Sonicbids Update #2

Things have been a bit busy around here but I’m finally getting back to updating you on what’s happened of late with sonicbids. Lou Paniccia is a credit to the sonicbids team as he is so on top of everything that’s going on out there and fielding complaints and comments and getting a resolution or at least setting the wheels in very quickly. It must be a pretty difficult position to be in given the controversy of late surrounding their business practices. Lou assures me that they are doing their best to resolve all the issues so please do not hesitate to contact him.

So here’s my original list of unresolved issues and Lou’s answers (quoting his emails with permission) to what is going on with them…

Music ¬ The Sound of Independents and The Indie Music Fund have placed you on Standby. You can view the messages they have sent you in the My Submissions tab of your Submit to Gigs section. Both appear to have you on Standby for this long duration because they wish to keep you on file: The Sound of Independents is waiting for the appropriate program to put you on, and the Indie Music Fund is still generating funds to reach their first milestone. Sonicbids assists you in getting your EPK to the promoter, as well as ensuring that they view and consider your EPK but once there is a notification, it is up to the artist and promoter to begin correspondence (kinda like buyers and sellers on eBay).

He then provided me with email adresses for them.

We talked with the New Music Showcase Television Show (Season 3) promoter yesterday, and they should be updating the status for submissions that are past their status notification due date in the next week or so.

We have not contacted the promoter for GuitarTam Music just yet, because they have status notifications set to get back to artists within 60 days of their submission (this would be July 5 for you). You can see the status notification date by clicking the “Status” button next to your submission under the “My Submissions” tab in the Promoter Drop Box. That being said, I noticed this promoter commented on your blog post.

Considering that GuitarTam was the one company I didn’t take a swipe at in my original post, I can safely say I won’t be hearing positive news about my submissions there. Here’s an excerpt of her comment to me…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.” Nice. You can read her comment on the first sonicbids post.

So there you go. I really do think that sonicbids is trying to do right by everyone. I also think (speaking for myself here) that a lot of us don’t have time to go chasing up promoters when they don’t respond (she says writing a 2000 word blog). I was on tour 7 months out of last year, I barely had time to answer emails and quickly update my sites. I think that’s what I believed I was paying sonicbids to do. The responses that I received from promoters within sonicbids were little more than form letters. None of them had my name on them. If I had gotten a personal email from the promoter telling me they were keeping me on standby to consider me for future shows then none of this would have been an issue. In turn I would have known I could contact the promoter directly.

Moving on….Amy from Clatter (they’re amazing…go have a listen!) posted a very open and honest response in the original post:

ClatterAmy said:

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.

Lou P. responded to this in under an hour…offering to look into Amy’s issues so I forwarded his email to her and I’m hoping he was able to help get her in touch with some people she’d been trying to chase up for festivals that seemed to only want you to go through sonicbids. She later posted another comment in response to Lou’s help.

ClatterAmy said..

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! :)

The last thing I have to talk about is the disappearing comments that Lou made on another site claiming that sonicbids were not being investigated by the FTC. He saw a mention of this on either mine or Steve’s twitter and emailed to say thanks for the heads up…that they were erased due to an overzealous spam filter. I’ve never known spam filters that target already approved and moderated comments, but I am only relaying what I have been told. The comments are now back along with an explanation.
Here’s details if you want to follow up on the sonicbids site as detailed in Lou’s email,

We’re working on a number new features that will fix most of the submission problems we’ve been hearing about. I recently announced one of the new features we’re building to improve the submission review process here:

http://lounge.sonicbids.com/200/

We’re also in the process of checking in with existing promoters to help resolve any open submissions that are overdue for a status update, like yours was. In your post, a good place to direct your readers where they can track our progress on implementing features that resolve existing issues is the new Builder’s Blog we put up (http://lounge.sonicbids.com/category/authors/builders-blog/). It’s one thing to express our good intentions. We know that delivering on them is all that matters. We’re investing a lot of time, energy and money in the service right now, and this is where the improvements will be announced on an ongoing basis.

I still have the same issues I had with sonicbids when I began posting about this but they are trying hard to fix the problems. They are listening folks, so if you have something to say please say it.

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.]

Beware the “Producer”. Talent vs. Marketability in Today’s Mutable Musical Landscape

If I had a dime ( that’s 10 cents for you Engleesh 😉 for all the so called “producers” that have wasted my time in the past then I’d definitely be a hundredaire.  Oh wait!  I AM a hundredaire!

What’s it take to be a producer these days?  Beats the hell out of me.  I guess I’m a producer.  I record my own music and make decisions on what should go where.  I guess I’m also an engineer, a studio musician, a PR person, and a label owner.  Now whether or not I’m any GOOD at any of those jobs remains to be seen.  I know one thing.  I can sing; and I try really hard to be good at it.  I can write; and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be since I was 3 years old- a songwriter.

In these days of the breakdown of labels, musicians feeling their way around in the dark, it’s hard to know where to start.  For most of us who have eschewed labels this whole time it’s a bit easier.  We’ve been managing our own careers for years.  It’s still daunting as things have changed so much how do we effectively market ourselves?  Do we go after a small label?  Do we spend money on a producer?  A publicist?  Do we go all digital or still print copies of our CDs?  The answer is YES.  There are no rules here.  You may need to do one or all of these things.  You may decide to put out 4 digital albums recorded in your basement this year and give them all away for free….you may decide to make a really great album in a studio using a producer and market it the old fashioned way.  Different things work for different people.  There is no set market strategy these days.  Whatever you do, make music you can be proud of.  Steve Lawson one said to me that if he makes an album that he loves listening to…even if it doesn’t sell well…what has he lost?  He’s still got a great album he can be PROUD of…and 1000 copies of it to give away as gifts.  Now solo-bass isn’t the most salable of all music endeavors, but it is NICHE.  And niche can be a powerful tool.  There are millions of people out there doing what I do.  It’s a lot easier rise to the top of a small niche market.  That being said, you can have twice the audience in a this kind of environment….the fans AND the players.  Before I started touring with Steve I really didn’t know much about solo bass.  I did own a Stu Hamm cassette back in the early 90’s which I loved. (I’m sorry!) But I knew nothing of Michael Manring or Vic Wooten.  Now I’m surrounded by fantastic solo-bassists all carving out their own subsets of a great niche market and doing quite well.  It’s really a community of great players and people.

If you haven’t already…you need to read through Steve’s blog.  His last big post on remembering not to let your marketing strategy be that influenced by millionaires is brilliant.  Read it here.

So, back to my original rant.  I’ve been contacted by 100’s of producers over the course of my career.  People who were genuinely interested in the tone of my voice.  In my songs.  Then the dreaded meeting.  I’ve been either too young, too old, too tall, not right, not marketable, not blond, not thin enough and on and on….Never a refusal based on them not liking my songs, or my voice.  Granted for the most part, most of the meetings seemed like an interview for a date or a livestock auction, or both.   I had hoped that people would listen to my voice, and close their eyes and listen to a genuine outpouring of my soul.  Perhaps forget that I’m 6 feet tall, a size 14, and no longer 18 years old.  The way it happens when you fall in love.  The little imperfections turn into endearments.  Those are the things that become my favourite part of someone when I love them.  Music is like that for me too.  I love the so called mistakes.  The dropped chord, the cracked voice on a note, the outburst of laughter at a show.  The beauty in being human is what I love about music; it’s what I love about people too.  Because of this, I am haunted by the things I think I should be doing….things that people want me to do.  I need to be innovative, ahead of the curve, or people won’t come to see me or buy my albums.  And this is what it is.  I’m not trying to get famous here, just trying to make enough money to live.  So when you come to see me live, or you buy a cd, it makes it possible for me to keep doing what I’m doing.  Bottom line.  You’re not making me rich, you’re not putting my dog through charm school.  You’re supporting local business at grass roots level.  And that is very, very good indeed. In turn, the biggest gift I can give you in return is to make the best music I can and part of that is making music that is ME.  It doesn’t matter if it’s quirky, uncool or outdated as long as it’s GOOD and it’s something I can be proud of.  That’s all I want to do.

It’s never all bad. I’ve worked with some great people too.  Producers and engineers that have turned into lifelong friends.  They make up for all the wasted time, all the bogus physical assessment.  I hope as the independent musician continues to manage their own career in this very exciting future, that we’ll see more and more of what has been hidden from us in the past by people pushing marketability.  Beautiful voices and beautiful songs that don’t need to be attached to something pretty.  Maybe then people will stop trying to make themselves into something they’re not.  Maybe then we can all just concentrate on making music.  Can you tell I’m an idealist?  xo