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Wednesday, August 31, 2011
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Getting Your Song Played on Radio - 2

There's no shortage of bands wanting to have their music played on radio. What's difficult is that we're in a time when the terrestrial radio industry is losing its appetite for new music.

I will give a nod to Clear Channel's "Get Discovered!" talent competition, though, where "Three Winning Acts from Across the U.S. Get Their Big Breaks -- Performing Live on National Television During the Annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon." How many of the more than 7,800 acts submitting music for this competition will ever be heard on a Clear Channel radio station is the question I'll ask. My guess is none to a few (at most).

"There's no doubt that music distribution within the radio industry has changed dramatically." From my own experience of running a web site catering to indie artists and radio programmers, and another listing radio stations for consumers, I think there is now a much better chance for independent artists to get airplay on internet radio.

Here is a continuation of suggestions for musicians or groups that are looking to get their songs played on radio - and what they should expect in today's music market. (Part 1 Here.)

1) Let's start with song distribution, because it requires the greatest effort. In the past, record labels would have teams of promotion people "working" a song. They would call or visit radio stations to convince programmers to add a song to the playlist. That's not quite the case anymore in the radio industry. While some stations still get calls or visits, a majority are swayed on what to add by a corporate programmer who's making the decision.

For online radio stations there's really no such strategy from record labels, which is why I created RRadio Music.

Internet radio has an interesting take on programming. In most cases the "program" is more a string of songs connected by a station ID or positioning statement. Commercial breaks are more often than not made up of public service announcements. There isn't a great number of internet radio stations that actually have "programs," because progammers have little time to devote to that part of the business.

Online, there are more enthusiastic amateurs running stations than are professionals. Translated, there's more of a jukebox-on-steroids approach to playing music than having a voice between songs. This is why I created "Intro to Indie Artists," a set of 5, 3, and 2 song programs in country, dance, hip hop & rap, jazz, pop, and rock music genres. Adding this program gives a station professionally-produced content. (Listen to shorten programs here.)

It's my opinion that music distribution is shifting to where a large number of emerging artists no longer get the attention of a radio programmer, simply due to their lack of time for listening to new songs.

The new way for getting music out is to package it in small programs that give stations the "content" that they do not have time to produce themselves. Supporting this concept of music distribution is that 158 stations are already using "Intro to Indie Artists" - and they are playing 400 versions of these programs.

RRadio Music is a slightly different take on how an indie artist finds radio airplay. Here we have a web site that's only marketed to radio programmers. They download selections based on their own desire. I think the numbers speak for themselves, evidence that this "first stage exposure" is efficient (and can be used when the programmer has time to listen and choose): 655 songs have been placed on 109 radio stations. ("Intro to Indie Artists" stations receive a service where the music they air is selected for them.)

2) Song construction is misunderstood by many independent artists. In an area that's "art" first, and business last, too many times I receive songs for consideration that follow no set rule of marketability. a) The artist has not fully mastered the instrument. b) The vocal does not carry the tune in a natural way. c) audio levels are so out-of-parameter as to be off-the-chart when viewed in a graphical form. Here are two examples of this last point, songs submitted at RRadio Music. The first is unacceptable; the second is properly mixed.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Also relative to "marketability of a song" is its construction. As someone listens, they are judging the worth of that song from the moment it begins to play. So why do we find so many songs that take 45 seconds to 75 seconds to get to the real starting point?

I receive a large number of songs that: a) start very soft, building to a point where they're finally audible; b) have a dozen measures of repetition before the first strong note (or vocal) begins; or c) contain a long series of comments or artist introductions that appear no more than an advertisment of the act's name. (The latter occurs in many Hip Hop & Rap songs.) If you don't grab the ears in your first 3-5 seconds, you've lost the listener and/or the programmer who's making a choice on whether or not to add your song to their playlist.

3) Finally, let's tackle the most important issue to any musician - selling the music. Not to dampen anyone's enthusiasm for marketing their music, but here's an observation: Getting a consumer to see why they need to put time into spending 99 cents for a song online is proving to be more difficult than it was to have them part with $11-$19 when buying an album in a record store. I have no data to support this, but I believe there is a negative response when a person considers pulling out a credit card to make a 99-cent purchase for a song. I call this the "payment paradox."

Of course, with the concept that "I can find most music for free online," consumers need an emotional attachment to a musician. Bands and solo acts need to consider more than ever how merchandising their brand plays into generating revenue online. That is not a typo - the brand is what a band is building today.

There's no doubt that music distribution within the radio industry has changed dramatically. As an indie artist, you have to decide what route you'll take in trying to get your music onto a radio station's playlist. If it is to contact stations individually on your own, try using the music-format listings at Audio Graphics' RadioRow. That will, at least, narrow your search with links to each station.

I, however, believe that the future belongs with a distribution service like RRadio Music, which acts on your behalf. There's only a $9.95 one-time fee; if your song is selected for listing, it's exposed to hundreds of stations. There's also guaranteed radio airplay if your music is chosen for an "Intro to Indie Artists" program. (Examples of Independent Artist Placements Here.)

If there's any good news to be found in distributing songs today it's that musicians are no longer being held under-the-thumb of a one-sided record label contract.

With the internet, marketing yourself depends solely on how much effort you want to put into reaching the radio industry programmers who decide to add your song. More and more, those folks are working at internet radio stations.

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