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Monday, May 7, 2012
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Being Professional in Thoughts, Looks & Action

I've recently had the opportunity to examine thousands of items that required a professional approach. While building a new Audio Graphics database, it's become overly apparent that there are many enthusiastic amateurs hoping to hit the big time with an average amount of effort. Only, "average" is just that - meaning, being average simply keeps you within the pack.

"To stand out you must be unique, easy to comprehend, and easier to respond to." The following is a guide for artists and owners of online radio stations who hope to stand out. Hopefully many in the commercial radio industry will also gain from these words since "average," as average goes, is rampant in radio.

1) Doing just enough to get by will never let you get ahead. Yes, it's surprising how often people, who want others to take notice of their work, produce "inadequate."

In this day when software makes it possible for any band to produce its own music on a laptop, there are thousands of artists who don't take the time to understand the production process. The result is over-modulation, over-compression, and digital tearing of music; many have a thought that louder must mean better.

When songs are submitted to a variety of online song services, the music is evaluated not only on its creativity but how well it's packaged. If a song isn't accepted by the public then the problem is often judged to be an ineffective submission service, when the problem should be traced back to poor production.

Here is an example of a song with poor production quality, next to one that's been properly produced.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

While discussing production of content, let's also cover web sites. As poorly executed as they may be in the world of indie artists, they are often abysmal relative to internet radio stations. Even web sites connected to the commercial radio industry are notorious for designs that confuse.

There's still this thought within radio that everything needs to be done in an over-the-top promotional style. Most radio web sites have a visual cacophony that can cause an epileptic to have a seizure. Multiple colors, rotating ads, flashing images, and hard-to-find "listen" links make for a poor visitor experience - yet are prolific throughout the radio industry online.

If one concept needs emphasis it's that simplicity is difficult to create.

2) Regardless of your stature within the online world, if you want to make money on the internet it's still a business venture. Whether you are a music act wanting to sell songs (or get noticed by radio programmers), or a radio station looking to create a product worthy of an advertiser's dollars, your dreams won't come true if there's no extra step in your efforts that says "I am a professional."

I saw this point exemplified when going over Audio Graphics agreements with artists, and requests for listings (by radio station owners), at RadioRow. A high percentage of the time a submitter's name appeared simply as a "Bill" or "DJbob"; no proper name or last name included. This seemed most apparent with independent artists signing a legally binding agreement at RRadio Music.

As for radio station owners who scrawl a description line of their station, their spelling and grammatical errors are so pervasive as to make me question whether answering is even worth the time.

3) I often say that my first objective with any client is to dampen expectations. It's not that marketing, or reaching a mass of people with a message, is ineffective. It's that many people believe scores of response will flow in with any words they speak.

Want to draw people to your radio station? Put together a great collection of music. Want to sell your songs? Just put them online and consumers are attracted like moths to a flame. Only, if ever there was a proper use of this phrase, it is for either of these examples: "It ain't so, Joe."

Repetition, consistency, and sincerity have always been the basis for a solid marketing message. Today you can also include "value proposition" as having huge impact. Content or "great songs" are a dime a dozen now that anyone who opens a YouTube, Facebook, or Wordpress account believes they have a pipeline to the masses.

4) Take advantage of the systems, not the people. The internet has given everyone an equal chance to use technology in ways that weren't present prior to the fax machine. Yet, how many times have we seen members of the radio industry or independent artists effectively use what's placed before them? Search engine optimization, data gathering, analytics of metrics, email lists, etc., go ignored because they take too much time to understand (and much more time - and money - to master).

What's offered instead are "deals" and flashy promotions that fade into the background amid all the other noise being made by those who dive into trying to market themselves in the easiest ways possible.

To stand out you must be unique, easy to comprehend, and easier to respond to. It wasn't iPhone technology that "wowed" the market as much as its simplicity of use and the depth of offerings packaged within.

Just because the internet has opened a new avenue of communications between people, the masses don't expect less from companies or people who represent a business or band. You can even say that consumers have become jaded by saturation of ads while being force-fed homogenzied content.

A level of professionalism is required to rise above millions of wannabees. The internet has made it more difficult because it puts professionals on the same serving dish as amateurs.

Looking, thinking, and acting in a professional manner is still mandated - even with the perception that anyone can make it online. Of more importance is that you realize anyone can fail, too. Just be average or inadequate. There's plenty of that floating around in both the world of indie artists and the online radio industry.

What we really need are more people who think, look and act as professionals.

(More reading for independent artists.)

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