Radio play, for me, has been a career for life – ever since landing my first show, aged just 14. Since then, I’ve gone on to present a weekly new music show on the BBC, I help select playlist tracks for Radio 1 & 1Xtra, recommend ‘ones to watch out for’ for Radio 2, Radio 3, 6 Music, The Asian Network and Television. I choose every track you hear broadcast on my local station. I select artists for Glastonbury, Reading + Leeds, SXSW, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, T In The Park, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Worcester Music Festival, Nozstock, The Hay Festival, Radio 2 Live In Hyde Park, The Great Escape, Bestival, LakeFest and The Cheltenham Jazz Festival. So it’s fair to say – if it makes a noise, I’m interested…
…and that’s it really. It doesn’t matter what style of music you’re producing, there’s never an opportunity too far away. Radio play, like the whole of the music industry, is changing. More audiences are online, with a greater range of channels and competition in the marketplace.
Sending Music to Radio
So, while it may not be in your best interest to send your liquid drum ’n’ bass track to a classic rock station, it is worth doing a little homework as to who to send your music to. Google is certainly your friend, there. Some stations, like the aforementioned ‘classic’ rock station, probably won’t be playing anything beyond 1985!
We’re at an age so connected that technology is moving faster than consumers can keep up with it. Only recently have we seen sites like Apple Music, Spotify & Deezer approaching BBC presenters to act as ‘tastemakers’. People were arriving on sites being presented with a lifetime’s worth of music to search for. But don’t know what to type into that box!
Radio play is still the fastest way of getting your music out to the widest audience possible. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people tune in. Although the audience may not always be vocal, they’re always there. For that reason, I would say every song you produce must either be – or have a version that is – radio play friendly. We’re talking no swearing or overly political lyrics. I once had a track sent with the words “my sex life is harder to find than Madeleine McCann.” This was right at the height of public upset…
How to Get Radio Play
Also – bands, I get it, like to rock out. But save that for the album or the live show. The shorter your track is, the better. Remember that song you couldn’t get enough of, as a kid, which you stuck on loop play? That’s because the recording wasn’t long enough and left you wanting more. If you go on too long, then why would an audience ever want to hear more?
One of the biggest mistakes bands make is not having an official release date. Or sending in a track two days before launch. Radio play is a great way of drumming up early support for that big moment in your track’s history. Plus, if you get sent as much music as I do, your release for the day after tomorrow may not get heard for another couple of weeks – in which case, the moment has passed. Particularly if everyone else has supported it; nobody likes to be the last horse in the race.
If you don’t have a release date but you have a killer track, then why should I play it now? Hopefully, I will have a long and illustrious life in broadcasting and I’ll always be in need for an A-list hit. So what’s to stop me from playing this when I’m 64 – when I feel that week’s music is a little weak?
Having an impact date not only locks in all media (social or otherwise), but creates excitement among fans. Also – it’s worth looking at significant events in your calendar as to when you’re going to release those tracks. I was speaking to Remi Harris, only last week, who I’ve just booked to headline a stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival. He said: “By the way, did you want a copy of my new album?”. He’d released it only that week and looking on his website, had failed to get the message across. It was a ‘by the way’ at the end of a conversation. So I said: “Listen, nobody knows about this album yet – so why not hold off two weeks and ‘officially release it in Montreal'”.
All he has to do is mention it on stage – the festival will be happy he saved his big moment for them. Plus he can, forevermore, say he dropped his album at the biggest gig of his life. Otherwise that moment will come and go – and what do you have to show for it – a YouTube video? How great, when approaching new venues, to say: “Here’s my album officially launched at…” – two stories in one product. So my golden advice is to make big moments even bigger.
Sending to the Right Person
And that’s the thing: I mentioned, earlier on, that I present a weekly new music show for the BBC. But that’s 166 hours a week I’m not on-air. So although it may appear there’s tonnes of music I’m not playing, the industry still trusts radio as a guide. It leads audiences into new musical discoveries that will make THEM money. Therefore my phone is constantly ringing off-the-hook – not asking, but demanding I recommend new artists for fresh, exciting opportunities. And even when it’s not, I’m constantly bumping into record scouts, festival organisers and promoters who constantly listen in – in the hope that I’ve done their A&R work for them.
It’s a great position to be in. I’d say no opportunity is too small and no music project is insignificant – you just need a good product to showcase. So if you have a killer demo (1st priority), an epic video (2nd priority) and a nailed on social media presence (3rd priority) then the world is your oyster. As a supporter of new music, I don’t care if you have 300 fans online or 3,000 fans. After all, you could have bought them. But if you send me a list of 30 dates to prove you can play live, I’d rather see pictures from those shows – because, again, you could have made up a list of past tour dates (it happens). So even if you’re not an active blogger, who cares, because – at the end of the day, it’s the music that does the talking…
Guest post by:
Andrew Marston is a British based radio presenter, music producer and club DJ, known for his extensive work with musicians under the BBC Introducing scheme. His DJing work has included house, trance, drum n bass, indie, rock, 70’s funk, 80’s disco, Motown, Old Skool, UK garage, hip hop and RnB – although he’s known for his love of dance and electronica music. He’s now presented his BBC Introducing show for more than a decade.