Ari's Take: How To Objectively Pick Your Best Songs (Or Find Out If You Suck)
Ari's Take

How To Objectively Pick Your Best Songs (Or Find Out If You Suck)

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You know how everyone comes up to you after your shows and they tell you how great you were? That feels nice doesn't it. I sure love it. But how many of them are being genuine or just being good friends? Because I remember talking to a drummer buddy of mine who was so excited after his show because everyone told him afterwards how great they were, only to hear from me (a couple days later...come on I'm not that much of a dick) that the sound absolutely sucked, we couldn't hear the singer and his drums were the loudest thing in the mix. He then re-asked his friends "but seriously, you can tell me, how did we sound." To which they unanimously replied "er, yeah, not so good. sorry."

Musicians NEED honest, valuable feedback. In the early stages, sure, but at every stage. It's why labels spend thousands on market research to pick the hit.

Platforms like Taxi and Music Xray will give you high priced "industry" feedback (Taxi is $200-300 a year + $5 per submission and Music Xray submissions average about $20 a pop). However, the feedback is from some faceless person who may be having a crappy day. One person's opinion doesn't mean sh*t. Some people HATE my music and some people LOVE it. If I only listened to the people who said they absolutely despise my music, I'd probably give up. So what if the one person on the other end of Taxi thinks you suck? Well, they're an "industry professional" so they know best right? F that! Who are they? Maybe if Rick Rubin was on the other end, then yeah, weigh that opinion a bit more than your buddy from next door. But I can't stand that these services charge musicians so damn much for anonymous feedback. And then if only that ONE PERSON likes it, will they maybe pass it along to their industry contacts. Please.

Fluence is much better. You actually know the industry professionals you're submitting to. It gives you a direct line to these people and pays them for their time to listen to your music and then they give you feedback. So if Rick Rubin was on this list, you better believe I'd be submitting my songs to him, even if it did cost me a few t-shirt sales. Luckily most of the "curators" on Fluence charge about $2 a minute or so.


But there's now an even better way to get feedback on your music and choose your best songs.

Enter, mothafuckin Audiokite.

Actually, they're just called Audiokite. I added the the mothafuckin because it's pretty mothafuckin cool.

Audiokite Review

In a nutshell, what it is, you submit a song to a group of people from around the US (50 - 500) and they are paid to listen to the song and give you feedback. Sounds expensive right? Well, somehow it's not. I paid $35 to have 100 people listen to my song and give me feedback along with a full report. What?!



And the reports are unbelievable! SUPER detailed. The respondents rate the songs 1-10 for your "General Rating" along with rating 7 other aspects 1-10: Vocal Performance, Instrumental Performance, Lyrics, Beat (Drums and Bass), Song Structure, Sound Quality and Song & Band Name.

My song was an acoustic song (literally just acoustic guitar and vocals) so my "Beat" rating took a hit. But the individual categories don't affect the general score. Which is good, because 10 years into this thing, I ain't changing my name no matter what they say! (they gave my name a score of 7.2 - go mom!)



The General Score is the average of all general scores and I'm encouraging Audiokite to change this to the median. Helllooooo 8th grade math class! Because, if a few d-bags rated a song a 1 because they were having a bad day, but everyone else gave it an 8, those 1s should be thrown out. Likewise with the 10s. Let's see where the score falls without the outliers! My general score was 7.2 and my median score (which I calculated by downloading the report and counting) was actually an 8. Sooooo yeah, go with median!

Audiokite officially launched this past October and they have already had 120,000 surveys with 4,200 hours listened.

Audiokite was founded by Alex Mitchell. He is a classically trained violinist, turned jazz, turned epic rocker. Literally, for a few years back in the early days of YouTube if you searched "electric violin" his videos were the first hits with over a hundred thousand views - which back in the day was a lot!

Alex has toured internationally, played Carnegie Hall and has been in about a dozen bands.

But a few years ago he changed course a bit. He told me over Skype yesterday "I wanted to use my nerd skills to help other musicians." He's a developer and built Audiokite with his co-founder Ben Sklovsky from scratch.

Audiokite currently has a network of 15,000 music fans who come from Amazon's micro tasking network of 500,000. The surveyors are filtered by genre and past responses. The more music they listen to the better Audiokite is able to segment them so the artists get the best audience and the fans get their favorite kind of music to test out.

My biggest complaints currently are that we can't see the actual numbers clearly laid out. My General Rating for 18-21 year olds was 4. My overall General rating was 7.2. Yikes! So college kids hate this song right? Well, not so fast. There were only 6 people in this demo that actually listened to it. Hard to get an accurate idea of what 18-21 year olds think when my sample size is just 6.

It doesn't list that there was 6 in that demo. I had to use my college (drop out) math skills to figure this out from the pie chart of percentages. This one wasn't too bad. 100 total surveyed. 6% were in the 18-21 demo. I'll wait until you grab your calculator to figure it out. I used mine! Wait..



Also, as a songwriter, lyrics are incredibly important to my songs. Yes, they are present in the mix, but since lyrics is a category it would be nice if it could send the lyrics along with the song so they could read along or reference specific lines once the song finishes (without having to scroll back to that exact moment in the song).

Listeners are able to write general thoughts of things they liked or didn't like. This feedback is great! And infuriating. If I ever find the person who (incorrectly) said I used "mainstream" words and "cliches" I will sit them down for a stern English lesson on what a cliche is dammit! There are no cliches in this song! No really. Here are the lyrics.

Woah, sorry, got me going a bit... whew. So when submitting, just be prepared for these kinds of (ignorant) comments. Better yet, don't read the comments.


+Listen to this song on Spotify, SoundCloud or YouTube

And the most exciting aspect of the entire platform is that if your song is highly ranked, opportunities actually open up for you!


How about that? Opportunities actually based on merit! Not connections. Or how well written your bio is. Or your promo photos. Not that those things aren't important. They are. But we're all musicians here. Finally, something is JUST about the music. So far the opportunities are somewhat limited: BoomboxFM, Evensound, WeSpin, FanDistro, Feature.fm, Peatix, JTVDigital and Dave Kusek's New Artist Model e-course. But Alex told me that they are in talks with labels, radio stations, music supervisors, publishers and others.

And it's not $35 per opportunity, it's $35 for the full report and ALL opportunities. So if they add 100 opportunities and your song gets a high enough rating you get submitted to ALL outlets. For $35. Contrast this with $20 PER Music Xray submission, $120-156 a year for Sonicbids (+submission fees) or $200/yr for Taxi (plus submission fee).

How great would it be if music supervisors for TV shows and film accepted only submissions that got a 7 or above? Or not just based on general rating, but the songs with at least a 60% "Film Genre" marked as "Romantic" or "Action and Adventure" would get sent to music supervisors working on those kinds of shows. They would then know they're only getting quality, narrowed by the genre they're looking for.

Or record labels could automatically get sent every 7 and above. Labels would trust this source above all others, because it's FIELD TESTED! Even the best A&R guys only get it right a fraction of the time. This is actually tested on the market FIRST. Or what about radio stations? Every radio station should accept new music this way. Only accept the genres they want that get ranked a certain score. No more whichever radio promoter gives the MD the best vacation package, sponsorship deal, access to the stars or concert tickets, which is TOTALLY NOT payola. Let it be about the music again. The BEST music.

Speaking of genres, Audiokite needs to expand the genre listing. I got hit a few times pretty hard because people were so infuriated that it was listed as folk, but they didn't feel the song was folk. I admit, this song isn't much of a traditional folk song, more contemporary singer/songwriter, but that's not a genre. It's not pop, EDM or country, so folk was the closest it got. I wonder if for the time being Audiokite should just not list the genre to the surveyor as to not let that affect their ratings.

Audiokite is working on video submissions as well. They could team up with every music festival around the world and use Audiokite as the EXCLUSIVE submission platform. Step aside Sonicbids and ReverbNation. No longer will a festival booker stare at a pile of 10,000 paid submissions from Sonicbids that they have to stick a team of interns on to weed through. Now festival bookers would get only THE BEST 100 or so.

Sure, then the reviewers could go through all of the other materials, bio, press, photos, other videos on and on, but they could actually take great care in the submission process and not get completely overwhelmed with just the sheer number of submissions.

Want the cream to rise to the top - this is a way to do it.

I encourage every musician to try this. Unlike Taxi which promises only the potential of a referral which may or may not actually return a viable opportunity (not to mention their $200-300 a year membership fee), whether you get opportunities or not with Audiokite, you WILL get incredibly valuable market research. Opportunities are almost an after thought (for me at least right now).

There are a few pricing options ranging from $15 - $140 a submission based on the sample size (50 - 500) and required listening time (40 seconds - 2 minutes). I paid for the $35 option which got me 100 listeners, 40 second minimum time and I could choose the genre to filter. The Pro account goes for $10 a month and shaves about 30% off each submission and gives you a few more features.

Again, the genres need to be expanded and more targeted. I didn't feel I hit my target demographic with my reports (because clearly if I did I'd get perfect 10s! Whaaaaaaat?!). Just kidding. But seriously.

Maybe even try a Pandora-esque genre classification. Like, list 5 popular bands that is closely associated with your band, and then only get submitted to the listeners who like those bands. This would take a lot more data collection - but it's definitely doable.

Currently, there's no way to submit JUST to certain demographics (like only females, who like hardcore, who are 18-21), but Alex said that is coming this year. There are also custom options for labels and artists with a bigger budgets. Say, if you wanted to reach 2,000 listeners who must listen to all 3 minutes of the song.

Audiokite just completely overhauled their report analysis with much more detailed data (now artists can see the user comments, with exactly how they rated the song and the user's "Average General" rating for all submissions. Meaning, if they gave you a 6, but they're "Reviewer Profile Average General" is a 4 then you did pretty well on their scale!



Clearly, I think Audiokite is onto something and Alex is a solid dude (from what I gathered from our 2+ hour Skype call yesterday). Alex gave me a 30% coupon to pass along so you can try it out.

Use AK-ARISTAKE for 30% off.


Report back in the comments your thoughts! However, if your ratings suck, don't blame me! Blame the drummer. It's usually the drummer's fault.

And if you've had experience with Soncibids, MusicXray, Taxi, ReverbNation (opportunities) or Fluence, I want to hear about it in the comments!

Like these tips? Get my new book How To Make It in the New Music Business.

"How To Make It in the New Music Business might well be the best 'how to' book of its kind." - Music Connection Magazine

Ari Herstand (pronounced Ar*ee Her*stand) is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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