Don’t Be Afraid of the Giant
The Most Effective Way to Get the Attention of Music Influencers
Guest Post from Marco Collins
A couple of years back, I was working with a new underground band that was growing in popularity. We were mapping out a plan of attack for the next year: releases, label hunting, shows/tours, publicity and radio promotion. When asked if they’d gotten any radio airplay in the past, they informed me they hadn’t had a ton of luck. I dug further to find that they’d sent KEXP’s local northwest show a 7” single, and it received sporadic airplay at best. I asked them whether they had officially submitted their tunes to the station’s Music Director for regular airplay. Blank stares.
Promotion is often the evil and scary part of being an artist or musician. Over my years of working in the music biz, I’ve noticed how a lot of creative types shy away from selling or marketing their art because, let’s face it, it’s not sexy. It can be a lot of work, and when the ego is attached to that art, it’s likely to get bruised. That’s why I recommend that, as an artist, you hire someone else to handle these duties if possible. You can either hire a professional marketing consultant or apply the DIY ethic and go it alone. Just be aware that the latter creates a new set of challenges; the toughest being standing out in never-ending sea of mediocrity. It can be intimidating as hell, but it doesn’t have to be.
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Let’s talk specifically about getting your music on the radio. To most people, it might seem daunting. They imagine radio bigwigs who’re untouchable and out of reach. The truth is we’re a lazy bunch who’d prefer you do most of the work! I’ve worked off and on in radio (college/commercial and non-commercial) since I was 16 years old and I’ve encountered many passionate and naive hopefuls. While I’ve achieved success professionally in my 35-year radio career, most hits I’ve been credited for have been sent to me by the band. Most notably, Beck’s “Loser” was sent to me at 1077 The End as a 12’ vinyl single on a little indie label called Bong Load Records. Nobody knew Beck back then. The label initially only pressed 500 copies. I played it on the radio and “Loser” quickly became a number one hit for us and a top ten record in the country. Now pre-internet, I would’ve never known about Beck without someone sending me the record. Someone else had to do the legwork before I could do what I do.
Here in the Seattle area, there’s a handful of terrestrial stations that play local, unsigned music: KGRG, C89, 107.7 The End, KUOW, KUBE, KISW, Hollow Earth (coming soon!) and KEXP. With these comes an opportunity for mass exposure. I’ll use KEXP as an example; they’re a desired destination for many bands because of their respected programming, worldwide appeal, web presence (those in-studio videos!) and their willingness to play unknown artists in all day parts. Listeners can expect to hear undiscovered talent around the clock. Many bands are afraid to approach a station like KEXP because they assume that it would be impossible to get legitimate airplay. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Here’s what I suggested the underground band do:
Prepare a CD for submission (KEXP still prefers CD submissions)
Burn ten or more of them for the Music Director, Program Director and various selected DJs/shows
Create an informative one sheet to include with your submission
Write personal notes to each recipient
DELIVER THEM IN PERSON
And that’s what we did. The following week, the band’s music got added into medium rotation and their songs could be heard all over the airwaves. It was that easy.
The point is, make it simple for the DJs and programmers to “discover” you. Don’t be intimidated. Fortune favors the brave.
Based in Seattle, Marco Collins is a music consultant, radio host, music programmer/curator & A&R scout. A documentary about his life entitled “The Glamour & The Squalor” is currently available on iTunes and Amazon.