When submitting music for radio, musicians will, at some point in the process, hit a brick wall. Here we look at straight forward breakdown of how to submit your music in a way that increases your chances of it getting picked up.
Guest post by D. Grant Smith of the Symphonic Blog
Music submissions for radio can be simple or they can seem impossible. What’s your experience been?
Whether you’re trying to get your music featured on the radio (FM or online) or on a music blog, podcast, playlist or other media outlet, most musicians run into a big brick wall when it comes to getting your music featured.
Why is that?
What if the answer was something so simple, so basic, so “Duh!” that it made you a little upset for me to mention it?
That’s likely to happen.
But here’s the thing. As best-selling author and coach Jen Sincero says so eloquently in her book You Are A Badass, sometimes the best wisdom is stuff you already know but aren’t using.
That’s certainly true with music submissions.
What I’m going to show you here is actually pretty simple stuff. But most musicians aren’t doing it. AND … most music promotion companies and PR firms aren’t either.
Yeah, those big music marketers that charge several thousand dollars to do email and social media marketing campaigns for solo artists and bands make the same mistakes as musicians doing it on their own. Just because a music marketer has a huge contact list doesn’t mean they know what to do with it.
It’s likely they don’t.
So save your pretty pennies, nickels and dimes (or in real terms, save the $2-5k needed to hire this marketing work out) and learn from someone who sits on the other side of the microphone to know what we (as music curators, media personalities, radio hosts, bloggers and the like) are looking for with music submissions.
What I’m giving you here are the first steps to take when contacting media. The full process is explained in detail in The DIY Musician’s Radio Handbook. Even more insights, tips and tactics for audience growth through relationship building are available here.
You will know exactly what to do to get your music listened to, picked up and showcased after reading this blog piece.
First Things First
Do you know who your audience is?
Seriously, get down to the brass tacks here. Your music has a certain niche audience, a specific appeal that very particular music fans absolutely love. They go crazy-nuts over you because your style is exactly what they connect with.
Do you know who these people are?
Start here before you contact anyone in media, because this little detail is absolutely essential to you being able to do three key things in getting picked up:
- Knowing WHICH radio/media entities to contact
- Identifying WHO you want to get in front of (both the media influencer and their audience)
- Being able to showcase to the music curator what you bring to the table and why they should pick you
Look, I can tell you where to go find a massive list of email addresses for radio stations, radio shows, podcast makers, music bloggers and other people who work in the music curation sphere with an audience.
And I can tell you what to say and what not to say. But none of that matters if you don’t know who your music is the best fit for.
Let me be really clear here. YOUR MUSIC IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!!!!!
Do you like everything? Really?
Do you like Yanni? Or Ravel? Or The Spice Girls? Or Megadeth? Or Bon Jovi? Or Led Zeppelin? Or Dolly Parton? Or Etta James? Or Duran Duran? Or Donna Summers? Or Isaac Hayes? Or New Order?
If you’re thinking, “I’ve never heard of a lot of those people. Are they super old?” you’d be right. They are award-winning and platinum artists from the days of yore. And each one is most known in a particular genre. Which is the point.
The chances of someone with a huge, eclectic palette of musical tastes isn’t in love with all of these artists. Likely they have an appreciation for a handful of them.
Which means that “people who love music” have varying degrees of passion for different types of musicians, each who does something unique and different than the rest.
Uniqueness Is What Is Desirable For Music Fans & Radio Stations
Fast-forward to today’s hit makers. The same thing applies. Look at the trendsetters in any genre, especially in the indie music world and you’ll find all sorts of crossover artists who use different styles within their songwriting.
But we’re still talking about artists who know what their audiences love and what they don’t. When you hear them on an indie radio station, you’re going to hear them paired with music that their fans still love that fits in a few different boxes, but not all boxes.
If you make music that could fit into the folk rock world while also crossing into reggae, electronic rock, and singer-songwriter you’d be similar to Trevor Hall. Trevor has a passionate audience that spans multiple genres, but his media features for particular songs ping on specific styles that appeal to specific music fans.
In the indie/singer-songwriter realm there are folks like Iron & Wine, Rachael Yamagata, William Fitzsimmons and Miranda Dodson. Each bring their own uniqueness to the table by blending styles of varying genres, such as jazz, folk, and big band, into their creative songwriting.
These are just a few examples of indie musicians who have crossed over into different realms all while garnering the adulation and airplay of media and music fans alike.
Think about your music from the standpoint of a radio programmer. This is Lesson No. 1. Before you’re going to get picked out of the massive amount of music being submitted, how do you fit on a particular radio program, blog or podcast? Why is your music the best fit?
When you know who your audience is, you can answer this question.
Think about three artists or bands you are comparable to. That could mean you have a similar sound, or style, or songwriting capacity, or you blend the sound/style of a few different artists. If you want to know who you sound like, ask your existing fans. This little trick also helps you to go after fans of those artists to convert them over to your music.
Once you know who you sound like, and know who your fans are, you can do the essential piece of the music marketing puzzle: Go After The Right People For Your Music.
There are two very powerful ways to get your music on the radio. The first is knowing WHO to contact and being specific about those people and stations (or programs). You have to know your own musical identity first, and be solid on the uniqueness that you bring to the table.
The second big thing is how you contact these folks. Be specific with who you contact and present your “Why?” in a powerful way. This means that you give them the insights and intrigue necessary to not only reply to you, but to take the time to listen to your music.
You might not be aware of this, but music curators in radio or other media don’t spend all their time every day just listening to music and putting it on their platform. Station managers and music directors at radio stations (usually the people responsible for what goes over the airwaves) wear a multitude of different hats, and are responsible for different aspects of their stations or programs. Playing music is just one of those responsibilities.
To get the attention and interest of a radio station manager, think from their perspective. How do you do that?
Listen to their station or program. Get a grid for what is interesting to them based on the music you hear. Take a few notes. Then, you have something you can reference to them when you send that initial email to them to see about airplay.
If you’re thinking, “Wait, I have to send an individual email to each station I want to get heard on? That’s going to take forever and I don’t have that kind of time. Why don’t I just write a really long pitch that says everything about me and all the great stuff about my music, and also include all of my links and videos for my songs? That way I’ll knock everything out all at once,” you’re making the classic mistake I mentioned earlier.
One big, generic pitch email is a blanket message, aka it’s spam. Do you read spam when it comes into your inbox? Sent to you by someone you don’t know, have never met, never heard of, or have any reason to care about? Oh you don’t? Yeah, me neither.
Neither do music curators in media. Actually, blanket pitches often get trashed and never opened. All of my music curator friends in radio, blogging and podcasting complain often about the silly and bland blanket emails we get.
And before you get on the soapbox of not having enough time, I’d like to ask you how many Netflix shows you’ve watched in the past week. If it’s more than one, you have time.
Or how many times a day you jump on your personal Facebook profile to chat with friends, comment on cat pictures, or watch whatever random video pops into your feed?
If it’s a priority to you, you’ll have the time for it. And if getting your music heard on the radio, building relationships with music curators and influencers, and reaching new fans to grow your audience is a priority for you then you’ll make the time (and focus) on making that happen.
Give yourself 10-15 minutes a day if time is really tight. You’ll find that you have more time available than you think you do when you focus your time on what matters to your growth.
Your Email Submission Made Simple
The basic pieces of an initial email are simple. Address the recipient by name. Dale Carnegie said it best in How To Win Friends And Influence People:
“Names are the most important word in any language.”
If someone doesn’t address you by name, who are they talking to? The same is true in email.
This is another reason why the blanket, spammy emails that are addressed to “Hello,” “Dear Sir/Madame,” or “Dear Music Manager” just fall flat on their face in the digital trash can.
Don’t make that mistake. Address who you want to talk with and call them by name. Be sure to spell it correctly and call them by how you’ve seen their name posted (especially if it’s the name used in their email address).
One little piece of psychology that will help you make friends, contacts and connections with anyone is this little nugget: People love talking about themselves and hearing how great they are.
Think about the people you love spending time with the most. Do they spend all the time hanging out with you just talking about how awesome they are and never pay attention to anyone else? Likely not. We’re naturally drawn to people who are observant about others around them and who make a point to talk other people up.
When someone talks with you about what they appreciate and enjoy about you, it makes you feel good. You naturally want to connect with them.
The same is true when you reach out to media. Tell the person who puts great music on the radio how much you appreciate them and what they do. Be specific. Name an experience you had listening to their station that made you go, “This station/program is awesome! I wish I could get my music heard here!”
When you do that, you go from being this random person who’s trying to get hooked up with airplay to a real listener who values what the station/program does. And that’s how you get people to pay attention to you.
Which also means that you need to name the station or program. Don’t just say “I love what you do on your station.” What station are you talking about?
The more specific you are in naming things, the better results you’ll get.
Finally, you want to put your music in front of the radio gatekeeper to get them to listen and consider you for airplay and features. How do you do that part?
One easy way is to ask the person how they prefer music be submitted. You’d be very surprised how this endears you to the station manager, music director, or program host. Because very few artists actually ask that question.
Some music curators want you to send them a few mp3 files. Some want to hear your tracks on your website. Others have a submission page or service they use. When you ask how they prefer to get music submissions, you show them that you’re really interested in making their job easier and serving their audience.
Which leads to them being more apt to work with you. And respond to you. And get your music featured in some way.
Those are all the basic steps to take to get on the radio on indie, public and community radio stations. Most of these stations and the music programs that they carry also have blogs and other digital outlets where reviews, interviews, videos and other means of showcasing great artists are done. Which means that when you get your music accepted by a station, and if you get them to really pay attention to you (by doing what I’ve suggest here), you stand to get much more than just one song spun on a station.
This is why relationship building is the priority here. Not getting airplay. Or getting reviewed. Or getting your music picked up.
Build the relationship connection with the real person behind the microphone and watch your career get boosted. Because when an influencer loves you, they talk about you everywhere. And more and more influencers start paying attention too.
I’ve given you the basics here. But before you start this process of contacting radio for airplay, there are three BIG things you need to have in place that will ensure the experience works for the music curator/radio platform will give you their time and attention. Each one is detailed in this FREE eBook.