I have answered many of the comments below and will continue to answer them as time permits. You will see my answers interspersed among the comments. I appreciate the feedback and have posted this precisely to answer doubts and concerns.
Also, someone made a good point in the comments section that I should address here at the top. I did not write this post for the benefit of Music Xray. Music Xray is experiencing tremendous growth every month. I wrote it because I am passionate about understanding and communicating how the music industry is changing and how those changes effect everyone from business people to musicians.
In the past, artists were not required to pay to submit their music for professional consideration. Additionally, there have been numerous scams and shams where unscrupulous people have preyed upon the aspirations of emerging artists to take their money from them. I understand when I hear musicians say, “You shouldn’t have to pay people to consider your music”. And, “Music industry professionals already get paid by their companies to find talent.” Or, “Any professional that’s charging you to listen to your music is running a scam!” And, “Aren’t people supposed to pay me to hear my music and not the other way around?”
I was once a struggling musician who had to save up so I could buy guitar strings. I know the term starving artist didn’t coin itself. So, I’m sympathetic to the fact that making submission after submission can add up. I also understand when we’re asked, “Why can’t you get your revenue from the industry or from advertisers? Why do you have to charge the artists?” Furthermore, I fully “get” that there are plenty of analytic tools out there to help industry professionals see who is on the rise and up and coming. “Shouldn’t they be out there uncovering that information? With all the cool technology that’s available, why do they even have to take submissions anyway?”
Those are all valid points. So, I thought it would be good to have a webpage and/or a document where we can address these questions and discuss them openly with our users – the people we love and serve. First and foremost, we are here to make you, the musician the focal point of this organization.
Let’s start with the most basic question…
Why have submission fees at all? Why doesn’t Music Xray make its money with advertisements or sponsors?
A. We tried offering the submission service for free. It didn’t work.
As you know, the service is only valuable if the industry professionals on the receiving side are engaged and attending to their submissions. As you can imagine, when they open up a free submission drop box, some musicians submit every song they’ve ever recorded, whether the songs are appropriate or not for the opportunity. That creates an immediate problem of submission overload and after a day of that we couldn’t get any of the professionals to log back in and attend to their submissions.
In order to insure the industry professionals are there for you, we’ve built them a really awesome platform that helps them be more effective when conducting their A&R activities. Part of that requires a way for the professionals themselves to control the speed at which they receive submissions. A fee seemed to be the best way to do it because it offered an incentive for the professionals to give priority attention to their submissions from Music Xray artists over submissions they may receive via a plethora of other places and it also offered a way for Music Xray to keep it’s lights on.
So, we settled on a $4 “transaction fee” for most submissions and the professionals themselves can add an additional fee on top of the $4 if they desire. If they are getting too many submissions, they can increase the fee (which slows it down). If they are getting too few submissions, they can lower the fee.
On a case-by-case basis, we’ve been known to waive all fees and have an occasional 100% free submissions on the site as well. Just like in college, we’re still experimenting.
Where do all the fees go?
A. The fees are not really seen by the professionals as a revenue stream. At most, it’s beer money and who wouldn’t buy someone a beer to have their music considered for an opportunity? But that’s beside the point.
Some professionals’ companies won’t allow them to charge money because it looks bad for them to be taking submission fees when their company is paying them to find songs and talent. It’s easier for them to ignore a good practice than try to explain it as I’m doing here and instead they still decline to accept unsolicited material via other avenues. They make an exception for Music Xray. Nevertheless, they still need to use the fees as a tool to regulate submissions as explained above in Q1. So, we provide a number of charities on the site where they can automatically send their fees. Many of them do that. Charities include Save The Children Fund, Musicares, Song of Love Foundation, Oxfam and others.
Some of the industry professionals on the site who do not necessarily have opportunities for songs but instead are available to provide song critiques, career coaching and professional feedback do indeed charge higher fees for their engagement and they collect the money they earn (although some send it to charities as well). These professionals are on the site providing a service just like any other professional you might consult, be they an attorney, an accountant, a doctor or a dentist.
Music Xray makes it possible for independent musicians everywhere to reach and interact with hit songwriters, Grammy-winning producers and even some celebrity artists. They offer their time, attention and expertise and they deserve to be compensated fairly for that.
What value do artists get by paying fees to submit rather than finding a way to contact the professionals directly?
A. Music Xray provides value to musicians by saving you time and money. How?
First, Music Xray provides the direct, professional path.
If you go out on your own to find available opportunities and engage the people you should submit music to, you’ll find it’s hard work that takes time. It usually also costs money. Often, it feels like you’re asking for a favor when you request that they hear your music. Plus, shouldn’t you be spending your time making music and playing gigs? Can’t we do this faster and cheaper for you and help you reach more people than you can on your own? Just sayin’.
Second, we guarantee your music is heard.
You don’t even get that guarantee when you hand someone your CD in person. We suspend industry professionals’ accounts who do not attend to their submissions in a timely manner and we refund artists their submission fees.
Professionals love the tools Music Xray provides them. They like that we’ve streamlined the A&R process and that we enable them to efficiently tap into a vast pool of independent talent. They don’t want to have their accounts suspended. They don’t like to look bad on a public facing website as having voluntarily opened a drop box and then abandoned it. We have leverage on them that you, on your own never will.
Third, we guarantee you get feedback in a reasonable time period.
We’re able to achieve this for the same reasons as stated above. It’s just part of the rules professionals must follow if they want to use our site.
To build, operate, and manage a large community of industry professionals and musicians costs money that we pay to our team members. We have to have offices, telephones, computers and we travel a lot to conferences and events where we work for you.
However, just like with any company, if Music Xray isn’t providing value and isn’t getting results it doesn’t deserve to remain in business. But if it is, Music Xray should be paid for the value it provides.