I have thought about sitting down to write this for a long time, and every once in a while the words are right there in the front of my brain ready to go to paper, as they say, the only problem is usually I am off doing something and not able to do that. I am sure, as many people know, I find myself getting frustrated sometimes at the lack of consideration of others and the music business is no different than any other business or industry that is in existence. But I need a place to begin so let’s start from the top and work our way through in what I hope ends up being a coherent group of sentences and not the usual jumble of shit that flows through my brain.
I won’t go back as far as the beginning with my idea for what was missing in radio, you already know about that, and if not feel free to look back or ask about that. But when I put together my podcast initially and then my 24-hour station(s) there was something I think I do differently than most, and that is I look at song rotation, the clock, how they fit together and a number of other elements. When I say a clock I don’t mean your clock hanging on the wall. I have developed a clock for each station that is based around a number of elements. This is how traditional radio was programmed, I have no idea how they do it now, but seeing as how its all run by younger know-it-alls, I’m guessing they have developed a better system. (HA!)
Now, right away, I am different from a lot of other internet broadcasters and stations in that I am not doing a “Show” that features Indie music, I program it to be mixed in 24 hours a day 7 days a week. With the exception of course of specialty shows like the 70’s and 80’s shows. I also do an Indie show that features just Indie Music on the one station, KB Radio, but that is again entirely different. So at this point in developing a rotation clock, I need to know one key factor. Who my audience is! I target specific demographics with each station, and as such, I control what music is played so that it fits and appeals to those listeners. Once again everything I am doing is how they used to program, and how I was trained oh so many years ago.
In the case of KB Radio as a working example, I am playing a mix of mainstream music and Indie Music. It is not however all lumped together. From this point when I do my music reviews every week, which I will get to later in this blog, I don’t necessarily listen for a song I like. I listen to see if it will fit with my station and my target demographic. From this point, it has to be determined how well it fits, the quality of the recording etc. There is a very noticeable difference in the recording quality that comes in from some artists, and I understand, its dollars and accessibility mostly, but it does have an effect on the final product.
The rotation clock is made up of music categories I have created. I then assign the songs into those categories which are then put into an order to make up an hour or 2 or maybe 3. For example, if you have a new hit station, the new music is playing more frequently. That category might play 5 times per hour. A category with songs that just fell off the charts would only play once per hour because you don’t want to hear them as often, as they had been playing a lot previously. Then you will have other groups depending on the music you are filling your time with. If you are a commercial station, you have to account for those commercial breaks etc, but for someone like me, with 15 songs per hour on average, I would play a new hit to start the hour, then a classic from maybe the 80s, another hit, then the just dropped track. Throw in a couple older tracks again, and it goes on like that until you have filled 60 minutes.
So why am I telling you this? As part of my programming what I try and do for the Indie artists that I add to the stations is I play one track, put them into the rotation, and leave them there to get recognized by my listeners. Back in the day, when Queen or whoever released a new album, they dropped a new single. That was it, one single and everyone played it. Maybe the odd rock station played some back tracks but the focus was to promote that track, which in turn promoted the album to get it onto the charts. When that song had run its course they would sometimes wait a couple weeks and then drop another one, and start the process over again. That is the process I am trying to duplicate on my stations. Do I have a huge Billboard chart? Nope, but I have a Top 25 that, after 6 weeks since starting back up, is getting 1000+ votes a week from listeners. That is a lot of input from listeners and fans that shouldn’t be ignored.
What does it all boil down to? I believe it comes down to consistency and promotion. When I write about working with artists, I do my best to help promote and I will work with anyone who wants to work with me. As I recently wrote on a tweet, that doesn’t mean you have to kiss my ass. I don’t ask for any money. I don’t ask for anything more than being treated the way you would like me to treat you. Remember also, I will give everyone the same kind of effort, and not play favorites to anyone. The final effort comes from the artists themselves. I can play the music, I can interview you, I can talk about you, I can put your name on my websites, etc but the rest is up to you. Unfortunately, some think all they have to do is make the music. Thankfully though, the number of people like that is very few.
A huge pet peeve of mine is artists who tag my tweets to promote their own music, especially when it is the tweets of songs of other artists that have been live-tweeted. I have seen this on other indie songs, and I know we all have to be a big happy family, but don’t do it. I guarantee if I was playing your music, and somebody tagged onto your tweet to promote something of theirs, you would be pissed off. It takes no more time to write a tweet and tag me. Of course, that’s still not how I need music submitted, and I just don’t have the time to listen. Think about this; I came home yesterday and checked my Twitter and email. In the music submission inbox there are 507 new emails and on Twitter, there were 680 new messages. I have someone helping me with a number of things, including handling the KB Indie and KB AOR Twitter accounts now. This saves me an incredible amount of time and gives those two stations a lot more personal service on Twitter and their websites.
Now, this isn’t a complaint about the number of submissions or emails, but it certainly helps streamline things if I can focus on the music from one source, like email, instead of trying to bounce around from email to Twitter etc.
I always laugh when someone says to me, “It’s only one song. All you have to do is click on the link and listen.” Well, it’s not just one song, because it’s never just one person/artist/band. I don’t even count the number anymore, but just try and guess how many were in the 680 messages. “It only takes a minute”, is the other line. So let’s think about this, I click the link, and if everything opens okay, (which 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t) sometimes it then takes me to pages where I have to register first. So now it has gone from just listening to now I have to register first, ok… LMAO Now, I have opened an email, read the email, clicked the link, registered and now clicked another link to listen. Lets say I have invested 2 minutes. At this point, I then message you back saying, “Cool track, can you email me…yadda yadda yadda.” For the sake of argument, I am going to say 3 minutes total. If I get 10 a day like that, it is now 30 minutes a day times 7 days a week, which works out to 3 1/2 hours per week and, don’t forget, I am now waiting on an email response and I am going to go through that process again because yours is just another email mixed in the bunch. Plus, others will see that I have done this which will encourage more people to do this. The final thing is, if you had emailed in the first place you would have saved yourself some time, and effort as well.
The point above works the same when I get a link for a YouTube video in the email. It is just a duplication of efforts and a waste of time. I try to explain and be polite, and have been told on more than one occasion that it is not worth the effort to send me the music. I still feel bad for all the artists represented by that promotion company.
I want to add in a funny story that may shed some light on the types of issues that I deal with on a weekly/daily basis. I have had people who hear the Live 70’s and 80’s Shows and email me wanting me to play their recording of a 70’s or 80’s song. Okay, this is not how it works. Why would I want to play a cover of a great song when I already have the real deal? I don’t go out to eat and bring my own food that I have reheated, and then go to the movies and plug in my portable DVD player and watch my burned copy of the movie. So I’m certainly not going to play a Bob and the Blueballers version of a Rolling Stones hit. It just doesn’t make sense.
I write my blogs not out of arrogance or anger, but often out of frustration. I had an artist last night think I was playing games with him on Twitter because I wouldn’t listen to the music that he had sent in a tweet. I read interviews with other radio stations, and laugh at the arrogance of some of these people. I have the listeners and as you all saw when the shit hit the fan last summer and I took a hiatus, the world kept on spinning. I am not stupid. I get that I do a good job but if I and the KB stations disappeared right now, we would be missed for a few minutes but life would just go on. I read of stations where you have to register first before you are even allowed to submit music. There was a station I wrote about in the past that used to say we don’t respond to emails, just listen and if you hear your song you will know we played it. They went under some time ago by the way.
That’s why and I say this to the artists as well, treat people how you want to be treated. I raised my kids this way. There’s another station here in Canada, they just keep making changes. They tried to copy me at one point, I know… imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, lol. Now they tell artists they shouldn’t be so upset that he doesn’t have time to answer their emails. I say once again “who the hell do these people think they are?”
People come and go from our lives for various reasons. Its funny in the music industry that often, for someone like me, I’m only good to talk to when I can be of some help. But I remain the same, doing what I love, playing music, and calling it like I see it. Being number one is great, but number one is only a matter of seconds in the big scheme of things. It’s the fight to get there, and when you lose the fight to stay on top, it’s the fight on the way down to not go easy. I don’t know if I am number 1 in this business, and don’t care. I don’t know that there is actually a legitimate way to measure that anyways. So I just keep fighting, for myself and for those who want to go along for the ride with me.
Thanks for reading. Cheers, Al