to Get Airply on
by Christopher Knab and
guest columnist John Richards
of 90.3 FM, KEXP,
Back to The Academy
Here is an article from Third Edition of Music Is Your Business.
It was written by John Richards who hosts the morning show on one of the
nations MOST IMPORTANT alternative music stations. You can find them on the web
too at www.kexp.org.
John has the real skinny on how to submit your music to
them, and most alternative non-commercial FM stations. Read it, Print It, Post it in a place you
canít ignore it! Now, heeeerrssss John!
There are so many thoughts on how an artist gets airplay
both here at the KEXP and radio in general.
While I canít speak for those other radio stations I can tell you from
my experience here at KEXP, at my indie label Loveless and other music related
activities some advice that might help cut down on the confusion and help you
get the music heard and hopefully played on radio.
Use these quick links to find what you're looking for....
First you must prepare a package to submit to radio
stations. Here is a list of what should be inside (I assume you know to put a
return address on the outside).
The CD or Record:
The finished product with full artwork is always best.
However, if this isn't possible, clearly display the song list, album title and
record label info. Please put it in a
jewel case otherwise if might get lost in the shuffle.
MP3/Sending Music In
Digital Form: This has made it SO much easier for bands to send music
however it has made it SO much easier for someone getting hundreds of songs
emailed to them deleted without even being heard. You have to think about the amount of music
that is probably being sent to a DJ and if its realistic for you to think
theyíll take the time to open your email and listen. You also have to consider they might not be
able to play the MP3 directly in most cases so they have to physically burn the
song onto CD to play. You donít want
them doing anything physical, trust me.
I think its great to send music this way but donít expect direct airplay
to come from it.
Sending a DJ a link to your Myspace page to listen to your
song seems like a great and easy way for them to hear your music and for you to
get the word out and I agree it is! But
right now in my Myspace Inbox I have at least 400 bands asking me to do
that. Its much easier to ignore those
messages even if I donít want to. Just a
question of time really. So again, use
Myspace for that purpose but donít have unrealistic ideas of the success of
this practice. Oh and donít post
bulletin after bulletin on a DJís or stationís site. It really pissed them off. Going in with the ďHow can I not piss off a
station?Ē is half the battle.
The One Sheet:
The "One Sheet" is designed to outline what you're
sending and why it should be listened to. Limit it to one page; multiple pages
create desk clutter and most likely won't be read. Avoid cramming the "One
Sheet" with too much but do include the essential information below:
- A song list
- A list of any songs the FCC wouldn't like, such as those
with obscene language.
- "Go To" tracks (3-5 of your strongest)
- A few press quotes if you have them. Don't try to be funny;
assume that music directors don't have a sense of humor because they
- A comparison to other bands but make sure they apply (not
everyone sounds like Radiohead). You could also include the "genre"
of your music.
- Avoid too much clutter; get to the point and let the music
speak to that point.
Unwrap the CD and fold the one sheet inside the CD case.
Don't ask music directors (MD) to contact you, assume that you must contact
them. Most MDs don't have time to return calls. Call them during their office
hours and continue to do so until you reach them. Email is great as well. Send one a week until youíve heard from them
and thank them for their time. If they are playing it, offer up CDís for
giveaway, tickets to show, whatever you can offer. They may not have a use for it but canít hurt
Items: Send other promotional items that will help your chancesÖbut
use judgment. Don't toss in things that spoil or appear unprofessional. I once
received a package with a hotdog in it. I happened to be on vacation at the
time and when I returned the package smelled so bad I threw it outÖCD and all.
Plus, what does a hotdog have to do with getting airplay? Donít spend time or money or energy on a
sweet picture of yourself. Why on earth
would you do that? Stations like this
one are interested in the music not your looks.
Iíve seen more bands get caught up on thisÖ..
WHO DO I SEND MY
Research, research, research. Use the Internet to identify
appropriate stations. If they play twang then sending your new rap release is a
big waste of time. You can usually find a "play list" or
"rotation" section on station websites. Does your music fit? Send
your package to the station's music director. If the station has multiple MDs
then send the CD to the main MD and to any other MDs that might play it. If
there is just one MD then send him or her at least one copy of your CD. If you
send your package to a station in your hometown, send it to the local show.
This is your best chance at airplay as they are usually in need of new music.
OKAY I'VE SENT IT,
NOW WHAT DO I DO?
DO NOT assume that just because you've sent your package
your CD is being played. Wait at least 2 weeks after you've sent it before you
follow up with a phone call. Most music directors have call hours a couple of
days each week. You can usually find these hours listed on a station's website
or you can call them to find out when they are.
politeness: Keep trying and once you get through remain polite and to
the point. Ask the following questions. If any of the answers are
"No," stop asking and politely tell them to have a nice day.
- Did you receive so and so CD on so and so records?.
- Were you able to review so and so?
- Are you going to add so and so to your rotation?
- Where are you going to add so and so to your rotation?
- Is there anything else you need?
Most stations have a "Heavy, Medium, and Light"
rotation system. If you're put into any of these its good news: you're getting
airplay. At this point thank the music director and let them know you'll be
calling back later to see how the record is being received and where it is
charting. Continue to follow-up for 6-8 weeks, the life of a new release in
rotation. Or, if you like, keep an eye on the station website's play list.
Inform your supporters what station is playing your CD;
however, make sure that they don't overload the station with requests or turn
bitter towards the station because your music is not being aired enough. DJ's
can tell when a band's supporters are overloading them with requests and this
will not win you friends or more airplay. Most stations will play music based
on merit and not on requests.
There are several top-notch radio promotion companies that
specialize in helping musicians get radio airplay around the country. They
generally service 300 to 750 stations for a fee of $500 to thousands of
dollars. Promotional mailings to radio stations will cost you money for both
postage and lost CD's. Usually you handle the mailings while they track your
release by calling the MD each week and find out where in rotation it is and
how many plays it is getting a week.
Most companies service your CD for 6 to 8 weeks and can
assist with setting up in-studio visits and giveaways. Most will recommend the
type of stations to target. Here are a few of these companies:
Planetary Group, www.planetarygroup.com
Team Clermont, www.teamclermont.com
Nice Promotions, www.nicepromo.com
Pirate! Promotion and Management, www.piratepirate.com
It's not easy to do it yourself: write the music, book gigs,
manage the tour, release the CD, and get radio airplay. But once you connect
with the right listeners for your music, there are definitely rewards. I hope
you now have a better idea of how to approach a radio station and get airplay
for your new CD. Good luck!
The Morning Show KEXP 90.3 FM,
Audioasis (all local) KEXP 90.3 FM,
Christopher Knab is an independent music business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. He
is available for private consultations on promoting and marketing independent music, and can be reached by email at: email@example.com
Chris Knab's book, 'Music Is Your Business'
is available from the Music Biz Academy bookstore.
Visit the FourFront Media and
Music website for more information on the business of music from