When Do Submission Fees Make Sense?

Let’s start by recognizing that many successful playlist curators are also musicians. The first time a curator saw one of their playlists catch on, they probably felt thrilled about successfully sharing their passion for great music, and happy to consider new submissions. But once those submissions started piling up, they probably ran into a conflict between listening to other peoples’ submissions versus composing and performing their own music, and relaxing with friends and family.

Bloggers face the same conflict. Many of them are active musicians (hence their ability to blog), who dread the thought of getting tethered to computers.

When overload sets in, many bloggers and curators run for cover and publicly “erase” themselves on social.

Some turn promotion into part of their livelihood, by charging a small fee for listening to submissions from motivated artists.

Occasionally a frustrated artist complains on social media “Why should I pay anyone to enjoy the wonderful music I spent my last dime producing for your pleasure?” Playlist curators understand, because they are in the same boat when they submit their own work to other curators, but they wish these hornblowers would recognize what it feels like to have 20, 50, or 100 song links waiting in one’s inbox EVERY SINGLE DAY! (That’s between 1-5 hours per day of listening to other peoples’ music!) And, frankly, while some submissions are absolutely wonderful, others either don’t fit the playlist’s genre/theme, or just aren’t good enough to reward the curator for listening and typing a polite response.

This is why submission fees can facilitate a fair exchange of each individual’s time and energy (as long the curator is willing to provide useful feedback about any submission that gets rejected). And it’s also why we advise independent producers to always include some launch money in their budgets.

What About Steep Submission Fees?

Some promotional services charge a substantial fee for guaranteed placement on active playlists. In this scenario, it’s illegal for you to choose the playlists, so you’ll just have to cross your fingers and hope for a good one. If a middleman’s fee does not guarantee placement, then either they’re asking you to gamble on the quality of your music, or else it’s a scam. Do your homework!

Part of Your Submission Fee Might Feed a Curator’s Collective PR Fund

Playlists that grow all by themselves are every curator’s dream. However, in reality, active playlists can gobble up money, by requiring paid advertising to keep the audience fresh. Ditto for blogs, and promotional websites. This is why some professional curators need to charge submission fees just to stay flush.

Fortunately, if your music is good enough to get accepted, then paying for collaborative promotion can be cheaper than paying for equivalent PR yourself.

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