attaching that emotional response to your music, probably for some.. permanently! Just because a service is popular or widely used, does not mean it is useful to YOU. It may be useful to some established artists, ones who already have ravenous fans willing to jump through hoops to get to their content. But to others it may mean the difference between giving your music a shot or NOT. And don’t even get me started on streams. Someday, streams may be available to us 24/7, wherever we are. For now, this is still not the case. Even for those of us with modern smartphones and unlimited , fast data plans. Even for those people, networks are unstable and unpredictable, sites go down (or go away completely). Nothing… NOTHING beats a file that a music fan can HAVE and KEEP. Nothing. And nothing promotes your music better than your music.

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Tip 6Exclusives 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.

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Tip 6.9If 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…

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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.

About Submissions…

September 21, 2010 1 comment

I’m loving all the stuff coming in across Soundcloud and other services, but really what I’m looking for most are tracks I can grab from my inbox without having to visit other sites and go through a “process” to get them. The time I can spend doing the playlist and this blog every day is limited, so if it comes via e-mail, the chances are better that I’ll actually get to take it with me and give it a real listen. Yes, still use the dropbox. But if it’s just as easy for you to e-mail me tracks, do it. If you include bio information and a note, chances are better that if I think it stands out, I’ll write it up and make it a blog post. And if you do NOT want your track shared as a download here in the blog, please let me know. In the meantime, keep #^(&!^* that chicken.

Just a quick update.

August 31, 2010 1 comment

About six months ago, the traffic to this blog was about one tenth what it is now. That’s pretty rapid growth, at least in my eyes. And I never expected it. While this is not a commercial enterprise for me in any way, it still is nice to reach a larger audience than I expected. With this larger audience, I believe comes a responsibility and an opportunity. Not just for me and my little ideas and opinions. But for YOU.. if you make music and you want it to be heard. So, with this month, I hope to increase the frequency of posts here, from opinion pieces to mp3 previews of new releases. So if you have that great new track you want people to hear, send it to me. I’m looking for all genres, genuinely! But one area of personal interest is home recorded stuff. Basement music. But with a focus on the new. I don’t want the stuff laying around that you threw together on a 4 track back in 98.  I’m looking for music that is dying out there trying to find an audience. The weird, the outsiders, the recluses, the obscure. I need your stuff. I’ll be out there looking, but I need your help as well. If you know someone who fits this description, send me a link. Or encourage them to put their stuff online. I’ll help if it’s needed. That’s not to say I won’t be looking for label stuff as well, I will. But I also want that stuff that hasn’t been found… yet. So if you know of anything you know I have not found already, send me links, tracks, contact info, bios, anything. Send it all to :  indiesixtynine@gmail.com

Thanks to all who helped this month with the round-up post and the playlist. The feedback and suggestions have been great. And thanks to all the new readers who showed up this month as well. I hope I can live up to the new attention and deliver. The playlist should be ready by the 1st or 2nd. The roundup post a few days later rather than the middle of the month.

My first mid-month update.

March 13, 2010 Leave a comment

shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist

I purchased some stuff.

Have you noticed I’ve been doing more blogging lately? Wow, all 3 of you noticed! I’m gushing with pride. Okay, maybe that was a bit descriptive. And I wasn’t really gushing anything at all. Well, not at the moment anyway. This is the first of what I’ll call mid-month updates. ( I guess you could say it’s “MY time of the month”.. but I suggest not ) This is where I’ll write updates about what I’m up to, new features in the works and just generally what’s on my mind at the moment. Feel free to skip them or relish them like you did those teen magazines with shirt-less,heart-throb hairless boys with six-pack abs back in the day. ( yes, I’m looking at you, *Bob! )

But on to why I’m doing all this new stuff. Well, first the increased frequency. What normally happens is I get an idea for about 5 or 6 blog posts about various subjects. What I USED to do is set it aside in my brain and think to myself “Yeah, that’s a great idea, I’ll get to that idea later, for sure” and what would happen in reality is I would not only forget the subject of the post, but that I had an idea at all. Well, most of the time anyway. That doesn’t say much for my brain, does it? Well, it is a symptom. But I’m not going into that here. One of the great features WordPress has is this wonderful thing called scheduling. Maybe it’s been around forever and it’s not novel at all. I’ve been at this Internet thing a lot longer than most people have and , well, if it’s been available on a lot of services, it’s slipped under my radar somehow. It feels like it was designed with my brain in mind. (my BRAIN in MIND.. strikes me as funny at the moment somehow) I can write-up 5 subjects and just leave 4 of them sitting there if I want as reminders and write only the first, then schedule it. If I want, I can write drafts for all of them and schedule them all. ( I love saying schedule like this: “SHHHed-yule” .. is it just me? ) Depending on my mood, I can write 1000 words or 9000 words. And if I want to not worry about if I’m writing enough, I can write a week in advance and concentrate on getting some sunshine instead. I love it. Take for instance this post. I’m my most productive and creative at about 5am. So that’s when I started writing this. I scheduled it to be posted at 2pm and WordPress even let me schedule Twitter to let the followers there know it’s been posted. Slick.

Now, on to why all the mp3 and music posts. Well, I had a tiny bit of cash hanging out in my pocket and it was pretty cheap to upgrade the account so that I could add mp3s to posts. While I was there I noticed how cheap it was to get a domain, no I snapped up indie69.com while I still could and VOILA! If I paid for it, I sure am gonna use it. But differently. See, I’ve been trying to get permission for every single track I post. In the process, I’ve been getting added to a lot of promo mailing lists. So it’s a 2 birds, 1 stone type of thing.  And I both want to do things differently AND protect this blog from any DMCA nonsense. So really it’s more like 4 birds. I love birds, by the way. Stoning them is, how you say?… right out! Sure, it means I have to plan ahead and sometimes the bands are busy and it takes longer than I expect to get an answer. But so far, I’ve got all yes answers and one tentative maybe that I have not heard back from. From what I know about what that band is up to right now, they have a damned fine excuse for taking so long.

Yeah, I don’t actually make any money doing any of this. But that’s fine. I get a lot more from it than money could give me. I know I’m spreading the word about music I love and that might get overlooked. And I have noticed that the more I post, the more pairs of eyes are seeing the blog. I know that some people are suspicious of people who claim to not be doing things for money, and that’s fine. I’ve been doing the playlists for over a year now and have not seen a penny or even got on a guest list for all the time (and now money) I’ve put into it. And I’m not even sure I’d expect or accept being on a guest list. Most of the bands I’d go see really need the money. So no, probably not even that. So to those who would question my motivation I would only say that every rule has an exception.. and leave it at that. But as I’ve said from the beginning, if this leads to my getting the chance to work in radio, I’ll completely jump on it. No qualms. Radio needs saving and without any hesitation or reservation, I could save it. Period. So could 1000 others out there, sure. But I’m one of ’em, dammit.

Before I go, let’s take care of some “bidness”. I have a lot of tracks for the April playlist, but I need YOURS. Go to the Dropbox above and to the right OR send them to indiesixtynine@gmail.com . No streams, no aac, no drm. Just mp3 files. OGG is alright, too. I won’t turn my back on an open format. So that’s about it! Watch for a LOT more blog posts coming up. That’s right. All 3 of you.

*That’s not directed at anyone real, I just thought it was a pretty good example of a little uncomfortable comedy. So, if I know you and forgot, BOB…. so sorry. And by “back in the day”, I mean September.

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perv.

Photo Credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/melvdesigns/3515139565/

Creative Commons – Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

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