Sonicbids Responds To CMJ Controversy

BOSTON (Hypebot) – In responding to the recent controversy accusing CMJ of taking showcase submission fees via Sonicbids and not listening to the applicants, Sonicbids CEO Panos Panay write wrote:

"….one of the nice things about being an online company is that we are able to see activities that happen on our servers…The issue arose from the fact that the current version of the Sonicbids EPK “hits tracker” tells you if an MP3 was streamed, but it does not indicate if it was downloaded…Since CMJ prefers to review submitting artists by downloading their tracks first, this resulted in several bands getting a rejection from CMJ, but, when they checked their tracker stats, noticed that their music was not registered as having been played…"

"….In addition to this, we know that CMJ listened to the artists that submitted because, simply, we know CMJ. Big deal, you say, right? I can tell you that there is hardly an organization out there that has done more for independent music in the past 25 years than CMJ…"

Read the full text of Panos Panay's letter regarding Sonicbids on CMJ submissions below

I have received many emails and viewed several blogs in the past 24 hours about artists upset that CMJ rejected them without first listening to them; and also voicing their dismay at the cost of the submission through Sonicbids. Their concerns are based on a “not-selected” email that some artists received on Monday evening from a CMJ staff member who accidentally copied the other non-selected artists; and also from some artists checking their Sonicbids account and noticing that even though they got a rejection from CMJ, their Sonicbids “hits tracker” did not indicate that their songs were played. After carefully reading all emails and posts, I thought that it would be appropriate that I use this forum to respond.

First, let me say that to the best of our knowledge CMJ did in fact listen to all artists that have submitted through Sonicbids. How do we know this? Well, one of the nice things about being an online company is that we are able to see activities that happen on our servers such as page views, MP3 streaming, file downloads, etc. The issue arose from the fact that the current version of the Sonicbids EPK “hits tracker” tells you if an MP3 was streamed, but it does not indicate if it was downloaded (yeah, makes no sense to me either, but we are fixing that). Since CMJ prefers to review submitting artists by downloading their tracks first, this resulted in several bands getting a rejection from CMJ, but, when they checked their tracker stats, noticed that their music was not registered as having been played. I would get mad too, specially if I paid $45 to submit and thought that no one listened to my music. Obviously that was not the case, and we are working as we speak on making the EPK hits tracker a lot more accurate.

In addition to this, we know that CMJ listened to the artists that submitted because, simply, we know CMJ. Big deal, you say, right? I can tell you that there is hardly an organization out there that has done more for independent music in the past 25 years than CMJ has done, both with its Music Marathon and its music charts. In fact, CMJ has booked and presented close to 2,000 different bands through Sonicbids in the past four years – that’s TWO THOUSAND. I can barely name an artist who broke big in America in the past quarter of a century who has done so without benefiting from the exposure that they got from playing CMJ or from appearing on their charts. If we trust one organization to meticulously review all submissions that they get, it’s CMJ. These people are music people, plain and simple.

Second, I understand that some people are upset about the cost of submitting to CMJ through Sonicbids. Let me make it clear that the cost of submission for CMJ is $45 whether you submit through Sonicbids or not (if you still like sending in a physical promo kit, that’s a $45 check plus the cost of the postage and material). Unlike, say, Ticketmaster, MovieTickets, Active.com or other similar services, we do not add a surcharge to the submission cost. Instead, Sonicbids makes its money by taking a fee out of the promoter’s submission fee so that the applying artist is not double-charged.

Why pay a submission fee for CMJ or any other similar event? Well, submission costs are fairly normal no matter the industry you are in. You pay them whether you are an architect submitting to a contest; an immigrant applying for a visa; a craft artist applying for a show; a college student applying to a university. Putting on an event, running a college, staging a competition is not free and yes, part of the costs of running these events is covered by these fees. No worthwhile “connection” in life is free. A phone call costs money, a meeting at a coffee shop costs money, even a call through Skype costs money as you still have to pay your internet bill. The real issue is to decide whether the upside of any submission fee (that is, being selected) is worthwhile. If not, I would strongly suggest that you do not submit, as it would be a waste of money.

As far as the total number of selections versus the number of applications, all I can say is that any event worth its salt will have far fewer slots available than applications. Would you rather go to a college that accepts 10% of all applicants or 90% of all applicants? Take a job that accepts all comers or be offered one that has a strenuous selection process where only the best get in? Anything with a high standard will also have a high number of rejections. That’s why CMJ is popular and that’s why it’s relevant to the college radio programmers that have attended the event every year for 27 years.

I know that rejection is disappointing for everyone and it’s something that all of us – who care about becoming something better than who we already are – experience, and will continue to experience. It’s part of putting yourself out there. I also know that on occasion, any website and any technological solution encounters bugs and glitches and no matter how much testing one does, nothing is fool-proof until it’s truly tested out there in the marketplace. We do apologize for any confusion that may have arisen as a result of a buggy tracker, which we are busy fixing.

We are committed here at Sonicbids to creating the best site that exists to help every band and artist, no matter which stage of their career, to find and connect with any gig that’s appropriate for where they want to go next. We are doing, and will continue to do, our best to live up to your understandably high expectations of Sonicbids.

Panos Panay
Founder & CEO
Sonicbids

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