Happy New Year from CHILLFILTR.
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posted 04 Jan 2021 by Krister Axel
Some notes about submissions, what we are looking for, and how to make your precious work stand out.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I just finished rewriting the CHILLFILTR® platform. I spent the end of last year taking a break from music submissions, spending quality time with my family, and working really hard on the development side. The rollout took longer than expected, but that's normal. Now, it is time to dig in and start writing again.

What Went Away

I got rid of some old pages, and took a hard look at our SEO and metrics. Last year was full of ideas - some that worked, and some that didn't. We got rid of our lyric video channel (although that lives on here), cancelled our MixCloud membership, and stopped doing our "Top Picks" videos. I am no longer scouting for song publishing. I've had much better luck lately with Audius, and we've had steady growth from our Internet Radio channel. I spent a big part of last week putting the final touches on our Google News feed; you can expect our Apple News feed to look similar in the next few weeks.

The New Focus

I don't plan on having many new ideas in 2021. CHILLFILTR® is finally established in the way that I wanted, and this year is going to be all about execution. I have a lot of writing to do, and I am excited to get back to the original 'grind.' Here is how you can best be part of that process.

The Music

CHILLFILTR® got started as a simple music blog. That will always be a huge part of what we do - bringing promotional, search-optimized love to indie bands from around the world. And, to make this a bit more complicated, for a few months there at the end of last year I was taking recommendations via email from some of the publicists and artists that I hear from every day - there's a lot of that. Keeping my email inbox uncluttered is a daily pain point. If you want to hear back from me, email is not your friend. I can't possibly respond in a timely manner to all the emails I get, and for that I apologize. So, in that sense, SubmitHub is a big help. But beyond that, I just wanted to give a few pointers on what I'm looking for - whether it comes from a cold email, or a SubmitHub campaign, the requirements are the same. These are things you should consider doing for every song pitch.

Send Us a Download Link and Mind Your Tags

I need a song from you. We write about music videos, sometimes, but most indie artists don't have the budget for a decent music video, and I can't blame them for that. As head writer, I spend a lot of time on the song reviews that I write, and being able to stream the song is a big part of that experience. For all we know, Spotify, SoundCloud, even YouTube might go away some day - but as long as I'm around, CHILLFILTR® will be here. So I ask for an mp3 of the song simply in order to maintain the longevity of this platform. I will never monetize your music in any way, so you have nothing to worry about there. As I've said before, without an mp3, I can't do much more than put you up on a Spotify playlist. So, before you even send the song, here are a few things to think about.

1. - Mind your tags. Please set your meta tags before you send your song. You can do it using iTunes, or my favorite, Amadeus Lite (sounds like beer, doesn't it?). All we need is an artist tag and a song title tag - but you might as well also add an album tag, an album cover, a genre tag, and a year tag. The rest is totally optional. If you add album art, PLEASE make sure the file is no larger than 1mb - ideally, less than 500kb. If you don't know how to create a lo-res version of your cover art, just leave it out, or better yet, ask a friendly web artist or front-end developer to help you.

2. - Send a link, not a file. Email attachments are horrible - seriously, please don't use email attachments. They clog up mailboxes and just ruin the experience. You can use Google Drive, or Dropbox, WeTransfer, whatever - just make sure the link doesn't time out too quickly. It might be a few weeks before I get to it. That's the reality.

3. - Personalize your message, and ALWAYS use BCC if you are going to send a mass email. That's just common sense.

4. - Don't send me a link to your music on Instagram. I don't spend enough time on IG for that to work, and then also my main workstation is a laptop which doesn't play nice with mobile apps. Send me an email if you must, but please don't reach out on Instagram just to submit music. Saying hello is welcome, so feel free to introduce yourself. But sharing links to music is a bad experience for me.

When I am working through submissions SubmitHub will always take precedence, for a few reasons, but mainly because the platform makes it easy for me to request signoff for your song. If you want me to write about it, I am going to need you to sign a release so I can embed your song in the blog post. If everyone just used SubmitHub, my life would be much easier.

The CHILLFILTR Review

Starting an online literary journal with a corresponding podcast is a labor of love for me - it has become one of our main expenses, because I pay the writers and then I pay professional voiceover artists to narrate the podcast. It is a big part of the CHILLFILTR vision - to both create an archive of amazing indie art and bring it to new audiences in an innovative way. When I look around at other literary journals, I see websites that are not optimized for mobile, slow-loading web pages, and just a lack of new technology. The entire publishing industry has been having difficulties for some time now, so it's no surprise. Producing a high-quality podcast is hard work - and that's my job. If you are a writer looking to get featured, here are a few points for you to mull over. I have read hundreds of submissions, and I end up with most of the same issues. Just keep in mind - I WANT to say yes. But often, I can't. This is a short list of the most common reasons why.

1. - Too personal. Emotion and vulnerability is my jam - seriously. I am very tuned in to this. I often enough read something that just clearly feels like a form of personal catharsis - and that is something that always resonates for me. However, not everyone catches the vibe so fast. So there has to also be something universal about it. Simply put, you have to decide who your audience is. Writing is a beautiful way to work through our emotions - but not all that is written is right for a larger audience. The trick to great writing is that it feels authentic, and personal, but also triggers a sense of collective reality. I have read a fair amount of good writing that just doesn't feel - to me - that it will resonate with a large enough audience.

2. - Details, please. I remember many moons ago when I was an undergrad in the UW English department, the phrase was "show, don't tell." As writers, we need to engage the senses - sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. Don't ever assume anyone understands anything you didn't explicitly tell them. Instead, spell it out - no emotional shorthand allowed. No one is ever 'upset' - they are distraught, they are reckless, they are alienated - better yet, they push their knuckles through the drywall, or they howl at the stars. Action is better than adjectives, and adjectives are better than adverbs. Edit, rest, edit again. And again.

3. - Remember your voice. This is perhaps an extension of #2 (the need for details) - but deserves its own section. Voice is a huge part of what resonates with me. Voice is to writing what micro-expression is to acting - a methodical build-up of small artistic choices that become powerful over time. Every choice matters. For example - this, this, or this. Voice is what transforms a well-written story into a masterpiece. Voice almost never happens by accident - be deliberate. Who is speaking, what moves them, what are they trying to hide? What makes them vulnerable?

4. - Stick the Landing. All of these are important, but this is the most important. Often, it is points 1-3 that will propel your reader through the beginning, and the middle. But the end must carry itself. It is this final impression that will create a rapport between you and your reader, and by extension, with The CHILLFILTR Review. There are many stories that more than meet the previous requirements, but do not deliver a significant final punch. Poems and songs are exactly the same way - the best songs finish with a lift, and pretty much any good poem ends with le mot juste. Always save a surprise for the end - because you have to stick the landing.

That's it for now. I also want to say thanks - to everyone who has already submitted their work to us, and to those that will do so in the future. Together, we can keep great indie art from falling into the abyss.

Be well.

We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art. — Henry James, The Middle Years

About the Author

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Krister Bjornson Axel

Ogdensburg, New York

Paris, France. Madison, Wisconsin. Los Angeles. Ashland, Oregon. Ottawa. I write music, I write about music, and I write code. See also: photography, prose, podcasting. I have 1 gorgeous wife, 2 amazing kids, and many interests.


Recent Awards: 2020 ND (Photo) Honorable Mention, 2020 Accenti Writing Contest Finalist