Interview: Jason Grishkoff, Founder of SubmitHub & Indie Shuffle

July 12, 2016

Whether you’ve got some scratch for a publicist or you’re an indie artist handling it yourself, pitching music to press outlets can feel like a long, tedious, and often unfulfilling process. Lots of email addresses, figuring out a proper word count, providing the right links, establishing relationships with bloggers and staying on top of their output – and that doesn’t even include the waiting for a potential response.

Jason Grishkoff knows all about this – but from the perspective of one of those folks whose inbox you’re jamming up. Founder of the well-known music blog, Indie Shuffle, Jason was able to ditch his job at some search engine company (Google) and pursue his taste making and curating passion full-time.

Even as indie music blogs exploded and eventually died down in numbers, artists, labels and publicists still consider this outlet to be an extremely important facet of press outreach. While he still runs Indie Shuffle, Grishkoff’s latest venture – SubmitHub – sets out to solve the problem faced by parties on both sides of the equation:

The goal of [SubmitHub] is to centralize the disorganized process of submitting to music blogs.

Premium submissions to SubmitHub see a response-rate that significantly exceeds standard email campaigns. Blogs respond quickly, provide feedback, and actually *listen* to your music. Even if they don’t like the song enough to share it, using Premium credits means you’ll be able to get insight into why.

On top of that, bloggers earn money for spending time with your submission: premium credits encourage focused listening and timely responses.

To provide a little more insight on his new platform (now with over 24,000 users!) and how it impacts the way in which artists and music industry professionals can pitch to bloggers, Jason was kind enough to answer some questions for us:

Let’s take it back to 2009 – a glorious time for indie blogs – what drove you to start Indie Shuffle in the first place? How did you grow it?

Jason Grishkoff: Glorious indeed! Indie Shuffle began as a mailing list in ~2008, and I honestly had no clue about the crazy music blogging world that existed at the time. It wasn’t until I joined a forum on a site called that I discovered there were a few hundred other bloggers out there, many of them scrambling to grow their own passion projects into something sustainable. We shared a lot of tips and ideas, and we probably owe a lot to Hype Machine, an aggregator that drove many new visitors our way.

Tell us a bit about your time working for Google and how you wound up taking on Indie Shuffle ‘full-time’.

I was doing something completely unrelated at Google (figuring out how much to pay their executives), so Indie Shuffle provided a great outlet for my more “creative” side. It wasn’t until the blog was ~four years old that I decided I was ready to take the leap and make it my full-time schpiel. And boy-oh-boy has it been a roller-coaster ride since then.

Quitting a safe and comfortable job is always a risky move, but I was confident at the time that I left that I’d built a solid foundation for Indie Shuffle — both from a traffic and a monetization standpoint. In fact, I was already running pretty well at least a year prior to quitting Google, so it took some time to take that leap of faith.

In your experience, how has the way ‘active music listeners’ consume and discover new music since the time you started Indie Shuffle?

I reckon a huge portion of music enthusiasts (the audience that used to frequent blogs) has transitioned over to the major streaming services. If you’re paying $10/month for Spotify, why look elsewhere? Especially given that they’re getting better and better at highlighting new music.

As for the remaining active music listeners who haven’t yet put all their eggs in the Spotify basket… I think a lot of power still lies in the hands of bloggers. We’re the ones that A&R folks at major labels are keeping an eye on, and regardless of how much our web traffic might be slipping, they’re still relying on us to weed out the gems from the rubble.

Similarly, do you feel there has been a tide change in the way bloggers organize, keep up with or choose to promote up-and-coming indie artists that get sent their way?

I think we’re going to get to this in a moment, but, SubmitHub has changed that dramatically.  Prior to its arrival, bloggers were seeing their passion turn into an unpaid job — one where they would have to sift through thousands of unsolicited email submissions, rather than focusing on the methods that got them into music discovery in the first place.

The net result was that for many of us it was no longer fun to find new music; we were too busy telling people to stop emailing us. And in doing so, we missed a lot of up-and-comers.

As the founder/editor of a successful indie music blog, what do you consider to be some of the pain points of receiving pitches from artists?

95% of them aren’t going to make the cut, and when you’re receiving 300 of them a day and getting not much in return, it becomes hugely frustrating. Music bloggers didn’t start blogging because they wanted unsolicited emails; they started blogging because they like finding new music on their own.

SubmitHub's 'Popular' Charts

SubmitHub’s ‘Popular’ Charts

How did you establish the idea for SubmitHub and what drove you to pursue its creation as a platform?

I think you’ve laid out your line of questioning nicely, with the end result landing us on this one: why SubmitHub? The short answer: it was to solve a major pain for me as a blogger. The slightly longer answer is that I wanted to learn a new “stack” of coding languages, and needed a project to do that with.

What was the initial reaction of bloggers who eventually made themselves available for artists or publicists using SubmitHub?

Relief. Pretty much everyone who has signed up has done so because they were frustrated with the unrelenting barrage of email pitches. SubmitHub puts the focus back on the music: all they have to do is click play and make a decision. No need to open multiple tabs or sift through 300-word promo pitches for a link.

SubmitHub Stats

How are you ensuring integrity across the board while being up front and transparent about the entire submission/review process?

This is one of the biggest challenges right here! I think we’ve got a nice community going, and I’ve focused primarily on getting Hypem-listed blogs to join. Those guys already have a reputation for being reliable, and so 95% of the blogs on SubmitHub are a dream to work with.

The whole system of SubmitHub makes things really transparent. Submitters have access to statistics such as when a blog listened and what their reactions were. On top of that, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on setting expectations: when submitting, you can see how likely it is that a blog responds, what their most-likely response will be, and what their preferences might be.

All of this 1.) helps the submitter ensure their song finds the best possible fit; and 2.) ensures that blogs aren’t overwhelmed by songs that aren’t a good fit for them.

In what ways specifically are you hoping to expand the services that SubmitHub provides in the coming year or so?

More blogs! More SoundCloud channels! More YouTube channels! And… I’m also planning to open it up to record labels one of these days so that they can receive demos via SubmitHub, rather than having their inbox flooded.

Tags: DIY featuring indie indieshuffle jason grishkoff music blogs music industry music pitching music startup publicity submithub tunecore