A brand new submission app finally launched, which means submissions are open again!
Let me tell you a story, guys. A story about one Spotify playlist curator, who temporarily stopped submissions for his playlists as he needed to save some time for other important stuff (including some relax, of course), and during that break, he got quite an interesting idea. As you probably already guessed, that curator is me and the idea is that brand new submission tool mentioned in the post title, so if you're interested - here's the story!
Those of you who already submitted to my playlists before know that I was being really thorough with the review process, often going through the other tracks of the producer, answering every single submission I got, giving feedbacks, managing a database of contacts simultaneously, etc. But as I expected, just after a short time the numbers of submissions increased to the level where it started to consume a dangerously high amount of my time (usually a couple of hours each week) that I started to miss elsewhere (eg studio time). So I started elaborating over the idea of making this whole thing a little bit more sustainable, but without giving up those high standards I set from the beginning.
The answer to my problem was in fact kinda obvious (as people at DistroKid have already known for a long time), and it's automation. The process of reviewing the submission itself consisted of quite a few different actions I was all doing manually - basically, it went like this: First I read that email and listened to the beat (or beats) that were sent to me (and sometimes I went through the other tracks of that artist, too), then I decided where to add those tracks and finally added them to those playlists. After that, I manually copied the email and artist name into my database of contacts and wrote a response email concluding how did the beats do and where did I add them (if I added them), sometimes even including short feedback on the music, too. It's not that much for one submission, but with dozens of them, it starts to get a little bit tiring (and really time-consuming). At least following the playlists was managed automatically by Toneden.
Given those premises, a vision of a very simple submission app quickly rose up in my mind - and that was it. I immediately locked myself into my studio and started coding like a madman, decided that I'm not opening those submissions again until it's done. Well, it certainly wasn't a smooth and frictionless process - actually, there were several moments when I was already thinking the app's finished and ready, when another fatal bug appeared totally out of the blue, resulting in more and more hours of tedious research and refactoring. But after a few hectic afternoons (and nights), all tests finally successfully passed and the app was ready for a closed beta - and then public launch!
The app itself is as simple as it can be and there are only a few steps with some clever mechanisms not leaving much space for an invalid submission.
So, how does it work?
- First, you have to log in using your Spotify account credentials, as the app heavily relies on the Spotify Web API (adding tracks, following playlists, etc).
- Then you're asked to paste the link for the track you want to submit. After you confirm the link, the app looks up the track via Spotify Web API to ensure the link is valid and lets you confirm your choice once more, showing you the cover art and some basic info about the track. The input field is rather strict though, as it won't let you paste an album link or basically anything else than a Spotify track URL (saving me the time I used to spend replying to "invalid" submissions with Soundcloud links etc.)
- Next step is the "introduction", meaning you introducing yourself to me - in fact only filling in your civil name and your artist name as well, as I just love when I can associate "real people" with their respective artist names (and possibly recognize them later in the virtual space)
- After we virtually shake our hands, you're taken to a text area where you can leave me some custom (and completely optional) message - a few words about the track you submitted, something about yourself, etc. Whatever it is on your mind!
- The final step is filling in your email address, which will be later used for sending you a response email when I get to review your submission (and also for delivering occasional important updates regarding my playlists etc). The email address will be used only for that purpose and nothing else - you can be confident that I will NEVER give/sell your email address to anybody else. I swear on my houseplants' lives!
- And that's it. Submission is saved in the app's database, ready for me to hear it!
It looks a bit more complicated in this explicit, written form, but once you see the submission form, you'll understand what simplicity I was talking about.
Also, you may have noticed there was no playlist selection mentioned - and you're right, after a long dilemma I have decided to completely ditch the playlist selection step because basically every second submission felt far more better for some other playlist than the one the artist has chosen for it. From a few email responses, I've understood that often artists themselves weren't quite sure which one to pick for their tune, so from now on, I'll save you from the struggle and just decide myself (which is basically what I was doing anyway, just with a useless extra step). On the other hand, without that extra step, I'd be unable to set up that Toneden follow gate, so from that point of view it wasn't that useless.
However, the real fun begins in the admin panel (you'll sadly, and hopefully, never see in any other way than from my screenshots). The first thing I love about it is a conveniently sorted list of submissions that actually shows me the info about the submitted tracks, including their cover art (as opposed to having everything in my email inbox where I could see only one bloody long line of emails with exactly the same subject). From there, I can view each submission's detail, where I can listen to the track in embed player, read all the info the artist filled in, but mostly, I can really easily select all the fitting playlist just by clicking their names, and then seal the whole deal with just one more click of the button.
Also, there is a text area for optional feedback that gets sent to the artist, but the real magic happens after I hit that SAVE button. Besides the submission database entry being updated, all approved playlists are automatically followed via the Spotify Web API, the track is added to each one of them at a totally random position (meaning I don't have to shuffle the playlist myself later), the contact info gets automatically copied into my Google Drive sheet and lastly, the app creates an email with the brief summary and sends it to the artist from my real Gmail account (so replies are possible) - while I don't have to move my finger an inch!
(Update: Unfortunately, a few days after the public launch I realized that the follow functionality didn't actually work at all due to a major design flaw, I just didn't notice that I was getting false positive as a result of my tests. So I removed that code completely as it was practically useless and instead of that I developed a really beautiful HTML version of that summary email including links to accepted playlists and an appeal to follow the playlists. It really bugs me but making the user follow a playlist only AFTER I review the submission is technically impossible, as those API calls are called on my account's behalf).
So basically, it means I can reject a submission with just 3 clicks of a mouse (1 - open the submission, 2 - play the tune, 3 - click on save button without selecting any playlist to dismiss it) or approve it with just a few more clicks needed to choose the right playlists.
Easy peasy, absolutely hustle-free. Damn, why didn't think of this earlier? And as a cherry on the pie, the whole thing is mobile-friendly, so I can be easily reviewing submissions during my commute to work or basically anytime I have a few minutes to spare.
For the future, I have already a few ideas on how to improve the app, like implementing some automatic limitations for those who will be submitting their tunes too often (like every other day), as well as implementing some sort of clever donation system with some nice bonuses for those who decide to support me financially. Also, I'll probably rewrite the app into Vue.JS (as the current state of the app heavily relies on jQuery, which allowed me to code the app really quickly, but at the same time it's not the very best tool for the job).
Anyway, it feels like everything that I wanted to say was already said, so head to the new submission page and check the app out! ;)
First time on my blog?
Welcome! My name is Pao and I'm the person behind this whole website. Besides making music myself whenever I can, I also write this blog and curate Spotify playlists. Feel free to explore it here a bit - I believe you will find some interesting stuff around ^^