http://www.andthentherewasone.net/release/dawn-2/I’ve used both Audiokite and Reverbnation to “crowdsource” get feedback on my songs. It’s a good way to get unbiased reviews from people who aren’t particularly concerned about hurting your feelings or maintaining a good relationship with you (love you friends and family!). The bonus of these kinds of services is reach. You get a lot of feedback for relatively little money. This broad scope is also part of the limitations though. You can source a review from up to 1000 people on Audiokite (the service I use regularly) but only a small portion bother to write comments. I typically choose the 100-person option and I have never received more than 20 written comments. The rest if pure numbering. The comments themselves reflect a big variance in what the reviewers are paying attention to as well. Some will be paying close attention to the technical aspects of the recording: production, instrumentation, tone, things like that. Others will be more concerned with vocals or lyrics. Yet others will care more about the overall feel of the song and not care that there was a pitchy note or too much reverb. You have zero control over that, and if there is that much going on with the few people who leave comments, imagine how much that affects the others who are simply using the numbering system and not bothering to leave more feedback.
This is where Fluence comes in. As Sameen Shaw said —because when can I say no to a Person of Interest reference—”There’s a time for a scalpel, and a time for a hammer.” Fluence is your scalpel.
Here’s how it works in a nutshell: you create an account, set up your profile, upload a song, pick some people to review it, wait for them to do so, end scene. Fairly simple on the surface, so I went forth and tried it. Turns out I had already created a profile some time ago and had also uploaded a song, “Dawn“, but had never promoted it. You see, promoted is their term for actually selecting what they call curators to check out your work. You can upload content and maybe someone will stumble across it, but promoting it is the only way to make sure it gets in front of people.
The song was already there, so I went ahead and used it for my first go. When you start to promote it you have several options that you can set up. There’s a description box where you can put as much detail about you, your song, whatever, as you want. There’s also a dropdown where you can specify what you’re looking for from a curator —feedback, promotion, or both— and a toggle switch allowing your reviewer to share your content on social media. This is all fairly straightforward.
Next you determine to whom you would like to send your content. This is where it starts to get tricky and is probably my biggest beef with the process.
It’s best to do your homework prior to starting this because it will help you immensely. You can go through the Fluence site and research people and create a list that you can then select on the right, or you can search by a number of different criteria using the box on the left. The list of curators on the page changes as you enter in your search terms. You can also set a budget. Let’s take a quick detour to discuss pricing on this site. In fact, let’s look at what we know about the curators.
This is what you see below the search boxes. I’ve blacked out stuff because I don’t know what the terms are of revealing curators or any of that stuff and I don’t want any trouble. What I know about this curator from this output is her social reach (calculated using Klout; her’s is 49), how much she charges per minute with the maximum I can expect to be charged being $35.82, her relevance to what I typed in the search box, areas of interest and expertise, her ratings from other people she’s reviewed, and how long it takes her to respond. Based on this I can make a pretty good guess as to whether or not she’s someone I’d want to send my content to for review. That’s the basic stuff. If you’re going to make Fluence really work for you though, you have to do some strategizing. That means using their actual Fluence profile page to get more info.
The profile link takes you to the curator’s Fluence page where you see this same information as well as their Twitter feed and previous reviews. This is important because it lets you get a feel for what you’ll be getting if you go with this person. If you’re going to spend $35 for someone to listen to your music, you’d be pretty disappointed if they left you a 3-line review. You also don’t necessarily want to go with someone who’s going to go all Simon Cowell on you, so you can get a feel for the tone of their reviewing style. An important thing I learned from doing this with one of my influencers was that she was really looking for specific info in the description section of the song. I’d originally only written down the lyrics and a brief description of what the song was about, but after reading reviews she’d made where she frequently lamented the lack of information about the band I went back and edited my description to include more information about myself.
Back to the budgeting then. You can set a budget, and Fluence will select some curators for you based on that and your search criteria. From my experience, this part needs a little work. First off: when it selects curators for you it tells you “We’ve selected x number of curators with max cost of x”, but it doesn’t immediately show you the curators it chose. Instead you have to press the button that says “Add Selected to Order”, and then click the button that says “Review Curators”. I think the option to review the selected curators should be obvious and not require two clicks. Secondly, it has suggested curators for me that have zero to do with my search terms. Once it selected a daytime tv actress whose areas of expertise and interest did not include music at all.
Once you work your way through and finally get your curators all sorted, you submit and then you wait. Curators have ~2 weeks from the date of your submission to get back to you. If they don’t, you’re not charged for their portion. Also if a curator starts to listen to your song, for example, you only get charged for the amount they listen to, so if they bail on it 30 seconds in you’re not forking over the full amount.
I chose 4 curators for “Dawn“. I received my first review very quickly—within a day—which was great! Another criticism comes up here though. My reviewer suggested I get a “radio plugger” (a term I’d never heard before), and said that if I needed some suggestions he could help. I did need suggestions but it was unclear how I was supposed to communicate this to him. I initially reached out on Twitter; no response. I then noticed that I could rate the review and leave feedback. This was a neat, if hidden, little gem because it allowed me to see how the curator shared my content (if they did), and how much time was spent with the track so I could tell if they actually listened to the whole thing or not. I was able to leave my thoughts about the review, and I tried asking for more information on radio pluggers here. Still no response. Finally I waded through his previous reviews and saw that he had said much the same to a lot of other people, and in some cases had gone ahead and listed the names of the radio pluggers he recommended, so I was able to get that info. The lack of a way to communicate with your curator is a difficult barrier. I understand the reason for it—certainly curators don’t want artists bombarding them with personal requests and inquiries—but it’s frustrating to be offered more info and have no way to get it.
The second review took a lot longer to come, and the other 2 never came at all. That is also frustrating. I’d love to know why the curator didn’t listen to my submission. I don’t know if they thought it sucked and didn’t want to bother, or if they were too busy.
Fluence is a pretty cool tool, especially if you put a decent amount of time into learning about the curators before you submit your content. My next go around I’m going to experiment with building an actual list and working from that. Fluence will be my scalpel, and Audiokite my hammer.
So, I’ve shared my experience. Do you have any experiences with crowd-reviewing sites (or Fluence) to share? Do you think services like these are worthwhile?