Sonicbids, Past it’s Due Date?

Is sonicbids past it’s days of usefulness? I say yes, and here’s why.

I have been weeding out things in my musical life lately that just don’t work for me. My electronic press kit with Sonicbids was one of these things. I’ve been with them for about 3 years, 2 of those at $5.95 and 1 year @ 10.95 for a supersonic account (wow do I feel stupid). So that’s a little over $275. That’s no small change to a person who does music for a living. I even had sonicbids set up as my website for about 6 months. This got me up to #3 on the most viewed sonicbids EPK’s on their website, just under John Gorka. Still in 3 years, I didn’t get even one tiny piece of work from them. Perhaps I should first explain how sonicbids works, for those of you who may not know.

As an artist, you pay a certain fee to sonicbids each month to set up an Electronic Press Kit. I remember the days of printing out photos and press and endless hole punching getting together press kits to send out. It was hell and very costly to do, so when I started with sonicbids I thought it was a genius idea. Then sonicbids brings in promoters (who are not charged for membership but are charged a one time $50 fee from the money they collect from their listings) The promoters can list opportunities, they might be music showcases like SXSW, or perhaps the chance to be a part of a monthly podcast. I know some great promoters who have used sonicbids….including Dave Cool who did the documentary “What Is Indie???”. I think sonicbids worked very well for him and he was able to get some great indie artists for the film.

Here’s my problem with this model. Sonicbids seems to make a lot of money for itself, but as an artist, you are totally screwed. Not looking so good for a business that is supposed to be a service for musicians. In my opinion, sonicbids EPKs do less for you than a good website and some widgets from reverbnation would. In turn, you pay a fee to have an epk, you pay a fee to apply for opportunities, and sonicbids gets paid AGAIN from the promoters themselves. They boast getting artists 36,000 gigs since September of 2007, Don’t you think these numbers seem a bit low? When over 35,000 artists sold a CD on CDbaby just in July of 2007, and over 21,000 received a PAYMENT that month. I can’t believe it took me so long to realise I was being cheated.

So over the course of my time there I applied for 10 opportunities. That’s not very many really…but then I was not a very heavy sonicbids user. Out of those 10 opportunities which cost me $119 to apply for….I was not selected for 5. Now here’s the part that really chaps my ass and is the reason I’m taking the time to write this blog. I am still on standby (waiting to hear) for 3 opportunities, two of which are over a year old, and there’s been no status update on 2 other things I applied for.

Here’s what they are and the dates I applied.

On standby

Music, the sound of independents. (Radio Show)- Applied May 17th, 2007

Indie Music Fund-Applied May 25th, 2007

Waiting for update

New Music Showcase Television Show-Season 3-Applied December 4th, 2007

GuitarTam Music, Placement in Film, Television and New Media (Afraid of the Dark)-Applied May 5th, 2008

GuitarTam Music, Placement in Film, Television and New Media ( Wake Up and Lose You) May 5th, 2008

The last two things I can still give the benefit of the doubt as they’re more recent. But don’t you think I should have heard something by now from the other three?? A bit dubious eh? And doesn’t sonicbids have someone to chase up these people who have created opportunities and then not updated? It’s like a contest that no one ever wins. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel cheated.

I must also add here that I do know people who have gotten work through sonicbids. My buddy Rob Szabo was a winner in the Mountain Stage New Song Contest the same year as Ingrid Michaelson. I’ve known dozens of people who got a showcases at SXSW. But don’t you think they could have done this without paying $6-11/month to sonicbids? I say yes. Spend your money on something that will help drive your career. Chase up your own opportunities. Get your stuff up on cdbaby. Get a reverbnation account. Perhaps it won’t take me so long next time to get a clue. [edit…if you want to know more including reading an email detailing the service and fees from Panos Panay..the owner of Sonicbids…click here.]

13 Replies to “Sonicbids, Past it’s Due Date?”

  1. Well observed! There have been a few ‘services’ like this popping up, and to be fair, Sonicbids did look like one of the few promising ones, if they’d been able to deliver on what they were claiming to offer, but so many of these schemes that get you to pay upfront, rather than sharing the profits turn out to be way less than they are hyped up to be.

    It does seem that Reverb Nation is kicking the arse of just about every other web service for musicians right now… let’s see where they go with it next. I think it’s safe to say that monthly subs services like Sonicbids that don’t offer tangible financial pay-offs within a few months are not really worth doing… the gamble just isn’t worth it when there are so many other ways of approaching gigs…

    So much, SOOO much of what we all do now is about connections, friends having a word, recommendations and personal contacts, that the faux-big-time approach of sonicbids seems outmoded at best and fallacious at worst…

  2. (Lo–feel free to edit this for length or content.)

    This might be a bit long-winded and it’s almost certain to piss a few people off, but here goes.

    Sonicbids is a brilliant business model–for Sonicbids. The holes in the model as regards the musicians it targets were there from the beginning–but it *was* an improvement over the traditional photos/clippings press kit.

    And, in the beginning, it had minimal competition.

    I’m dismayed at the number of musicians who’ve been suckered into Sonicbids–but it speaks not of their ignorance but of their desperation to cut through the noise and make themselves audible to an industry in which they hope to succeed–or at least survive.

    You live, you learn, you cancel your Sonicbids contract and move on to ReverbNation. And you tell your friends.

    But even ReverbNation isn’t, per se, a solution. How many such services are there out there? Which ones have heavy “buyer” traffic?

    As for “What Is Indie?”

    When I first saw the documentary at the Montreal Fringe Festival in 2007, I was underwhelmed. If the only rule is “no rules”, then I suppose it should follow that the only definition is no definition at all. There was a lot of impassioned speechifying about “artistic vision”–but no one could articulate exactly what that *was*…exactly. Even their own. Yes, yes–“artistic control.” Yes, yes–“collaborative.” Invariably yes, yes–“low/no budget”.

    So why did it niggle so that the most articulate, most persuasive–and certainly the most flattering–arguments for the still-undefined “indie” scene came, not from musicians, but from people like Panay, who are making their living *off* musicians.

    I think of it this way: Panay has thousands of musicians working for him–and he doesn’t have to deliver anything but bandwidth and a bit of code.

    I had an interesting conversation at the bar after the screening of “What Is Indie?” with a very nice man who had the misfortune to ask me what I thought of the film. Aside from my opinion about Panay and the inability of most interviewees to coherently articulate their own credo on the topic, I also questioned the absence of any representation at all from the evil “Majors”. I explained to this lovely, patient man that I’d worked at the majors for a very long time–and that the filmmakers might have been surprised at what the powers-that-be at major labels actually think about music and the industry–had anyone cared to ask.

    When he asked who would have talked to them, I gave him a list of names–label heads all–who were amongst the most passionate proponents of “indie” music ever to found.

    Then we introduced ourselves. I’d been talking with Tim Rideout–the editor of “What Is Indie?”

  3. Hah! Yes Suse, this puts me in mind of a show that Steve went to see rather recently at the Queen Elizabeth Hall that he thought was a load of old bollocks despite normally admiring the artist in question. When asked after the show by someone what he thought…he said in that Steve way…”I thought it was a load of old bollocks!” Apparently he’d been talking to the person who booked it. 🙂

    I don’t blame Panos for making some dough but I think this particular business model is out of date. I am pretty upset with them for not chasing up promoters who fail to report. I don’t think there is malicious intention though. It’s a little sad that they didn’t move forward with the changing landscape. Instead of raising prices and giving nothing new, they could have implemented viral widgets like Reverbnation. I aggree that reverbnation isn’t the answer either, but it’s FREE and it’s the best out there if you are a self promoter. No site these days generates enough traffic to REALLY help an artist who isn’t already helping themselves.

    To me it doesn’t matter if we’re indie, or major, or whatever. It’s just another label that people feel they need to use. In the end, we’re all just trying to make a living.

    I know you’ve been super busy but I hope things are well. How are you surviving with all that space??? xo

  4. (Intoning) “Space. The final frontier. These are the adventures of a woman and her five-bedroom house….”

    I’m thinking about opening a half-way house for itinerant musicians–seeing as I’m about half-way to anywhere.

    More soonest. I’m off to LA on Weds and that’s promising (on all it holds sacred) to be quite a blow-out.


  5. Lo,

    I quit Sonicbids a few years back right when they announced the whole “SUPERSONIC” load of nonsense (i.e. making you double your monthly fee just to have the same stuff you can put on your myspace page for free). I wrote them emails telling them it was a load of crap, posted to their message boards, and let a bunch of friends that had accounts know that I was bailing.

    But to their credit, Sonicbids got me ONE “accepted” gig while I was with them. And I couldn’t do it.

    One booking agent also offered me a gig for a great room in Omaha, and I did take that gig… it lead to a really nice working relationship, actually…

    …but that guy didn’t contact me through Sonicbids. He just emailed me after looking at my page and then surfing over to my myspace page. I might as well have sent him the myspace page to begin with. Turns out he cancelled his membership with them shortly afterwards, too. 🙂

    Panos had a great idea; he just didn’t listen to his customers. Tragic. 🙁

  6. As a songwriter, publisher, and owner of a not for profit business I work no less than 14 hours a day to make a living at what I love. I will respond to Lobilia’s comment on GuitarTamMusic since that is my publishing company who selects material that artist choose to submit for placement consideration in film & television. The music immediately selected is not determined by me but by the current need of the music supervisors with immediate placement needs. If this week I need jazz music or electronica I scroll through the hundreds of submissions for Jazz & electronica- (sorry but a singer songwiter submission will not get screened at that moment since that is not what is needed, and the business need is to find something that is a perfect fit for a completly unrelated).
    In terms of making a living off of sonic bids, PLEASE! as a “promotor” charging 5-10 for a submission I see less than half of that which doesn’t even cover the administrative fee’s & licensing fee’s for songs that are actually good enough to be used for distribution purposes. Additionally artists that make multiple submissions of the same type of song does themself a dis-service you would be much better served to select two very different styles. I don’t need to hear the 300th singer songwriter submission that has hit my box for the day. I’m sure your turn of lyric is fantastic, but what sets it apart from the other 299 I JUST HEARD…. nothing then skip on to the next one.
    The advantage for a indy artist using sonic bids, (I’ll speak for myself since I don’t know what business protocols other folks use). I, that is ME and ME ALONE review all submissions, If your good enough to have a product that will be placed, then you get a response back generally within a very short period of time (however, there are only so many hours in the day, and If I am working on a film project, or touring, THAT music is what is taking priority, and If I am not getting calls to have a singer songwriter style placement then I’m not going to be looking at those submissions right away).
    Is sonic bids perfect??…. maybe not, but it does provide a outlet for artist who would probably NEVER be heard to get an ear, that doesn’t guarentee you a placement opportunity, However, if you have a unique totally ear catching sound (you better hook me in the 1st 30 seconds) You’ll probably get a response back about, and get a song placed. If you are so disgusted with using sonic bids, then cancel your membership, go out and hit the pavement and establish relationships with all the music supervisors and producers yourself and try to get them to listen to your music, If you can even get them to talk with you they will ask a couple of questions to see if you know what your doing ….they don’t have time to teach you how properly submit a song… and if you waste their time they will never work with you again, and they know each other and often will ask “hey have you heard of…..” It takes one mistake to blow your chances of ever getting a placement.
    Your benefit of working with someone like me, is that I HAVE THOSE relationships that I have worked YEARS to cultivate, and those folks TRUST that I will provide them with top notch quality musicians that have been licensed and cleared.
    If your music is the best, and you have done your work to get my attention then it will result in a placement, and you’ll be busy creating other great music like the other artists in my publishing company….If your not spending time improving your craft then you’ll probably be spending precious time writing about it in blogs.

  7. Hi Tamra,

    Thanks very much for your lengthy reply and feedback. I fear that you are getting riled about an issue that does not exist. If you reread my post, I was not complaining about your company nor did I mention being upset about not being chosen for licensing. I am very aware how licensing works as I’ve been doing this a really long time. If I was so thin skinned, I wouldn’t last long in this business. I am upset at sonicbids because they did not do what I paid them to do. I have cancelled my membership but it is my right as a consumer to share my experiences with others. I did not imply that your company or any other company is making a living of sonicbids. However, we are paying sonicbids for a service and in turn paying you for a service. If you are holding up your end of the bargain then there is no need for you to be upset.

    I am happy you are able to make a living doing what you love. That’s what we’re all striving for…I’m sorry that you’ve taken things personally but this is not about you. It’s about my relationship with sonicbids and other people sharing their stories good or bad.

    Good luck in your endeavors.

    [Tamra’s myspace link as it was input incorrectly…if you like to visit her myspace page the link is

  8. That’s funny, I’ve been thinking a lot about SonicBids lately. We recently received an e-mail from them saying the status of one of our submissions had been updated. We were declined for something we submitted to in July…2003!!

    We actually canceled our SonicBids account last year. After spending over $300 in submissions alone (talk about feeling embarrassed!) it finally dawned on us that it was nigh on impossible to be selected out of the gazillion bands who were submitting entries. Now, this isn’t necessarily the fault of SonicBids; it’s hard to vie for a slot in a large festival or conference no matter how you submit your material. But when we saw that random clubs, including one in our hometown, had listings where you could pay $5-10 to be considered for a show, that just seemed weird. That smacks more of pay-to-play, but what’s worse is there’s no guarantee you’ll even get a show.

    What has been irking me this week is that there are a couple of opportunities we’d like to be considered for but the only submission path is through SonicBids. I’ve written to ask if there are other options but have gotten no response. I suppose festivals, clubs, tours, etc. get enough entries through SonicBids to keep them plenty busy so missing out on a few outsiders isn’t any big deal to them, but I find it frustrating.

    Well, like everything else in the music business, this is fluid and before long another paradigm shift will push musicians and industry folk into a completely different mode of communication. But I still can’t help but feel a little duped.

  9. Hi Amy,

    Thanks so much for posting your comment here. It’s funny the number of people who were were not happy with sonicbids, but unwilling to post here due to the thought that it might keep them from getting a gig in the future. I really appreciate you taking the time to tell your story. You guys are fantastic, if you can’t get a gig with sonicbids, I’m not sure who can!

    Pay to Play is a phrase I’ve heard used many times in conjunction with SB….which as you said does not even guarantee that you’ll get a gig. A horrible system. Also there’s really no way to monitor whether or not a promoter actually listens to the material at all. It’s pretty much on the honor system and that in the music business is pretty laughable really. With sonicbids not doing a very good job at chasing up promoters who aren’t updating…we might as well have been throwing our money down a well. I’m quite surprised that there hasn’t been some kind of class action lawsuit drawn up against them yet. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do…I’m just surprised.

    You should email Lou, the SB Artist Relations Guy, to see if he can get you the proper contact emails for the opportunities for which you want to apply. After all, I think sonicbids owes you an explanation of why it took 5 YEARS to get an update from a promoter. That’s absolutely scandalous.

    When you coming back to the UK??? I promise I’ll be here next time! 🙂

  10. Hey Lo,

    Thanks for forwarding the message from the Sonicbids Artist Relations manager. For those who are following this thread, the Sonicbids folk do a good job of making sure any complaints or concerns do not go unanswered, including mine. Their diligence is commendable, and practically unheard of in the music industry (and the world at large, I’m afraid!).

    We can’t wait to come back to the UK! We’ll count on you being there! 🙂

  11. Thanks to all for sharing your experiences. I’ve been tempted to give SB a try, but decided against it:

    1 – Unlike an agent, SB makes no judgments as to whether an artist is any good. What kind of employer is interested in hearing from bands whose only qualification is that they paid a $5 fee?

    2 – I’ve yet to see a post, anywhere, from any musician who says “yeah, I got gigs through SB, it’s worth it.” Seen plenty saying the opposite.

    There’s a vast industry built on selling picks and shovels to us miners – ie, separating indie musicians from their cash!

  12. i agree with the above. the main problem with sonicbids and the services it claims to represent is that we are paying to be a filter to an unfiltered machine. dont get me wrong but do these “promoters” not depend on artists to put on their events? so why are the artists who should be in demand paying not even for a gig but for an opportunity to have an opportunity to obtain a gig. does sonic bids filter its artist pool to see who they will accept? of coarse not. why? because any artist willing to pay 6 bucks + a month is worthy of a sonic bid membership. if the main reason we are paying “submission fees” is to filter the amount of artists applying for gigs….then sonicbids would be filtering its initial applicants to make sure they were all performance ready artists. the truth is these promoters want as many submission fees as possible. i find it also quite rude by the argument that paying a submission fee shows you are serious as an artist. as if paying to record, press, and promote your own music, purchasing equiptment and pa’s and spending hours of dedication daily to our craft is not a sign of commitment? of coarse not paying 6 bucks a month and 10-50 dollars per submission to gigs you have virtually a better chance hitting the lottery than receiving does. artists dont get bullied in by these industry words. anyone asking for money without a guarantee of you making money leaves them no motivation to actually provide you with a service. its not just sonicbids….there are millions of companies all trying the same kind of scams…..monthly membership into the sea of nowhereville. dont be fooled and real musicians keep making music i know it gets hard these days when the bottom line is no long can you rock the house? its can u fill my house and earn the reward of knowing u did a good job 🙂

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