A Note to the Artist: Reframing Rejection

It took you nearly 60 takes to nail the pre-chorus, but when you did, it was like bathing in molasses. Your mates reckon it’s a banger, even Mum is bobbing her head with a look of undeniable, albeit confused, pride.

You’ve done it right this time. Sure, it’s only a cent a stream, but you’re due millions.

The margin between expectation and reality is a sucker punch I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. 95% of your emails to blogs and stations are answered with radio silence (pun miserably intended). The other 5% receive contradictory feedback, each ping in your inbox a sharp stab of hope followed by the sinking feeling now synonymous with your delusions of grandeur.

You can give up and you can whine. Or, you can reframe how you see rejection. Rejection is research, not failure.

Reframe Number One: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

The goal for this release is not to make you famous, but to build a network. Distribution is a marathon not a sprint, and achieving cumulative incremental gains to your fanbase is far more realistic than overnight stardom.

If you’re submitting to blogs, ask for feedback. If they give you feedback, that’s a win! You’ve started a dialogue and there’s more chance they’ll remember your name down the line. In addition to that…you’ll get feedback.

The editors listen to and write about music all day, and believe it or not they might know what they’re talking about. SubmitHub is also a great resource — as guaranteed feedback is part of the package.

Reframe Number Two: Your Chance to Analyse Them Right Back

The feedback is so much more than just feedback. It’s insight into the personality of the writer.
To illustrate this, here’s the response from two bloggers who rejected one of my songs:

“Great atmosphere, we like the bass line and the arrangement overall. But this particular song didn’t captivate us enough for a feature, unfortunately.”

“Spooky, melodic and charming slice of heartfelt psych-tinged pop. It is smooth and soulful as it gently wades through a haze of spooky feedback and warm fuzz with a powerful sense of passion. It is at it’s finest when it wanders into some more warped and oddball territory but it doesn’t embrace that side enough for me unfortunately.”

Just like you have a musical style, writers have a writing style and a listening style. The former had direct clear feedback about what worked, but wasn’t blown away. The latter was expressive, eccentric and clearly put time and care into actively listening to the whole song.

This is an amazing opportunity to learn what makes them tick.

For my next release, I sure as hell am not just going to put them on the same email chain. I am going to treat what I send and how I send it very differently. I’m going to send the former my best song, in a clear concise email. I’m going to send the latter my most experimental song, with a sentence or two of passionate, evocative descriptions of myself and my music.

Reframe Number Three: Your Creativity Didn’t Stop at Production

Chances are, as soon as the production of your release was over, you stopped having fun.
Promotion doesn’t feel creative or interesting. That said, your music might be explosively fresh, but what good is that if no-one opens your emails? Why should they reel in your link from the sea of desperate musicians filling their inbox?

However, promotion can be a fulfilling experience if you let your release campaign be part of your artistry. Make that subject line punchy. Have a story.

Maybe you blended together birdcalls and used them to program midi keys. Maybe you learned to shred on a cruise ship ‘round the world with your grandparents. Dig deep and find what makes you, you. Then keep re-writing it until it’s irresistible.

Once you’ve done that, think like a quant to gauge how well you’re doing .

Setup a private Youtube link to your track. Number of views on the link ÷ number of emails sent = your rate of penetration.

Your goal is to get that number higher. Keep refining your story every few days and pay attention to what is working.

Reframe Number Four: Embrace the Challenge

Most importantly, and this is the big one — wake up and be excited to brainstorm new angles. You’re an indie artist. For the foreseeable future this is your life.


Jonah Primo is an indie musician and writer out of Sydney, Australia. Today, he released his new track, “Round My Neck”. Check it out: https://youtu.be/sVjRanV3ur8

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