06 Mar Inside the mind of a music critic: an interview with Ear To The Ground’s Greg Jones
“I will listen to 200 bands today,” Greg Jones smiles, sipping from a custom Ear To The Ground coffee mug, a gift from his wife. “We get the rumblings before the rest of the world, and I want to cover someone before they take off.”
The music reviewing blog, Ear To The Ground, humbly started between Greg Jones and his friend Casey Karger, going back and forth to share music with each other – both of them have a leaning towards folk, roots and indie rock. Eventually, they came up with the idea of making their discoveries public, and so the blog was launched. With the addition of Matt Simon as co-editor and business partner, Ear To The Ground became a registered business in the state of Ohio, USA, in the fall of 2016, and receives a minimum of 50 music submissions per day.
Of those, about 20-30 are emails from PR companies who got Greg’s name off a list, and have just copy-and-pasted it into their template they send to every music blog. Those emails are usually deleted. Ear To The Ground used to accept email submissions from independent artists when they were smaller. At their current size, Ear To The Ground now accepts submissions exclusively through SubmitHub. This service offers two tiers to musicians seeking blog coverage for their latest release: premium (where the artist pays $1 but gets feedback faster) and standard (free) – Greg and his team receive around 20 premium requests and 40 standards every day, and they provide feedback to everyone, even those who don’t get selected for in-depth coverage.
“It makes is easier for the blog to hear the submission, make a decision on it, and move on to the next one without having to compose a fresh email. Everything on SubmitHub makes it easier for us to deal with the volume of submissions we get.” From the submissions, he and his co-editor, Matt Simon, will cover about 15 a week (“daily coverage has been a dream of mine”). “We have a 9.3% acceptance rate,” Greg tells me. “SubmitHub calculates it for us.”
Part of the reason the acceptance rate is so low is because Ear To The Ground only writes positive reviews, something so refreshing in the age of reality TV train wrecks and sensational headlines. There really is no worth in tearing apart a band down the street with 300 Facebook likes. Instead, Greg and his team write long, eloquent reviews on their music, if they like it.
Here are some tips from Greg about features on review sites; not just his, but in general:
“Submit to blogs that make sense.” Greg recommends bands be very selective on who they submit to, genre and style wise.
Make listening smooth and easy by email. “Any excuse I have to delete that email, I’ll do it,” Greg warns in a good natured manner. Music critics of Ear To The Ground’s size don’t have time to email a band back, asking for the access code to their password-protected music.
Do your own fresh post. After being featured on a blog, Greg strongly advises artists to create their own social media announcement featuring a link to the article, as opposed to simply sharing or retweeting the blog’s announcement – this leads more traffic to the blog, especially from Facebook. It’s a simple courtesy that many musicians overlook accidentally.
At the end of the day, Ear To The Ground is a curator; the blog runs on passion. “It’s just like the blind audition on The Voice! We will listen to even the most mediocre submissions, because Ear To The Ground rewards genuine expressions of art,” Greg’s love for what he does shines through the video call. After all, the biggest thing that makes the music industry go ‘round is passion.