What Radio and Video Want

I wish I ran a radio station…also, a music video network.  I’d like to think my choices would be pretty good, that the music would rock, that opportunities would be given to people who created unique and original music.

Thing is…I know I wouldn’t be able to.  In the end, the bills need to be paid.  Broadcasters don’t exist to play music…they exist to sell ads.  And to do this they need to make sure people are watching and listening.  Experimental folk is unlikely to keep the status quo glued to their seat.

It would keep me…and I’d probably become loyal to any business who advertised during the ‘Experimental Folk’ hour.  But I’m not status quo.  I’m abnormal.

Selling ads.  That’s the whole reason…that’s why stations let television shows interrupt the commercial break, and why radio lets songs get in the way of yet another ‘Two people having a conversation that ends with a cheesy punchline’ ads.  Because they know we aren’t listening for ads, we’re listening for entertainment…so really, it’s a big trick.  A ruse!  …roos?  Hmmm…

What do video stations want?  Easy…I’m going to tell you right now, before you spend $2000 on a video that you KNOW will make it on MTV:


Imagine if you watched videos all day.  You would know a cheap production (even if it’s masked by a clever premise and amazing help from your friend who does colour correction for network television) from a big budget.  Picture the video you want to make sandwiched between this:

And this:

That’s what they’re looking for.  Something that fills the gap.  Obviously, you can’t spend $2,000,000 on your video.  But they are looking for more than just creativity in what you’re filming.  They want POST-production.  Is it broadcast ready, sharp…as a co-worker asks ‘Does it sparkle.’  If you’re serious about getting on Much Music or making an impact with a video do your research: who is directing videos that are getting on TV (in Canada, look at Canadian bands who are making it to air).  That’s the level you have to aim for.

Now…for radio…there are important things to remember as well:

  • If you’re a pop artist, again…EXPECT TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY!
  • If you’re a rock artist, expect a battle (even to make it on your local rock station)
  • If you’re a unique, creative artist…don’t expect to get airplay anywhere
The Foster the People’s, Mumford and Sons’ and Adele’s of the world are few and far between.  They started as bands and musicians unlikely to make it to radio.  They lucked out.  You could too…thing is, I doubt for most artist’s like this, that radio was a goal.
Writing to get on radio is not the way to go…write music that you want to write, and if it’s good, radio will come (…once you’ve built a fanbase, and online presence, and have played many shows, and worked very hard).
It always comes back to the same thing, in my humble opinion…good song, good attitude, and hard (smart) work is what leads to success.  And if it doesn’t lead to success, who cares, you have a good song and feel good about it!
Success shouldn’t be measured in radio spins and video adds.  When you’re successful, you’ll know.

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