Listen To Radio!


I was at a great Grindhouse movie festival in Toronto this past weekend.  As is the tradition, the first film started at 11:30 pm and six movies ran until 10 am.  It was amazing.  I didn’t yawn once.  I’ll write a review this week!

Now to the real subject: RADIO!

I love radio.  Always have.  I used to listen to stations like AM 640 (when it was the Hog…which lasted like…a year maybe?), CFNY 102.1 (they didn’t really call it The Edge back then that I remember) and whatever my radio could pick up in small town Erin, Ontario.  I used to tape it so I could listen to it later, which is kinda crazy to think about now.  I heard new songs, discovered new bands…I discovered my love for mainstream radio.

There is a lot of talk about the death of radio.  I don’t think it’s dying, though I do think it’s waiting for someone to come in and change it to save it.  It’s hurt.  People don’t like 20 minutes of commercials in 60 minutes of radio.  Most people I talk to want more variety on their radio stations.  Many have switched to sattelite, and I can understand why: XM is pretty fricken awesome.

It’s odd then that most artists still desperately want radio play and consider it a major goal.  ‘You haven’t made it until you’re on radio.’  Despite YouTube successes, touring successes, the whole indie/hipster movement of bands who NEVER get on the radio, people still want radio.

That doesn’t sound like dying media…does it?

There’s one problem.  Everyone wants radio, but they don’t know why, or how, or anything really.  And that is because of one problem:

No one LISTENS to radio. 

That’s a lie.  People listen to radio.  But not the people who want to get on radio.  Artists and musicians are desperate to be broadcast but have no clue what format, what station, or even what constitutes a radio-friendly song.

In Canada, there are fewer radio formats than in the US, but there are still quite a few.  For example: AC, Hot AC, CHR, Rock, Modern Rock, Country…and within these genres there are variations that exist station to station.  One Modern Rock station might play different artists than another.

So, in this complex world, would you think it’s a good idea to throw the random song you think would be good out into the ether and hope someone catches it?  Because people do that.  In the last two weeks, I’ve talked to two artists who did just that.

It’s called DMDS…it’s like a pipe that goes straight to radio stations.  It’s kind of like leaving an unsolicited package on a doorstep.  It’s a crapshoot.  It costs money, but that’s fair, since you’re using someone’s service to reach stations from St. John’s to Victoria.

You know…stations that you don’t listen to.  And that might have no interest in your song in the first place.

So, what am I getting at?  There are a few steps you should maybe take before you go throwing your song around.

  • FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU BELONG: Are you pop?  You might want to check out AC, Hot AC or CHR.  Rock? Well, are you hard rock or more like grunge?
  • LISTEN TO RADIO: Thanks to the internet, you can listen to radio stations online now.  Go to the format you think you fit and start listening to stations across the country.  Go to the station website, and click the button that usually says ‘Listen Live.’
  • MAKE A LIST AND MAINTAIN IT: What songs are they playing?  Would your song fit between any pair?  If not, maybe you’re aiming for the wrong format!
  • DON’T SEND THE MUSIC DIRECTOR RANDOM EMAILS: It’s annoying.  They have a lot of work to do in a day.  They have all the labels and independent radio trackers and people like ‘you’ calling and emailing them regularly each day, and all these people are asking for radio play…which…
  • DON’T EXPECT TO BE PLAYED EVEN IF YOUR SONG IS AWESOME: …is rare.  The last couple of weeks, many radio stations haven’t added a SINGLE song.  Each week hundreds of people are vying for a slot.  Sometimes, a hundred songs are fighting for one slot…

I’m not meaning to deter you…I’m meaning to explain why you’re having such a hard time getting through to the radio stations.  They’re busy.  I’ve heard say that some of the biggest artists in the world are currently ‘on hold’ because there are enough songs on the radio already.  You’re in that line.

So…even if you did listen to radio, and did find the perfect fit, and did send your songs out, and did impress the music director…there may not be any space in the first place!

Think of it like a job.  You’re sending your resume everywhere, doesn’t mean they have positions.  And add to that:

  • Half the stations wait for the song to be charting before they add it, so you need to get on the stations that will add you even if you aren’t on the charts
  • Many stations watch other stations and follow what they add
  • Some stations wait until there’s success in the U.S.
  • Many will never get back to you…they don’t get back to the professional trackers or labels, they just don’t reply

Radio is the LAST place to go.  The first place is wherever you write songs and make sure you write a good one.  The second place is on stage, playing for people.  The third place, online so you can reach a wider audience.  The fourth, a tour to spread the love around.  The fifth, make videos and put them on YouTube.  The sixth, maybe try to get your song onto a TV show or video game or in a movie.  The seventh…tour again, more videos, more songs.

Radio will come to you once you have a fanbase.  Going to radio before you have anything going on and without knowing what you’re doing…that can never end in success.

Now, I realize I’ve been a Negative Nelly recently…sorry about that!  I just see the same pitfalls everywhere and although I don’t think I’m an expert, I think I know enough to say that these are bad steps to take.  This post and the last one (You’re Doing It Wrong) are really about how artists keep making big mistakes and are frustrated when they don’t find success.  I hope if you’re reading this that you take what I’m saying to heart.  Try it for a month or two.  And tell me how it goes!

I’m on Tweetererer @Potoroo so check me out!


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