On its website, Sonicbids bills itself as an "online matchmaker" between bands and promoters. The site has a database of thousands of members, both bands, and promoters, and provides an electronic way for musicians to send their music to promoters and pitch for a gig, without having to spend lots of money on postage. Promoters can "shop" the site for musicians they like when they're hunting for new artists. The site also maintains a list of available gigs, so bands can see who is looking for artists and throw their hat into the ring when something appealing comes up.
- What: Online press kit company Sonicbids
- Founded by: Panos Panay
- Founded in: 2000
Electronic Press Kits
At Sonicbids, the EPK, or Electronic Press Kit, reigns supreme. An EPK is a digital promo package and is what bands submit when they're trying to get a gig. An EPK includes:
- Bio of the artist
- Contact info
- Music/video clips
The EPK can also include a blog, information about the artist's usual set list, equipment requirements and a calendar so a promoter can see exactly when a band is free.
Music Festival Gatekeeper
In additions to helping bands and promoters find each other on an individual basis, in recent years Sonicbids has become the gatekeeper to just about every music trade show and festival around. Artists who want to apply for showcases at these events now often have little choice but to submit their application via Sonicbids; many events won't even accept through other means now (something that is not without controversy).
For promoters, Sonicbids memberships are free. For musicians, there is a free basic plan and a pro plan that can either be paid monthly or annually (with a discount for annual payments). The pro plan allows more messages and allows for applications (which the free plan doesn't support). Memberships can be canceled whenever you like but you will not receive partial refunds. Keep in mind that many trade shows charge a fee to apply that is above and beyond your Sonicbids membership fee.
This last little fact—that musicians have to pay for Sonicbids memberships on top of paying for application fees is what gets people in an uproar. Normally, if you are using Sonicbids for the first time, you can simply pay your application fee and get a trial Sonicbids membership, but once you're in, you often have to pay both.
So, who is right? Both sides have a point. After all, why shouldn't a musician have a right to submit their application independently if they choose? However, the outlets that work with Sonicbids receive thousands and thousands of applications; streamlining the process makes the screening of the applications much easier.
Likewise, until you've done the rush-to-the-post-office-with-a-big-sack-of-promos routine several times, it can be easy to underestimate just how expensive that gets. Postage is a major cost for indie bands and labels, and Sonicbids monthly membership fee is a drop in the bucket compared to physical postage.
One event that didn't do much to help Sonicbids' image was a controversy over applications to CMJ. Many bands received an email saying that their applications had been declined, but as Sonicbids offers a feature that shows when a band's song has been listened to, many bands logged into their account to see when their song had been played only to find out that it appeared that it had not been.
Some artists charged that CMJ and Sonicbids colluded to collect the maximum number of applications (and application fees) and then simply rejected bands without checking them out. CMJ and Sonicbids both vehemently denied the claim.
Sonicbids isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and neither is the controversy over the service. Ultimately the problem many people have with Sonicbids is not that they offer a bad service but that they've got such a monopoly on the system.