Oh, how simple things used to be. In the 1990s, before this pesky thing called the internet came along, dance music was typically sold on 12″ vinyl records. Back then, the overwhelming majority of DJs actually had to pay for their music – normally retailing at somewhere between £5 and £8 per release, more if it was rare or had to be imported.
A very small number of DJs would receive advance promotional copies. These were sometimes copies of the test pressings – where a small number of vinyl copies were pressed up to ensure there were no issues ahead of the final pressing taking place. Either way, labels often had to send these out in the post at their own expense and with the inevitable risk of a DJ receiving a vinyl record snapped in two by a careless postie.
Fast forward to 2023, and things have changed dramatically. Nowadays, you can be signed up to a promo list without even asking for it – several companies have signed up Ears To The House to receive their promos. This is despite the fact we don’t want them, we don’t read their emails, and we don’t listen to them. Quite simply, we’re not interested.
Which is why an email sent out from long-running Scottish techno label Soma to everyone on their promo list has us intrigued…
We are in the process of replacing our promo list with a paid subscription service. Current subscribers are being offered continued use and access to upfront (at least 2 weeks before release date) Soma releases for £20 per year. If you would like to continue receiving Soma releases, please follow the link below to confirm your subscription. If you sign up, you will receive approximately 150 tracks per year.“
Anyone signed up to the current promo list has until May 1st – next Monday – to head to the Soma website and pay £20 to continue receiving them. With roughly 150 tracks promised each year, that’s a cost of just over 13p per track. Which doesn’t exactly seem bad value for money to us.
Nonetheless, this strategy is a total departure from the narrative most of the dance music industry adheres to – namely, that promo lists should be as big as physically possible. Shawn Reynaldo at First Floor traded emails with Glenn Gibbons, Soma’s label director, and found out that out of over 1000 DJs on the current list, only around 70 provided regular feedback on the music they received.
We also can’t help but suspect other labels are going to be watching to see how this experiment goes. Not to mention the DJs who have hiked up their fees over the past year – will any of them seriously have the cheek to complain about having to fork out £20? We’ll be watching…