The Music Xray Blog
technology enhanced identification of high potential songs & talent

Will Music Xray Stop Charging Submission Fees Anytime Soon?

Posted by Mike McCready | December 18th, 2014 | 5 Responses

Music Xray’s business model is counter-intuitive so we get asked a lot why submissions aren’t free. Some even go as far as to suggest that there is something improper about Music Xray charging submission fees. We’ve decided to address it in this blog post.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 4.22.33 PMIt’s important to understand that Music Xray provides a service.

We get artist’s music to the front of the line and we guarantee a listen and a response from the industry professional to whom the song was submitted.

Music Xray does NOT increase your chances of success unless you count enabling you to submit your music to all the right opportunities. In that sense, it does increase your odds because if your music isn’t being heard by the industry you’ve got no odds at all. But the music business is tough and highly competitive. Even the best music gets rejected more often than not. Music Xray doesn’t change that. We simply make sure that a particular musician’s music is, at the very least, considered for the opportunity in question.

Think of Music Xray like you would an airline. On a business trip, an airline gets paid to take you to your destination. The airline has no control over how your meetings go once you get there. The airline has no control over whether you’re good at business or not. The airline provided the service for which they get paid.

It’s the same with Music Xray. We have no control over the quality of your music. We have no control over how you conduct yourself once conversations with a music company begin. And frankly, it’s none of our business. In the scenario above, the businessperson must decide whether or not the airline trip is worthwhile. If it’s not, they shouldn’t buy the ticket.

Submission fees on Music Xray aren’t only about keeping the lights on in our office. The fees serve to protect the industry professionals from having to hear hours upon hours of substandard music. They also protect the serious artists from being drowned out by the non-serious.

Even if we were to modify our business model we would not do away with the submission fee component. It works as a filter. It puts many musicians in the position of either continuing to pay for rejection or to leave the site. That may be discouraging to a lot of musicians but the industry thanks us for it. It’s why they stick around and remain engaged on Music Xray.

It would not help the industry for Music Xray to keep thousands upon thousands of musicians on the site submitting subpar music. They would hate us for that.

We don’t want good musicians to get discouraged too early because all good music will see some rejection. But we don’t want musicians to over submit either. That’s why we provide recommended next steps in Diagnostics and we provide a graph that shows how long it took for similar songs to be picked up for a deal on the site. These tools are meant to help musicians evaluate and measure their engagement on Music Xray.

It’s tempting to blame the messenger

Occasionally, we get this criticism when a musician or their song is rejected by an industry professional to whom they’ve paid to submit. But getting upset with Music Xray at that point is akin to blaming the telephone company when someone calls with bad news. It’s important to remember that Music Xray can’t change the nature of the music business. The site is just a platform that gets you in the door. The chips fall where they may.

We hope this explanation helps.


Posted by Mike McCready | December 12th, 2014 | No responses

This is where I talk to members of GAIN.

How Does Needlestack Work?

Posted by Mike McCready | December 7th, 2014 | No responses

Credibility Matters: Is Music Xray Too Good To Be True?

Posted by Mike McCready | December 4th, 2014 | 17 Responses

Occasionally, someone points us to a blog or a social media post where people are questioning whether or not Music Xray is real, whether the opportunities listed on the site are legitimate, and whether the accounts are actually attended by the professionals listed.
We understand. The music business is full of companies, past and present, that make a lot of promises. On the surface, some of them appear to be very similar to Music Xray. Some of them prey upon the hopes and dreams of upstart musicians. It’s natural that questions are asked. But it’s important to know that Music Xray is an above-board company with wide industry adoption that operates with integrity and transparency.
We have written a lot about Music Xray’s business model, the technology behind the scenes and so forth. We won’t re-hash that here but we will include some useful links at the bottom of this post in case you want to check them out.


Music Xray has been around now for a few years and we have plenty of references you can check.
Music Xray has an A+ rating with The Better Business Bureau. Check it out here.
Reputable investors, who would never invest in a company that doesn’t operate completely above board, back Music Xray. See who they are here.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 10.28.57 AM

Music Xray hosts profiles of top level industry professionals who would not associate themselves with anything less than a reputable company. For example:
Atlantic Records US,  Atlantic Records UK,  Sony UK, Parlophone UK, Sire RecordsAsylum RecordsRay JBridget KellyJ.U.S.T.I.C.E LeagueGlassnoteWind Up.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 2.46.06 PM

All these accounts are attended by A&R executives at these companies (not interns), and the celebrity artists attend their own accounts personally.
Music Xray verifies the identities of all the professionals who join the site and monitors all professional accounts to insure compliance with Music Xray’s Terms of Service. This includes no abuse of Music Xray’s submission fee policies. None whatsoever, of any type. We police the site continuously and we insure no one is simply trying to generate submissions so more fees are collected. More on that here.
Music Xray enables all artist users to rate the professionals they interact with and to comment on their profiles.
Music Xray offers excellent customer support. If you have any questions or concerns, you can write to


There’s a book out there called Maximizing Music Xray written by Norman Dolph. It will be out in late December. We’ll post a link to it here as soon as it is released.
If you EVER have any questions about Music Xray and how it works, don’t hesitate to send an email to
For answers about fees and our business model click here.
For answers about the back end technology click here.
For success stories click here.

Other stuff:

Music Xray co-founder & CEO Mike McCready interviewed by Malcolm Gladwell.

Business School Case study on Music Xray’s business model.

Music Xray featured in Businessweek.

Diagnostics & Fees Explained

Posted by Mike McCready | November 30th, 2014 | No responses

How Music Xray Works For Musicians, Songwriters, & Bands

Posted by Mike McCready | November 30th, 2014 | No responses

Maximizing Music Xray – by Norman Dolph

Posted by Mike McCready | November 25th, 2014 | 1 Response

Norman Dolph, an industry professional who uses Music Xray (and he also uses it as a songwriter) recently let us know he is about to publish a book called “Maximizing Music Xray”. He sent a draft of it to us so we could proofread it for any inaccuracies and we must say, he did a bang up job of laying it out there.

The book will be released in a few weeks and we have reached an agreement with Norman which will allow us to give away some promotional copies. Otherwise it will be available from Amazon in both physical and digital editions. We’re pretty excited about this.



We’ve Reinforced Our Team To Insure The High Quality Of Our Community Of Music Industry Professionals

Posted by Mike McCready | November 5th, 2014 | No responses

Here at Music Xray we recognize how important it is that musicians, songwriters, & bands be able to trust that song submissions via Music Xray indeed reach the professionals to whom they are submitted. They must be able to trust that the professional accounts on the site are real, and that the professionals have been vetted. It’s important that our users know that the professional community is monitored and that no abuse of Music Xray’s submission fee model is occurring.
While this has always been a priority, we’ve recently reinforced our team to help us insure the quality of our professional community.  These professionals help us recruit, vet, and manage the growing number of professional accounts on Music Xray.


Dick Wingate



With more than 30 years in the music business, Wingate has served in senior marketing and A&R roles at Columbia, PolyGram, Arista and Epic, working with such artists as Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Aimee Mann and Eddy Grant. He’s also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), an advisory board member of Songza, President of BHi Music Group and Principal of DEV Advisors.




Akino (Kino) Childrey



Akino (Kino) Childrey has been managing professional recording artists for the past 17 years. His management expertise has influenced the career of hip hop veteran Royce Da 5’9 along with many others.








Billy J



Billy J is a former record label executive who got his start as an assistant A&R for GOOD Music.  Working his way up to Vice President of A&R with SRC records, he discovered and broke hit records with artists like Yung Berg and Ray J.











How effective is Music Xray’s filter at identifying the best songs & talent? Why the business model matters.

Posted by Mike McCready | August 4th, 2014 | No responses

We didn’t go into business thinking that charging musicians to make submissions to the industry was the path to a $100m business. It’s not. We also didn’t think it was going to be easy to convince the industry this was the right way to go. It hasn’t been easy. But a platform that is better than anything else at identifying high potential songs and talent at the earliest possible stage creates a lot of value for everyone. And the longer we continue this experiment in business model innovation, the more compelled we are by the evidence that this is working.

  • It’s working for the industry because there is 11 hours of audio content uploaded to SoundCloud every minute (ref: Mary Meeker’s 2013 report on Internet trends) and the industry has no effective way of consistently finding the needles in the haystack. Music Xray is successfully showing them the needles.
  • It’s working for the musicians and songwriters who are ready for prime time because they get access to the deals and opportunities faster and for far less money than it would cost them to do it on their own, and they are landing those deals.
  • It’s working for the musicians and songwriters who aren’t yet ready for prime time because they get fast, inexpensive, & authentic feedback. And even if the news isn’t always welcome, it’s much better than spending months or years trying to reach the professionals who can credibly give them that feedback.
  • Music Xray would have no interest in pursuing a strategy that weren’t working. Just like musicians, we also seek quick feedback so we can make adjustments. We now have over four years of data upon which to base conclusions. And while there remain industry professionals and artists who aren’t yet convinced, we believe results are showing that this is one of the ways high potential songs and talent will continue to be discovered going forward.

    User attrition by design

    What? That runs contrary to everything you’ve ever heard about online businesses.

    Check out the graph to the left. It’s usually not a good thing for a business to lose 80% of its paying customers within 3 months of acquiring them and you can bet this is an ongoing conversation we have with our investors. It’s also why it took over four years for Music Xray to reach a critical mass where we have enough consistently paying users to keep our lights on. But the 20% we retain has added up and Music Xray is now a site where the bulk of the users are top tier musicians, songwriters, and bands. These are the users for whom Music Xray works.

    Over time, this has created a vibrant and robust user base that creates good music and that’s why industry professionals now frequently tell us they hear more consistently good music on Music Xray than anywhere else.

    What matters to Music Xray is having a lot of quality users – users that make great music, and quality industry professionals who are on the site to find that music. Our business model brings to bear a survival-of-the-fittest ideal. Many musicians just aren’t at a level that enables them to compete. Those users should be thinned out of the system so that they don’t drown out those who are at a competitive level. We do offer those thinned out users the ability to get help, career coaching, and professional critiques. This keeps them engaged and continues to deliver value to them. However, often the feedback they receive is to continue to develop, continue to write, continue to practice and therefore we lose them as users (at least temporarily) just the same.

    Our purpose has never been to figure out how to make money from artists. We’re in business to figure out how to identify high potential songs and talent at the earliest possible stage. The 578 songs and acts that were selected by the industry via direct submissions on Music Xray in July plus the other 100 or so that were contacted by the industry via Needlestack Music Search suggest we’re doing a pretty good job. And by continuing to improve, we’ll eventually get to a point where we’ll be able to de-risk investment in music. That’s where we’re eventually headed.

    De-risking investment in music

    In order to get there, we have more work to do. That’s what the next 18 to 24 months is about for Music Xray. But once we’re there, the company has the ability to become a center of gravity in the industry. By enabling professionals and their companies to source music, artists, and projects on our platform, by being able to determine which projects are lower risk investments, and by co-investing with the professionals and their companies we see Music Xray as an eventual business enabler for the industry on whole. And this is the more interesting conversation we have with our investors.

    But Music Xray’s model brings with it additional challenges. Below, we list a few and we discuss how we currently handle them:

    How we address challenges inherent in the model

    Getting the industry’s attention before the data was compelling enough

    For starters, we had to get the engagement of the industry, and there’s nothing more tedious than listening to unknown song after unknown song, much of it of questionable quality. So, we began sharing some of the submission fees with the professionals. This made tending to their Music Xray account more attractive than tending to the pile of CDs on their desks, their jammed-up inbox, and more attractive than trolling YouTube and SoundCloud. But it also got the attention of every hustler and shyster out there who thought they could make a few bucks off submission fees.

    Submission fees were always meant as a throttle, as a way to incentivize musicians to filter themselves before submitting every song in their catalog to every opportunity on the site. Most serious musicians wouldn’t do that anyway, but the problem was the many over-eager musicians who didn’t know any better.

    But in addition to acting as a throttle, as discussed above, when faced with the choice of continuing to pay to submit only to be consistently rejected and to receive bad ratings or to stop submitting, most musicians who aren’t ready for prime time stop submitting. This leaves the playing field to the top tier of musicians who are finding success on Music Xray. Success still comes with its share of rejection and it’s important that Music Xray show musicians where they stand and let them know when they should stop submitting and when they should continue to submit despite receiving some rejection along the way. We do that through a feature we call Diagnostics.

    In short, submission fees were meant to protect the industry professionals from becoming overwhelmed and to protect the great musicians from being drowned out. Yes, submission fees are what keep the lights on here in the office but they emerged as a necessary part of the platform before we had a clear idea about how and who we were going to charge for the service.

    The shyster phenomenon

    To address this, we research the professionals who apply for accounts and we’re selective about who we invite in. We have more work to do on this front and we’re finding new ways to get better at this. If the opportunities don’t check out as authentic and the professionals’ resumes aren’t real we don’t approve the account. We additionally built in feedback loops where musicians can rate and provide feedback on the industry professionals with whom they interact via the site. Needless to say, it doesn’t take very long for us to weed out any misbehaving professionals.

    Additionally, we observe submission-to-selection ratios. We know that most of the artists who submit are on the higher end of the quality spectrum, when we see accounts that almost never select songs and acts, we inquire. Industry professionals learn very quickly that if they are not on Music Xray to conduct real business they are not welcome.

    Insuring reliable data

    Another issue we found was that some industry professionals were not rating the songs they heard, yet they still were accessing the collective data (Needlestack Music Search). In response, we continued to make rating optional but we blocked access to the data for those who were not rating.

    This created another problem. Some professionals began rating insincerely, or too quickly to be authentic, or simply rating every song the same – all in an effort to be expeditious. To address this we introduced an advanced algorithm that acts to police the ratings. It alerts us if a professional’s ratings are consistently inconsistent or consistently divergent from the ratings the same songs receive from other professionals on the site. The site sends out a warning to the industry professional to let him know that we’re observing and taking note of this behavior. If after two warnings the behavior persists, that professional has his ability to rate revoked along with his access to the collective data.

    All in all, this overview of how it works is probably more interesting to academics who study business models and human behavior incentives than to actual users of the site. But in keeping with the company culture of transparency, we’ve decided to reveal some of the things we’ve done to make Music Xray work simply because it demonstrates to our users that we are here to build real solutions. As much as we love music and the business of music, we’re geeks at heart. But we’re geeks who have been working in the music business for many years – before it all went digital. But applying technology to professional talent discovery is something we’ve been focusing on for thirteen years.

    We get it.

    We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.

    Artists Joining Us For Future Music Forum Will Get Complimentary Badge To Music Xray Day

    Posted by Mike McCready | June 19th, 2014 | No responses

    It’s true. In September of 2014 Music Xray is hosting dozens of the MIPs you see on the site in Barcelona for our first annual Music Xray Day! They are all sticking around for Future Music Forum, which starts the very next day in the same venue. THEN, many are sticking around for the weekend, when Barcelona throws itself one hell of a party. It’s the best weekend all year to be in this amazing city. Trip Advisor calls it “The biggest, baddest, loudest, happiest, ‘fire-iest’ mother of a festival ever.” Microsoft recently featured it in a TV ad which you can see here:


    Then, forward it to us at and we’ll get you in the invite-only list to Music Xray Day, which takes place the day before, on September 17th.

    You’ll be hanging with top A&R’s, music supervisors, managers, producers, radio station program directors, label heads, and music tech founders and CEOs. You’ll hear insightful panels, keynote addresses, TED Talk-style presentations and some fantastic music.

    Think, music in the streets, parties, incredible nightlife, and it all culminates with an impressive fireworks display that rivals New York’s 4th of July bravura.

    Day 1 of the event will be an exclusive, invitation-only session just for professionals and artists with Music Xray accounts. Days 2 & 3 will be a larger event with pre-approved participants, there to do business, mix, and network.

    Space is limited so go here to get your badge. Then, once you have it, forward it to so we can get you on the list for Music Xray Day.

    Sticking around to experience some of the weekend is worth it. In addition to everything that’s happening around the city (music, street parties, human castles, and the baddest fireworks display you may ever see), we’ll be organizing some group activities like a boating outing, maybe some beach volleyball, and some dining in Barcelona’s world class restaurant scene. These things will have a pro-rata additional cost for those who want to take part but we’ll do a good job of keeping it real.

    By the way, the festival itself lasts through Wednesday the 24th and the fireworks display is the night of Tuesday the 23rd so you’d have to stay through then to see it, but there’s plenty going on Saturday and Sunday for you to feel like you experienced it.

    More on the festival below.

    We recommend that you start booking now. A couple modest but decent hotels that are centrally located and near the evening activities (and a short taxi ride to the main conference venue)

    Market Hotel

    Silken Concordia

    Hotel Evenia Rocafort.

    Things to do in Barcelona.