The politics of the Radio business

As I sit here to write this I will start by saying that this is of course my perspective.  That is of course obvious, but I don’t work in terrestrial radio because of a different type of politics, and that is corporate.  I can’t give you a first hand description of how most radio stations work in North America, but I have enough experience and knowledge that I could probably break it down for you.  There are different levels as well for how they operate, and some of it will depend on the size of market that the stations serve.  Now with that said, some whiz bang genius who has no business being in charge of radio stations is running hundreds of stations that are owned by a corporate giant, and there is more than one instance of this, and these idiots think its all the same so they treat a station in Ottumwa, Iowa the same as they as a station in New York City.  All of that and none of it are what this blog is about.   But for independent artists it is part of the reason for their difficulty getting any airplay.  But maybe some day we will delve into that, or maybe not.

We talk on Twitter, through Facebook, here in blogs and even in person with lots of people about the processes, and what we do and don’t do, the efforts we make and how it does and doesn’t always work.   My goal has always been two fold; to help promote independent music and to run professional sounding and successful stations.  My approach has been different than a lot of others on the internet with stations and that’s good for everyone.  Its kind of like pizza!  I use this analogy for Raspin Stuwart who picks on me for my love of pizza.  Some people love there pizza loaded, some like it with 1 or two items, some with no cheese, vegetarian, deep dish, thin crust, you name it there are ways to make it.  My point is there is no one set way to do internet radio.  The only thing everyone must do is pay the royalties and broadcast based on the laws.  After that, the internet is the wild west.  You can get anything and everything if you know where to look, and as such broadcasters can do as they want.  The same ultimate goal exists for everyone, or almost everyone, and that is to get people to listen to your broadcast.  Whether you broadcast a one hour show once a week or do like we do and run 24/7 and in our case with 4 stations it doesn’t matter.  If you don’t get listeners it can be a lot of work for nothing.

Now with a certain amount of success and listeners, you than get a higher demand for artists who want you to play their music.  This doesn’t even mean you are good as a broadcaster, lol, it just means you have a good reach and as such songs getting played have a better chance for more people to hear them.  But with the higher demand comes an increase in the work load and I believe a need for better efficiency in how you handle your business.  As has been mentioned in blogs here before, many artists and promoters who submit music will tell you that they get very few replies back to emails.  I won’t pull punches here because this is where we start to get into the politics of the business.  I feel that if you don’t have time to respond to someone who has taken the time to reach out to you, than you either need to fix your system or give up.  I often wonder if these people run their social lives the same way.  Bob has a radio podcast, but he can’t be bothered to answer emails, only those he thinks are worthy of his response.  Meanwhile Bob has 5 friends who invite him out over the weekend for various things, does Bob ignore those 5 friends and only respond to the 1 he has interest in?  Well first thing is, if that’s what Bob does, hes not a Bob hes a Dick.  Second if he treats people that way in his personal life he will have a lonely existence, because those invites will dry up.

The difference with the music is that there are so many people trying to get played anywhere and any way they can, he will continue to get emails.  What Bob won’t notice is that he will stop get repeat emails from people because they will get sick of never getting a response.   I try, yes I  try to respond to every email.  I often say we respond to over 90% of emails but, the ones I don’t respond to are usually along the following lines.  You send an email that has nothing written on it.  Its in my inbox, with no hello, no message of any kind, and an attachment.  Again I don’t pull punches, if you are too damn lazy to even put hello, that I am going to put just as much effort into listening to your song and replying as you did with typing.  NONE!   We also get messages that are entirely promotional, not music submissions, and they of course are noted but don’t always need a response.

The other thing we did was I wrote a blog about how to submit music to us, and its not required reading, but I like to say its a way for artists to help us, so we can help them and make the entire process easier.  We don’t ask for a lot and if we don’t get everything we mention in the blog it doesn’t mean we don’t listen or don’t respond.  I read that from other stations and shows, to make sure your songs include X,Y,Z and if they don’t they won’t be considered.  If they are sent in Wav not MP3 they won’t be considered.  Their choice, hell I can’t count how many times songs are sent to us that the sound levels are off.  Times I have talked to an artist, and I hear something in a song and say, is it supposed to be there and if not I can help and fix it.   Some have gone on to take what i have helped them with and use in other submissions.  Is it extra work, of course it is, but we are working with artists that most times don’t have all the tools that artists that have big money support have.  So why not not give a little hand if I can.  I will say I will never edit a song without talking to an artist, and the term edit is used very loosely.   A song may get submitted that has 10 seconds of talking at the opening.  That is not what is called a radio friendly version and I would ask as an example to run the song without that 10 seconds.  I’ve never had any problems from anyone with this kind of request, and if you think back in history how many times there have been songs you hear on the radio, but when you buy the album the song is 3 or 4 minutes longer.  The shorter or edited versions are called the Radio Edit, and its been going on for years.

Over the years we have had problems with artists and promoters and fans, and that is just life.   I have a promoter, I believe he is in Germany, who sends us music still to this day, even though they just go in the spam folder and have done so for 3 months.  He submits on behalf of many artists, but his emails are short, with very little information, and to be honest might as well be blank.  Now there is a distinct difference between an artist who sends me one email that maybe doesn’t have all the information, and a promoter who is sending 3, 4  or 7 emails a weeks for different artists, and for some reason, they can’t seem provide information with the emails.  They always say, Hereby we provide you with artist X and their song YZABC.  Sometimes it will have a Facebook link and that’s basically it.  We discovered that with each of this promoters submissions it took us 3 times the average length of time to complete and email.  Most emails, and songs can be reviewed, assessed, processed and replied to in 4 to 5 minutes, on average.  So take 3 times as long for 7 emails every week and we found ourselves dedicating a couple hours every week basically doing this promoters work.   I tried to email and communicate asking for help so that we could better work together and got no response.  No his name is not Bob.  I went on his Facebook page and made a post about the same thing hoping maybe some of the artists he represents would say something even and we could sort this out.  Imagine my shock, no comment or response to it.  This by the way is not something over the space of a day or two, this was over a number of weeks, all the while still reviewing music.  I should add, we don’t play non English language music.  He likes to send us foreign language songs, which we have explained numerous times, but again chooses to ignore.

I feel bad for the artist he represents.  Let me correct that, claims he represents.  I am not asking for in depth information, some simple information, like a Twitter account, maybe some bio you know, things in my estimation that should be included in the submission.  When you are looking for someone to play your music and promote you, shouldn’t you give them the information or the tools to help them.  Like your website, or social media accounts.  Maybe its just me,  but someone like this is ripping off artists and wasting everyone’s time.  For what its worth, 2 months after I redirected his emails I did email him again, advising him that I wasn’t even looking at them, and we really should work to try and help his artists.  I still haven’t heard back from him.

The other side of things is a recent incident that is hilarious in many ways.   A promoter chose to attack a Twitter post of ours, someone who I didn’t know was a promoter.  Its true, I saw the attack, and reacted to it, but had no idea this person was representing an artist.  The next day when we are reviewing music, their name came up in an email with a song from their artist they wanted us to play.  Let me say for the sake of things, I can get upset, people know that and things happen.  But at this point we listened to the song and decided that we would give it a placement on one of the stations.  However things quickly went downhill, and I finally sent an email advising her that I was not going to be able to work with her.  When it comes to being abusive, I won’t put up with it.  I than reached out to the artist to contact me, to let them know as far as I was concerned, we would still play the music but I wasn’t going to deal with their Representative.  this isn’t the first time I have done this and won’t be the last.  Treat people the way you want to be treated and when someone takes to being ignorant, than thats it, I don’t need to be in contact with that kind of individual.  I have a simple plan.  I block you on social media and direct your email to the trash.  Why is that some may ask?  Simply put I have so many other people that act like decent people I am not going to give one more second to an idiot or stupid person.  But because this was not a large promoter, one artist one song, I didn’t want to penalize them so opened the door.   Seems pretty simple really to me, if they want to continue with us playing the music, just you handle the emails.  No disrespect we are not talking the Rolling Stones, and to be honest I get messages every day of the week from Mainstream artists with a long history of success who handle their own messages and emails.  But they chose not to respond either.  I didn’t block the artist its their choice and they have done nothing wrong.  Maybe some day they will reach out.

The other issue comes from blocking which I readily admit I use as a tool.  But we have seen some individuals use the blocking on Twitter suddenly, for no apparent reason and than a month or 6 weeks later, unblock and suddenly an email appears with a music submission.  Let me use this line again, I am not going to pull any punches.  Are you our of your fucking mind?  Go the hell away.  This is some kind of weird politics or just plain BS that again I don’t have any time for.  Do I like the politics, absolutely not, but some people just seem to think this is a game or something.  Here is how it appears to me and feel free to correct me if I am wrong.  If an artist or band is paying you for your time to promote and represent them, you need to work for them.  You act decently, you don’t have to kiss anybodies ass but you sure as hell better not act like an ass and risk missing an opportunity for these people who are paying you.  Now if you are a volunteer, and you are not getting paid, than there is a huge difference.  You aren’t getting paid that’s the huge difference, but if you can’t work and act respectfully as well, stop offering to help because you are doing them a disservice.  I would rather say to someone honestly I can’t help you than to say sure and do a crappy job.

So politics in music does not mean bending over and kissing someones butt, or anything else.  It doesn’t mean you pay to get your music played or have to do anything to achieve this.  What it should mean is working hard at what you do, working with people that you think can help you or those you represent and working together.  When you work together you get a lot more done, its a smoother process and takes a hell of a lot less time.  When the band said can you help us, if you said yes, but only on Mondays from 1 to 3, on Thursdays from 6 to 6:30 etc, and they were thankful for the time you can give them, it was enough in their minds to help, than you better make damn sure you are doing it because they have put their faith in you.

The final thought is the blocked list and people that are on it.  There really aren’t that many and some come off over time, depending on the person and circumstances.  Some people change, situations change whatever the case may be, and maybe an artist or promoter and I can actually work together again.  They say never say the word never, and that is very true.  But a very simple way to make sure, is don’t treat me, or Ruth (Sunny) like shit.  We are here to work with everyone we can.   If you don’t believe us, let me know and I will give you what maybe 500 references to start?  I like to think that since we work well with so many other artists and bands, more than 1000 different ones again this year so far, that if we have one or two problems, that’s not too bad, and that makes less than 1% dissatisfied rate.  Now if I could figure out how to do this in politics I would be king of the world.   lol    Cheers

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