This weekend, my wife forced me into doing family photos at 9am Saturday morning. It ended up being a nice morning, but its what prompted the idea for this track.
I thought this lyrical concept worked for the music because family photos day was happy and wholesome, however there was also this tension around the day and leading up to it. The instrumental and vibe works for this (i think…).
Once I had the overall lyrical concept decided, I pinged some friends on the IMF discord asking if anyone had ‘sounds cameras make’ that I could use.
Sure enough Pultixima delivers!
I started this one by picking up the Gibson acoustic for the first time in a while. I plucked away and came up with the simple 2 chord plucky riff that sounds far in the room in the mix. I may change the way this one sits in the mix, but I do think I want the acoustic room sound for it.
I already have some feedback around that guitar, its the only one I got on it but I have a gut feel about the sound not sitting exactly the way I want yet so I’m taking it as a sign to mess with its eq a bit more:
I played around with a lot of combinations of Guitar Rig 5 and Reason Amps and stuff on the bass parts.
I used a Squire electric guitar for the electric guitar parts , this guitar my wife got as a teenager wanting to learn to play, but never really picked it up. She did keep the guitar over the years tho and I have been using it for a while. My Ibanez SDGR 6 string bass is used for the bass parts.
The drums are done with 2 umph retro beats, and an EZ drummer each played in with the MPD218 finger drums and then quantized and adjusted around.
The core drums is the EZ drummer. Funk Zappa is the doing tight center kick drum, and a high snare sound that layers into the ez drummer one a bit. The Bengal is just that cowbell kind of thing. I may remove it.
Im still working on how these sit, its not quite right in a few places and needs some work but this is the set up as of right now.
I like to dabble with various types of music promotion. When I find new services I often try them out. A few months ago a few members of the /r/indiemusicfeedback community started talking about a new service they found called PlaylistPush. Among community members, no-one pulled the trigger on it because of its relatively high price point to get started. I added it to my list of things I’m willing to throw money at just to see what happens.
Meanwhile I had been trying to hire what is essentially a personal assistant for my music. I wanted to hire a playlist scout, someone who took time to listen to my tracks, look over playlists, and come back to me with playlists taking submissions who they thought my music could mesh well with. I hired someone on Fiverr for this at one point and it ended up sending a bunch of bot traffic to my Spotify (I’m still cleaning this up). I have yet to find the assistant I’m looking for (taking applications!!).
Now lets talk about value for a second here, it is after all the crux of my argument on why the service is not a good idea for small budget DIY acts in niche genres.
Value = benefit – cost
Benefit is a hard to define with music promotion. its not necessarily a dollars and cents thing. Expect to go massively into the red when promoting music on your own.
Playlists don’t appear to be great in general for picking up followers and new fans. However, if I can pick up a few new fans amongst the stream of people skimming along playlists, ill take that as a win that adds to the benefit. Plays alone provide benefit via streaming royalties, for value to be met on streams alone, you would need to nearly guarantee 40,000 plays per playlist push campaign. They also do expose music to new potential fans, if some of these plays like and follow my artist profile that is a non-monetary benefit that can help me in the long run as I continue to release new material.
I think even for successful placements, the value is questionable. The value is less about playlistpush itself (however the $400 entry point does not help), and more about playlists as a strategy in general. (See example at the bottom of this post)
Ok now that my thoughts on value are out of the way… back to my experience.
As I started to look closer at playlistpush, it seemed like the closest thing to a personal playlist scout that is sold as a package out there. This might be exactly what I have been looking for. I bought the cheapest campaign I could at $391 and came in knowing that I very well may end up with a goose egg on plays and followers – Know that on any playlist submission website this is a possibility.
I selected an older track of mine, Quick Draw, for a few reasons.
1- I have never promoted it – its a fresh track as far as stats go and no other campaigns would obfuscate the stats or results coming in
2- Its a fan favorite, of my small base of actual fans many of them have told me its one of their favorites , especially amongst ‘non-producer’ fans, which I thought was a tell in some way that it might be good for playlists.
3- It leans toward rock in its sound but draws on synthwave and synthpop and I thought it could fit along side other indietronica style acts in a playlist.
Shortly after signing up I got this email:
I later got an email about genres:
Overall the process was easy, quick and had a good user experience on the website. I would like to see more one-on-one interaction for the price point, an agent that emails me and says ‘hey I think these are good playlists and we want to submit to them and here is why’ – the service when I used it does not do this. It appears to be solely based on genre selection ,and I did get some adjustments made for me on that front (i dont know who did it however). I understand it will cut the margin for them to offer a personal touch like this, I think two hours of allocated time from a PlaylistPush ‘playlist agent’ for a $400 asking price should be doable and would greatly increase the benefit of the service.
The Placement I Got
I did get a single decent placement, that generated around 800 plays on my track Quick Draw over a few weeks on a moderately active playlist that looked to be real traffic – this is still a win for me by the numbers, the service is ‘real’ in that they do what they say they are going to do. I think it will work well for artists with very ‘playlistable’ material – staple genres, mood music, and sonic profiles that closely resemble other established acts will likely see bigger numbers and more placements. For artists or acts like me, who don’t fit exactly into any genre cleanly, its a gamble with odds against you, imo.
On The Feedback
I did get feedback from every decline. I get good feedback for free from online communities like indiemusicfeedback, so I dont see it as a huge addition to the benefit, unless its truly exceptional feedback. I did get a few good takeaways but most of it was not helpful. The feedback is part of the benefit of the service, here’s a sample of some that I got from declines.
On the customer service
As my campaign started to draw to an end, I considered buying a second one, maybe Quick Draw wasn’t the best choice. I just could not stomach another 400 bucks to do that. I do have the money to play around with stuff like this and if my blunders can be used to inform other artists like me, ill take that as a small win. However, I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and move to trying out other things when the costs would get to close to 800 bucks just to do an evaluation. In advance of writing this post, I sent playlistpush an email:
On Playlist Vetting
I think PlaylistPush does a good job of vetting curators, unlike SubmitHub. Most of the curators on the platform seem to be legitimate curators with real followings. If you have ever used SubmitHub, you probably know that taking a lot of time to carefully review curators is basically a requirement because the sheer quantity of junk playlists on the platform. Playlist push appears to be seeded by quality , populated playlists, and this is done via rules around vetting and who can and can not accept tracks on the platform.
My Recommendation for Artists like me
By ‘artists like me’ i mean DIY, hobbies, indie acts, whos genre/sound is not a square peg that fits in a square hole. Hybrid genres, offbeat productions, and signature sounds im not so sure are great for the spend.
I ended up NOT recommending playlistpush to friends in the music community mostly because of the value the service is bringing. And I do think for artists like me, who have a niche sound, with a variety of influences genre wise, should consider other promotional avenues when asked ‘how should you spend this $400 to promote your track. The service itself is good, but if you need advanced targeting $400 is probably better spent on Facebook ads, or hire someone for 100 bucks to spend 300 bucks on SubmitHub and carefully research each playlist submitted to, I probably would have ended up with more placements that way.
If playlistpush had a lower tier packaged priced around $100 I think the value would be more in line and possibly worth a recommendation to ‘give it a shot’ to other artists like me. OR if playlistpush offered a more personal experience with the ‘agent’ idea above, I think I would feel better about spending 400 bucks.
I posted this tweet in advance of this post with my verdict:
At this point playlist push did respond via twitter and issued me a full refund:
After I tweeted to playlist push and the community that I recommend against using the service I got a comment on the tweet from this guy (Kache):
Heres Kache’s spotify – check it out. The music is well made and produced. The sound is a little generic, but would certainly fit easily into many popular types of playlists. Overall it is well presented and made.
Heres the pull comparing Kache to my page from artists.spotify.com:
Did Kache get a good value? I cant say without knowing how much was spent on playlist push, if Kache spent $400 like me, then yes that is for sure a good value based on ROI alone. If the spend was over $1000, probably not. If Kache wanted to garner fans, or get better algorithmic plays, it does not appear to be working for that. In this example the sole benefit appears to be raw play counts, and streaming revenue from those plays, his music did get in the ears of a shit ton of people, which is all some people want.
I think playlisting in general should be a secondary strategy for indie artists with mixed-genre sounds like me. The bulk of your budget should be spent on platforms that offer dynamic and machine learning targeting, like Facebook, to narrow down just who likes this stuff anyways. Playlists placement being done on the side with a smaller portion of budget to garner extra exposure along side similar artists.
If you are going to playlist, PlaylistPush is expensive for what it does. For ‘artists like me’ I think spending time, or hiring someone to spend time to research SubmitHub playlists would be a better way to spend your playlist placement budget. As of right now (October 2020) I don’t think its a great value for the price. I will do another campaign at some point with PlaylistPush and re-evaluate.
My thoughts for the PlaylistPush team:
A vetting process similar to what they do with curators for artists might not be a bad thing to work in. You could still charge a fee for the evaluation, say $15 to have an employee experienced with playlisting listen to the track and give an opinion on how playlistable it is. This would get into some muddy subjective waters however, and I see why it’s not a common thing and could be difficult to implement.
A personal touch via human-to-human discussions with the playlistpush team would up the benefit of the service and give a better value prop. For this price, curators who don’t have a playlist that matches my sound should not be getting presented the track at all. I got rejected by a ‘chill’ playlist when none of my genre selections had much at all to do with chill kinds of sounds. At the least, consider crediting and re-submitting in instances where this does happen, and tighten up the process around who gets presented what.
A lower tier package, possibly with less features would sell to people in my category. A price point of around $100 would be good. Maybe a ‘B’ list of curators who have to earn their way up the the A list.
Now…. what track of mine on do yall think is best for a re-run of this The Reason I’m Here maybe?
Dreams of Lasers (DOL) and I have been working on this track for a while now. As far as I can tell, we started talking about this track around August 13’th in discord. I was still in the processing phases of The Reason I’m Here at that point in time and didnt really dive in right away.
For this project we went into it with the intention of DOL being the DAW runner, which would invert our roles from The Reason I’m Here.
We started out with about a 1:36 length demo created by DOL, I was supposed to work on a hook and some bass lines.
The verse, the chorus, the way they transition, and the vocal melodies were all excellent and in place. I worked on some electric bass line ideas, some which had the original arpeggiated synth bass, and one that was electric bass only. I much preferred the one with the synth.
I did a vocal hook concept that didnt make it to the final cut. It just wasnt quite right for the track. It was just me sounding kind of like a sheep going ‘Baaad baaad baaad baaad to better’ (haha)
Later that day…..
Over the next few days:
I’m still promoting and working on feedback on The Reason I’m Here during this project, it takes over for a few days. Its hard for me to do 2 things at once, I tend to go all in and move very quickly in a hyper focused way. I did eventually settle with everything I wanted to do for this stage of promoting it and started to get to point my attention back at Bad to Better.
I get back to this on the 22nd. And try doing vocals in different styles – high energy and loud, soft and sweet, and something kind of in between. I’m trying to figure out how I should sound in the mix and in the context of the song.
Things kind of stalled out a bit here, we were still discussing the track, what the lyrics should do, what to put where etc fairly regularly.
All through this phase, I am getting a bounce of each layer from DOL as wav files. I drop those into reason, do my parts over it, export those and give them back to work them into the master.
DOL is still new to recording with a DAW and how to use all of its features. I’m doing my best to try to give him some pointers with screenshots and examples. I get him a few layers of bass parts, vocal takes,
I also did some early layers of expanding on the drums and synths. I had roughly only 1/3 of the track started at that point.
Right around this point I went on a 1 week family vacation to the fingerlakes
I get back and make Butter Up the Sub in only about 2 days right after getting home from vacation. It was a good relief track for me. I just got to get a little silly and make something I was feeling. At this point I feel really ready to take on Bad to Better at full capacity.
At this point , a lot happens really fast. DOL decides its probably better to pass DAW runner duty to me for the sake of getting it out faster. The main goal was to have DOL get more familiar with the DAW and learn some new things about production. I think that was still achieved despite having me take it from this point.
I fully build out the synths and drums, and do a few extra bass and vocal takes for various sections of the track and start working on the mix.
A few days later we have something we are proud to post. It came out so good im really happy with it. There are still some changes coming, including updates to the last 1/3 of the song which is where the most attention needs to go right now.