Submit music

February 01, 2024

Do you want to submit your music to Indie Music Center?

You're very welcome! But before blindly submitting music, please learn a bit more about our background.

From dream to reality

I've been promoting indie music since 2001. In 2016, I made the decision to transition from running a web radio to operating a "music blog" and this shift was inspired by another indie music curator.

Now, 8 years later, with more experience and a broader perspective, I've come to a disheartening realization. While I once admired this curator's work and took it as a model, listening to their playlists now fills me with profound disappointment. The songs all blend together, lacking distinctiveness. While a few may stand out as excellent, most feel like mere replicas conforming to established norms. These playlists now strike me as bland, serving more as background noise than engaging musical experiences. They fill the void of silence when we need background music for activities like cooking, cleaning, or studying. However, upon reflection, how many songs from a 90 or 120-minute playlist truly leave a lasting impression? How many do we remember well enough to sing along to? Probably very few.

This realization is concerning, indicating a decline in the value of music. Modern playlists often serve to occupy our minds and pass the time rather than facilitating discovery of new songs and artists, including their stories. Listening to a string of indistinguishable songs does little to inspire further exploration into the artists' backgrounds and experiences. This depersonalization of music consumption is deeply troubling.

The reality is: more candidates than listeners

I need to confess that I used to have a huge problem with my own website. And fortunately, I'm not the only music website owner to face this problem. Which problem? The overwhelming demand for inclusion, far outweighing the actual impact I have with my loyal 60K+ monthly readers. After 7 years, I got more than a million requests to be featured. Yes! A MILLION!

So let's say that, at a smaller scale, I received thousands of requests from artists to be see by ONE reader. This is terrible when you think about it: there is more demand to be on a blog than readers actually reading it. And it's also the case for playlisters (except they don't have to spend countless hours writing articles).

Yes, you got it right. Most of the time, artists don't even care about the blog itself and never read it! They just want to be ON IT. I said "most of the time", not all artists, fortunately. We do have artists who really care! Some of them are members of the IMC Family and others will join them soon. I mean... 20 artists among millions asking to be featured. Some of them will join the family soon, but it's still a really scary situation when you think about it.

Dehumanization

The dominance of platforms like Spotify, which notoriously underpays artists, is exhausting because it perpetuates an exploitative system. Artists pour their heart and soul into their craft, only to receive meager compensation for their work. This disparity in earnings reinforces inequalities within the music industry, making it increasingly difficult for emerging artists to sustain themselves financially. It's also frustrating to see Spotify prioritize its own editorial playlists over the smaller playlists curated by independent creators like myself because it reinforces a power imbalance. By favoring their own playlists, Spotify limits the visibility of smaller creators, making it challenging for them to gain traction and reach new audiences. This not only hinders the growth of independent music scenes but also perpetuates the dominance of mainstream, commercially-driven content.

And I'm really really really tired of reading content about "Algorithms", whether it talks about Spotify or Instagram, or even "AI". I've spent 3 hours recently, trying to talk with Spotify support about the fact that we won't be able to distribute our "Indie Hour" podcast there because they will not allow "Music + Talk" shows anymore. All I got was robotic answers. So I got rid of Spotify to promote my dear musician friends.

Also, sometimes I'm horrified to see artists literally buying blog posts written by an AI. It breaks my heart. Because this is not work. This literally distroys our (real bloggers) credibility. Hey! Come one! There's still real people wanting to write about your music! I'm part of them! (Raising my hand).

Work because you love to work

Yes, of course, one can consider that spending sometimes 10 hours a day selecting songs, writing articles, preparing visuals to accompany the articles or posts on Instagram, is work. Of course, it's work. And today, with hindsight, I realize that I did it... because I've been asked to do it (and this request came from the submissions). Yes, I also did it because I wanted to and because I enjoyed it, of course! Otherwise, I wouldn't have done it at all. But today, it dawns on me that it would be better for me to do something because I love doing it rather than because I've been asked to do it.

In 2023, something changed my life. I found the best job in the world in the field of tourism and customer service. I won't go into details, but I've been working since I was 18 (I'm almost 37 now), and it's the first time I was super happy to go to work in the morning and didn't feel like I was working. And it opened my eyes. I took immense pleasure in what I was doing because I wanted to do it, not because I was asked to do it.

Problem: when I got home, I didn't have the same motivation for Indie Music Center. So I preferred to put the "blog" aside for a few months, until this seasonal work contract ended, and I came back to IMC in November once the tourist season was over. Hoping to experience the same pleasure. So I started crafting articles again, until early February. But something is missing. I lack that strength and motivation that I had in my seasonal job in 2023: autonomy and doing things because I love doing them.

If I was posting on IMC, if I was writing articles, it was mostly for a reason: it was because through submissions, I've been asked to do it. Of course, this realization didn't come in a stroke of genius, as I've had the same feeling several times over the past few years. So I've gone through periods where I loved writing for IMC and periods where I was way much less inclined, preferring to spend my time with my girlfriend who has recovered from cancer, in my garden, or with my pets. And I think I made the right choice.

In early January 2024, I found myself in a "down" phase of IMC, as I've experienced several times before. Except this time, with experience, I engaged in a deeper reflection than usual, and I tried to understand why I didn't feel quite comfortable. And I understood that in fact, what I was doing was not rational, and no longer aligned with the original concept, which was to share my musical discoveries. A musical discovery, for me, is a song that we stumble upon by chance and that instantly evokes strong emotions. Of course, these strong emotions also came through submissions, but there wasn't that adrenaline rush of "I'm here at the right moment with the right people". No. I was here because I've been asked to be here. And that changes everything. Also, I came back to my full-time job in March and good news, I'll become a dad by the end of 2024. So you can easily understand that my time is now even more precious than it used to be. That's another subject. Let's get back to the context.

We're called "gatekeepers"

In recent years, there has been much controversy surrounding "music blogs". Although I don't consider myself a music blogger, but rather a former record store clerk whom people seek advice from without necessarily intending to buy a record. While the profession may have disappeared, the calling remains, and it's mine. I'm here to offer you the best in independent music.

The main controversy stems from the perception of us as "gatekeepers." Out of over 20K submissions, I admit that 90% have been rejected because they were of very poor quality, sometimes recorded in bathrooms with odd special effects. These same artists then take to Twitter, Reddit, or other platforms to vent their frustrations, accusing music curators of being gatekeepers. Of course! We must maintain the quality of our work and preserve the comfort of our readers.

What would happen if next week I published a "Friday Releases" article featuring 4 terrible songs and only one good one? You, dear readers, would already be fleeing, and rightfully so! I would do the same! If I were exposed to rubbish, I'd leave! And that's precisely what I do every time I try to tune into an FM radio station.

The reason these so-called artists label us as so-called gatekeepers often relates to money. Yes, on submission platforms, we earned a tiny amount of money for dedicating our time to providing feedback to artists. But some artists fail to grasp the concept of selection and the fact that, due to lack of motivation or obvious technical and human constraints, we cannot feature the 120K+ new songs released daily on Spotify. Yes, you read that right! 120K+ PER DAY. That's an average of nearly 4 million new songs per month. How long would it take me to write about 4 million songs? Considering I'm human, like everyone else, and have only 24 hours in a day... You got it.

Transparency about money

So these artists who produce poor-quality music, and realize we reject their songs despite having "paid," label us as gatekeepers. Because they fail to understand they didn't pay for a guaranteed feature (which would be payola), but for a fraction of our time. They actually pay for consideration. Not guaranteed feature. Now let me be transparent with you.

How much have I earned with submissions in 7 years? In February 2024, I accumulated 6496€ over 7 years. Yes, euros, because, I'm in Europe, and so... I'm subject to an unfavorable exchange rate: I lose 8% right from the start. Then I must pay 24.5% of what I earn to my country's government, and so on. The calculation is simple: in 7 years, I've earned 6946 Euros from submissions. But I had to deduce...

1591€ in taxes for my dear government + 1050€ of Business Property tax (a tax for using part of my home as an office even if it's just a desk in a windowless corner of a room) + 2000€ spent in Facebook Ads + 4200€ spent in running costs (hosting, domain name, tools, software licenses, several computers and hard disk drives and microphones and headphones because of planned obsolescence).

The final result is negative: -1895€

So am I able to lounge around on wads of cash? No, of course not. Because I was not earning money. I was losing money. And I'm still losing money. If some artists see me as a gatekeeper, let me tell you, the castle behind the grand gate looks more like a shantytown than Disneyland's castle.

But if this was the only problem, that'd be fine.

Lack of recognition

There's another truth you should know. While most of a music blogger's time is spent listening to submissions and crafting lively articles that make you want to discover the artist who sent us their song voluntarily, there's a sad reality behind the scenes. Nearly 50% of the artists who requested this don't even share the fruit of my work: the article. Or if they do, they reshare our Instagram story without adding the link to the article. So it means the link isn't even clickable! Essentially telling their fans, "hey hey, I've been featured there!" That's it. But for those who share nothing, don't respond once approved, and don't even react when the content is released, it's infuriating. And it leads to a rather strange notion.

Modern slavery

When I explain all this to people in real life, they all look at me with wide-eyed astonishment. And the questions come pouring in:

"For 10 hours of work per day, losing money, this is modern slavery, Niko, can't you see it?"

"Wait! You spend your time writing articles about artists nobody knows about, and they don't even say thank you? Or they don't even answer?"

But the question that comes up most often is

"What the f****** planet are you living on?!"

And today, I find myself asking the same question. Yes, indeed, I admit, I was a bit foolish to believe in those loud sirens. Yes, I confess, I thought I was doing the right thing. Yes, I acknowledge, I may have relied too much on the amazing friends I've made, like the artists of the IMC Family, thinking all artists were as great and friendly as them. Yes, it's true, I was far too naive and ignored the signs of modern slavery. So what to do now to regain motivation and start fresh?

Shutting off the tap

To stop the eternal torrent of attention-seeking from artists who, in most cases, couldn't care less afterward, all it takes is a radical decision, and that's to shut off the tap. No more submissions, no more pressure. Less pressure means more enjoyment and fulfillment. Fewer goals to reach like "oh crap, I need one more song for Monday's Quick Sound Bites, what do I do?"

Maybe I won't post several times a week anymore. Maybe it will be once a month. I don't know yet. I'll also have to go through a phase of reflection, during which my Instagram DM inbox will fill up at lightning speed with thousands of unsolicited requests to "work for me for free, you slave!" But I think it's for my own good. For yours too.

Because you'll have a new IMC, healthier, more authentic, without any relationships biased by any submission platform or a few cents. Of course, if you want to, you can still support my work by making a donation of your choice. And we'll see if this new way of "working" works. And if I don't get enough financial support for what I do here, I'll just terminate the adventure and no one's gonna notice and no one's gonna miss me.

If you're ready to continue following me on this new journey, then let's go, together, united.

Musically yours,

Niko

UPDATE - February 21, 2024:

I shared what happened since making this decision in a blog post. It's surprising!

UPDATE - April 6, 2024:

Although I can no longer accept a torrent of submissions, I now put my 22 years of expertise in indie music promotion to work for you through private consultations. Don’t hesitate to book your slot below!