SubmitHub – Interview with founder Jason Grishkoff

In today’s industry interview we talk to Jason Grishkoff who is an ex-Google employee and music entrepreneur who founded Indie Shuffle and SubmitHub.

It’s the latter – with its focus on connecting independent musicians with Spotify playlisters, bloggers and other curators – which we focused on for this discussion.

If you’ve ever checked out how you might promote a new track or album, you’ve probably come across SubmitHub, a platform which let’s you connect with people who might support the track.

Whilst more widespread in pop and other more commercial genres, the growth of jazz musicians looking to make sense of streaming platforms like Spotify makes it an important topic to be aware of.

And, unlike some other platforms in the same space, SubmitHub makes a clear distinction between their set up of paying for the time of someone to consider your music, and paying someone to promote your music.

That might be a subtle difference, but it’s an important one in terms of credibility for those involved.

Anyway, you can read on for the full interview, but first here are some takeaways that stood out to us as great actionable piece of advice.

  1. Focus on building a local audience and creating interesting live performances that stand out and make people talk about you.
  2. From a streaming perspective consider using Instagram advertising to target individuals directly and increase conversion rates.
  3. Think about where you want your fans to consume your content online and guide your advertising efforts accordingly.
  4. Remember that music is not just what people hear but also what they see and experience. Aim to differentiate yourself and create a total experience for your audience during live performances.

Can you give some background into SubmitHub?

SubmitHub has its origins in my music blog, Indie Shuffle, and the 300 submissions we received daily. SubmitHub was created to manage submissions, ensure I listened and responded to them, and provided feedback to artists. 

Similar platforms promise success or promotion, but SubmitHub’s intention is to connect you with potentially helpful people. Our core product is transparent, easy connection. SubmitHub cannot guarantee success, but we offer targeted pitching and ensure consideration of your pitch.

When pitching outside of SubmitHub, how would you approach getting coverage for a project? Would you recommend mass mailings or a more targeted approach?

I don’t recommend using any tool on its own, including SubmitHub. It’s important to cast a wide net because the internet is huge. While mass mailing lists are easy, they often yield no responses. 

For musicians, a good starting point is to consider where your target audience consumes your music and where you want to be consumed. 

For example, if you’re in the jazz genre, live performances may be more profitable than streaming on platforms like Spotify. So, a lot of promotion should be focused on getting more gigs and getting people to attend them. This often requires a local focus.

When approaching digital promotion, it’s good to understand SEO and the importance of having a strong online presence. 

Blog reviews are great because they make your search results look better when people search for you on Google. Additionally, they are evergreen, so they won’t disappear over time.

Ultimately, the digital aspect is relevant even if you’re not planning to have an online career. This is especially true for jazz musicians who often rely on live performances.

How important are the Spotify figures (followers/listeners) from an industry point of view? 

Many people judge music by its popularity on Spotify. However, reaching something like 150,000 listeners is nearly impossible to achieve. Additionally, Spotify is fickle – you can get added to a playlist for 30 days and then disappear without any lasting impact. From my perspective, passing that 1,000 listeners per month threshold is a great target goal.

While it’s still good for sharing and building an online resume, it’s good to balance the value of Spotify with other techniques like music blogs. Music blogs can help tell your story and build your electronic press kit.

How can jazz musicians improve their Spotify presence and achieve a bigger number of listeners?

There are good and bad techniques for improving your Spotify presence. 

Bad techniques include buying plays or placement on pay-to-play playlists, which violates Spotify’s rules and can get your music removed. 

The two good techniques involve 1) finding independent playlists to share your music and 2) using Instagram advertising.

Submitting to Spotify’s editorial playlists can be difficult, but independent playlists are a good place to start. You should target playlists that feature artists you want to be associated with, not those with a broad reach that could confuse Spotify’s algorithm. 

When your song is in a playlist that aligns with your music, Spotify’s algorithm gets triggered and recommends your music to people based on their listening behavior.

SubmitHub can help you find independent playlists that align with your music, as it matches you with people who like jazz. 

Instagram advertising is another good technique, but there’s a learning curve to it. The combination of independent playlists and Instagram advertising can help you get guaranteed listeners and build your audience.

Why do you think Instagram is preferred over Facebook when it comes to promoting playlists?

Jason: Most of the playlists on SubmitHub use Instagram ads to promote their playlists because of the mobile experience and the fact that Instagram is more media-rich and media-heavy, making music conversion easier, especially for younger demographics. 

However, for the jazz crowd, one might want to focus on Facebook if there is an older demographic involved. Moreover, many of these ads run cross-platform, so Facebook can easily take the same assets that you’ve uploaded, such as a 10-second video with a link. 

This year, SubmitHub is planning to roll out a service to help set up ads by hiring experts to create the assets and set up the advertising.

Can you offer a solution to the challenge of bloggers and journalists getting paid, whilst avoiding musicians being asked to pay for reviews?

It is a difficult situation to solve. In the past, bloggers could make money from advertising on their website, but that is not the case anymore, leading to the rise of websites like Musosoup, which allows bloggers to “sell” guaranteed coverage. 

SubmitHub’s model steers clear of payola by paying curators for their time spent considering a song, with nothing additional required if they decide to share it. 

The payment is usually around one to two dollars for them to sit down, listen to the song, and provide feedback. SubmitHub incentivizes these curators to actually respond by giving them a revenue stream. Most bloggers earn around $200 to $300 a month from it.

As a jazz musician with an older fan demographic who still buy physical CDs and attend live gigs, where should you focus your efforts to move the needle in your career?

The local push is key, creating an interesting live show that stands out and makes people talk about you. 

Remember that music is a performance and the total experience matters, not just what you hear. If I were a jazz musician today, I would expect that most of my money and interaction is going to come from live performances and engagement. 

Local radio is a good way to get out there. Try to find a local station that does live performances or features local artists. Jazz online radio is also pretty big, but you risk going too broad there, so it’s better to focus on popular radio stations in your area. 

At the end of the day, almost no one can make a full-time living as an independent musician, so the focus should be on those little local victories and enjoying them, rather than just numbers on a screen.

Thanks again to Jason for taking the time to chat and share this insight!

About SubmitHub

SubmitHub is an online platform which allows you to easily send your music to curators for potential placement on blogs, radio stations and playlists.

More than 3,850,000 songs have been approved and shared, with curators providing feedback on each one, regardless of whether they select it or not.

You can learn more, as well as check out their strategy guides, here.

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