10 Pieces Of Sage Advice To Up And Coming Musicians Seeking Airplay From A Radio DJ
We have a music library at the station where we label and file all CDs, and vinyl records, that we receive from artists, labels, and distributors. What I've noticed is that CDs in jewel cases or digipaks with the artist and album name on spine get pulled for airplay 5x-10x more frequently than CDs in slim cases or sleeves where the artist/album name, and sometimes, the CD itself can't be seen hiding on the shelf squeezed between the CDs in jewel cases. Truth.
The major and big indie labels have distributors that put info stickers on the outside of their artist's CDs and vinyl records that they send the station which list the singles / best songs to consider for airplay. Readily identify, with a clearly visible warning, any tracks with explicit content that may violate FCC rules if played over the air between 7am - Midnight. Also, list the genre of the music, and include a brief description of the band's sound.
When pulling music to play, this info helps a lot! So don't bother sending a bio, fancy postcard, or other pieces of paper with your submission; just include all that information on a sticker that you physically stick to your CD (even if it covers up your bass player's face on the album cover!). That way, it won't get lost or thrown away, and the information will stay with your CD or record so any DJ that pulls it off the shelf to listen and consider it for their show will have all your information. But keep it brief, it's just a small info label-type sticker, not an opportunity for a lengthy essay on how your band first formed or how awesome your last show was. (Although we hope it was!)
You don't have to get to the hook in first 30 seconds of your song, but if it's boring or not the right genre, a DJ will know and decide what's right for their show in the first 15-30 seconds of listening to your track. You may not like this reality as an artist, but it's true. DJs are busy people with lives and never enough time. Not that you can't record long intros or break all the industry rules (you rebel!) - it just might not be the best song to pitch us first.
If the vocal is not mixed right, off pitch, or below par, it does not matter how good the music is. Bob Dylan is a rare exception. You are not Bob Dylan. He's a legend. You? Likely not. (Yet!)
While vinyl is popular with hipsters and indie record stores, most DJs don't spin vinyl anymore because digital or CDs are so much easier and trouble free for airplay. (Those that do are the rare exception, and increasingly not the norm anymore). So if your band invests in vinyl, please go ahead and master digital WAV files or CDs too to also send to stations for airplay. Give DJs at the station as many options as you can to spin your music in the format they prefer to use for their show.
The overall sound of your music is far more important than the prettiness of the album art or packaging. But a bad or poor quality image or packaging is worse than no image at all. Don't look unprofessional. DJs won't even bother to listen, usually. On the other hand, a really strong and genre appropriate image may cause a DJ to listen just out of curiosity.
If you mail the station your CD or record, please take the cellophane wrapping off first! And definitely remember to include your contact info and website (on the sticker attached to your CD or vinyl - see #2 above). If we love your music, we may want to interview or promote you!
If you send the DJ a pizza with your truly awesome song, you'll get instant airplay, just hold the anchovies! (Ok, technically DJs can't accept any gifts in exchange for airplay per FCC payola rules, but if we could, this would totally work!)
Make sure your tracks are mastered properly for radio and meet "Red Book" radio mastering levels. If your mix is not hot enough it will sound crappy over the air. If it's not properly mastered, your song is very unlikely to get airplay, not impossible, but still much more unlikely.
Radio stations much prefer CDs, or vinyl records, to digital copies, like mp3s. Let's face it, they just sound better over air, and really, don't you want your music to sound great over the air. WAV or AIFF files work best. Flac/Lossless, iTunes quality m4a files, or 320kpbs mp3s, are the minimum quality acceptable for airplay if a real CD or vinyl, or WAV/AIFF files, are not available. While your 96, 128, or 192kpbs file may work better for broadband users on some website, they sound like crap over the air. Do your music, and us, a favor and submit your best, highest quality, properly mastered recordings.
And please never attach any mp3 tracks, photos, or attachments to any email you send to a DJ/station. (Our spam filter blocks any emails with attachments, this is true, by the way, of most radio stations and record labels). Much better, if you can't mail us a CD or vinyl record, to post the WAV or AIFF files on your website or on YouTube or SoundCloud, and send us a link. Or write first to ask permission to send us your WAV or AIFF file via DropBox or a similar large file transfer program.
And, in honor of Nigel Tunfel (Spinal Tap), ...
Most importantly, create the right vibe for your tribe! But also, to grow the radio show's tribe too. Don't submit country tracks to your local rock DJ's show. In other words, do your research about the station, show, DJ, you're targeting before submitting your music.
And above all, be professional, follow your heart, and create the sounds you want to hear. Best of luck to you and your music. The listeners and I can't wait to hear your killer new track on the air!
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BeTh isBell hosts The Flower Power Hour, a modern/classic psychedelic rock show, and the New Releases show on KMUD, an FM station in Northern California. You can submit your music to her for airplay consideration to: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mailing directly to the station: KMUD, 1144 Redway Drive, Redway, CA 95561. And you can listen to FPH show archives at https://soundcloud.com/theflowerpowerhour