As this year, 2019, thunders past just like the previous year, I can’t help but wonder about the state of music around the world. I look at what broadcast/terrestrial/FM Radio is doing and I continue to shake my head. This blog isn’t about those problems, but it’s easy to see that the corporate wheel continues to roll, with no idea on how to make money, just on how to cut budgets, and make radio into a generic virtual streaming platform that appeals to the 20-something and 30-plus crowds to some degree.
If you are an independent artist, there are no opportunities to get music played on these stations, unless you are willing to buy your way on. It’s too bad here in North America the CRTC in Canada and FCC in the United States weren’t actually doing their jobs. Payola is alive and well!
So, we have streaming platforms, you know all the names, that don’t pay artists. You have people paying $10 for a coffee but refusing to pay 99 cents for music, which when you consider that statement, it tells you how stupid the corporations who are programing radio are. These same listeners are too damn cheap to spend money like that, you are going to have very limited advertising options on these broadcasting/FM stations. But I digress as usual.
This weekend here in my hometown they have a music Festival called Rock The Park. It has been going on for something like 15 years, and a few years back they added a night for the country music fans. No big deal, it was towards a big charity, and by adding a night it didn’t take away from an already huge event. To give you an idea of past events;
2011 Night 1
Loverboy, Trooper, John Kay & Steppenwolf and Poison
Brian Howe (Bad Company), Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, Meatloaf
Bleeker Ridge, Sloan, Our Lady Peace, & Stone Temple Pilots.
Monster Truck, I Mother Earth, Bush and Slash/ w/ Myles Kennedy
The Romantics, David Wilcox, George Thorogood and Steve Miller Band
Prism, 54-40, REO Speedwagon and Boston
This year.. ugh
Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment, Killswitch Engage, I Prevail and Pop Evil
Tone Loc, Ginuwine, Ma$e, Shaggy and Snoop Dog
T-Pain, Flo Rida and Pitbull
I didn’t include the country night from this year, it was the best night in my opinion. Maybe I am getting old, but they definitely don’t want my generations money any more. Calling it Rock the Park, is like saying L’il Nas is Country. LOL
Let me put it very clearly as far as Rock The Park. WTF is your problem? LOL
But in general festivals have been fairly successful, and it is something that has crossed my mind. Many independent artists have talked about the idea of coming to Ontario, Canada to play and do shows. Numerous times it has come up with artists, that maybe if they can connect with other Indie Artists, do a multiple lineup for a gig, make it bigger, it will help with costs etc in some ways, maybe draw more attention. There are a lot of potential positives to come out of that kind of situation.
Well to go full Monty on that would be to have a music festival for just Indie Artists. It is an idea that started as just one day, but a second day is considered be it in the first year or wait till the second. That second day would be for Country Music which I would not want to exclude.
So here is the plan. Imagine 2 stages not quite side by side, but close enough to allow one band/artist to perform and the other to set up. I want a festival that people will talk about and mark on their calendars to say, only 364 days left till next years KB Festival. We have 10 bands or artist performing, with the first going on stage at noon. There will be a 45 minute set, which will allow, if they do really well, to do one encore song. This means fans will have 10 to 15 minutes maximum between sets to wait. The last band goes on at 10pm. There will be a special area set up for each act to have their own sales and merchandise tent.
When it comes to the lineup, I want it to be a representation of the artists being played on KB Radio. With KB Radio being based in Canada, the majority of our listeners are from North America, so my thoughts are as follows;
3 Bands/Artists from Canada
3 Bands/Artists from the United States
4 Bands from World
When you look at these numbers and think of the number of musicians we play and have played it seems very small. But if and when we get to it, we will probably have quite the task going through who wants to play.
Here is the part that I want help with, and it isn’t financial, though we will be looking for sponsors. It is not missed on my part that there is significant cost to travel and perform. Plus, I also believe that the artists should get paid for this. I have talked to many who say they will play for free just for the exposure, but truthfully I don’t believe in that. Everyone’s time is worth something. But there are also different costs between a solo artist flying from California and a full band flying in from Sweden as two examples. In one conversation with an artist he talked about hiring backing musicians when he got to the event. My thoughts on that, something I hadn’t considered is, if you are coming to perform you want to give your best showing. You should have musicians you know and can count on, so be bringing them with you.
To me these are the things I want to know about. I know about air fare, hotels, food, rental cars, trucks to move equipment, etc. I want to know about the things I wouldn’t know about or consider, because I am not a musician. So I have created a simple survey. No” check this box or that”, It just asks for your email in one box and then your ideas in the other. We really want to see this come to fruition, and I think this city is the perfect place to have it.
I have been accused before of being too nice. I work hard for everything I have and have achieved and maybe you think I am touchy or sensitive, but I do get upset when people try free loading off of my work. I have a post today about someone who submitted music, with a GIF on it, there was about 20 comments when I checked and 75 likes, and one of them was from someone who hosts some podcast i never heard of telling artists how to submit music to his show. Now I have been known to give help to other stations, tips to DJ’s and other things, and I certainly will not stand in the way of any artist getting their music heard, but its a fine line how you do this.
This is all about reaching the most people for the analytics and for Twitter numbers. If he attaches to these tweets his impressions go up, and it makes him look better. Does he have the potential to reach out to more artists, why of course because of doing it through my tweets. But in the big scheme of things, the numbers he shares saying look at this, are inflated based on phony stats. To me this would lead me to think that any listener numbers he touts are also going to be inflated. There are still benefits every time an artist can get their music played or heard I am sure. But I run into this kind of thing a lot. I had a song tweet, that a dj follower liked and retweeted. An indie artist than liked his comment, and replied to that with a huge banner promoting their appearance on his radio program. My immediate reaction is WTF?
Lets look at this as if it was me working with an artist. I am representing the band “Bob” and have played their song. They like this and I reply to this on Twitter with a giant poster advising people that the band “Joe” is going to be on the Station tonight. Its a bullshit approach. If I want to promote this band, it either gets its own tweet or attach it to a song by that band, not to another band, unrelated.
Have you seen the new commercial for McDonalds. Check out the brand new Big Mac. It is a totally new burger, all beef patty, the same burger in many ways, but more meat, and more flavor. At the end, is a picture of Taco Bell. It just doesn’t happen.
The other thing i wonder about is consideration. Am i taking it too seriously. There was a tweet from someone please check out this music, and they had attached the YouTube video for me to look at. As many of you know we just don’t have time to do it that way, and I have a blog about submitting music to all 4 stations. We don’t have prerequisites about doing it, you don’t have to read it, and all it does is maybe make the process a bit smoother for everyone involved. At first I wanted to laugh at the irony of someone attaching their video to a pinned tweet about submitting music. But the more I thought about it the angrier I got. It would take the same time to read the blog, you know the same time they expected me to spend listening to the music. The difference is of course they are but one person, and I am not sure how many submissions they made but if they did them like that they must have spent almost 10 or 15 minutes. Each week we spend 30 hours or more combined reviewing new music. That’s just one weeks worth of new music.
That is in no way a complaint, and if that person hadn’t attached that video they would have been listened to this week, instead I just blocked them. If someone is just too damn lazy to do that, I don’t have the extra time for them. I will add, that this is an account for a 10 year old that is handled by her parents. I feel no guilt in dealing with parents who are promoting a child. Plus, I am sure the music sounds just like that, of a 10 year old singing.
A problem that has come up on more than one occasion and drives me nuts is something I can never tell if its just people being, “dense” for lack of a better term or are they trying to take advantage of me. We deal with hundreds and really thousands of different people or artists in this case and their music with submissions to the radio station. So I guess let me lay out a scenario which isn’t unusual because there are at least 3 that i can think of going on right now with different artists.
When I have talked about music submissions, sometimes of course there is music that just cant be played on one of our stations. This can be due to a number of reasons, and I really like to tell someone when they submit when I can why I won’t be playing their song. I don’t always do this, so don’t count on it, but if you send in a Rap song we will let you know we don’t play Rap music in the reply email. I also like to be tactful whenever possible because my goal isn’t to insult anyone or hurt someones feelings. We get a lot of songs that come in and the quality is so bad that it just can’t be played on the air.
I have had many discussions with an artist about the quality of music, and the sound of stations, after the compression from the station, things like MP3 usage over WAV files and other factors all can affect the sound quality that is broadcast, so when they start, sounding like they were recorded with two tin cans and a string, there is no improvements coming if we were to broadcast that music.
I have always felt its not my place to say to artists with recording like these hey, I can’t play your music because it sounds bad. I am only speaking for what I will do with my stations, because while I am helping promote Independent musicians and artists, I am also promoting and running 4 radio stations. My goal is when you put on any one of my stations you will hear consistent sound quality and great music. I will admit its not 100% yet but I will keep working, and will not take a step backward playing music that doesn’t fit or sound good. I operate it like a business, the same as so many of the musicians/artists I deal with do.
When it comes to today’s email, I guess it is not the 3rd time, it is actually the 4th. It is the 3rd email, but the artist sent me a message on Twitter in which I responded and reminded them I had already received and replied to their music submission for that particular song. It was when I was reviewing music today that I discovered they ignored that tweet and message and sent it again.
So if this is you, and you recognize this story I am intentionally not mentioning any names. But what was the intention of the email? Hoping that if you sent it enough times I would eventually give in and play the song? If not that, than what? My immediate reaction is to shake my head and grumble. As much as I have said time and time again that I was going to get tougher, I haven’t just ignored this silliness and not even bothered to reply. Instead I find myself writing a diplomatic email and being frustrated, eventually just stopping my work for the night.
Wouldn’t it be so much better if I was just a total jerk with this person and completely ignored them or blocked them. Its not like we are short of music, and why do I need to keep dealing with this. One of the other artists I have doing the same kind of thing, has been doing this off and on for more than a year. Their music sounds like its been recorded in a church basement, one microphone in front of a piano and the other for vocals. Right channel and left.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do get nasty at times, and I am sure one person reading this was laughing in disbelief about my diplomacy. I was diplomatic with them too, don’t worry. LOL We all have breaking points, but why do we need to get there. Why do we even need to go through the first couple of times?
So what is the point of all of this. Over the history of KB Radio I have had a good time, had a fire take me down and nearly out, but built back up. Had some threats knock me off for about 6 months, and here I am back again, and fighting just as hard or harder. Each time I came back I came back bigger and stronger, and I am going to keep going and fighting for those artists that want to work with me. But there are only so many hours in a day and only so much to give, so the fact that people are starting to frustrate me tells me, I need to follow through on what I promised when I came back January 1st. I am not going to put up with the people who just seem to be trying to yank my chain or screw with me. I am and will be diplomatic, and will do what I can, until I can’t with someone anymore. At that point, they can work with other stations. I don’t need the headaches. Life is too short for so much drama.
I guess what I can say in closing is that I try to work on and with a consistent set of standards and treat everybody the same way. I give what I get, and with that said, I will work my ass off to help someone or shut someone down so fast but it isn’t based on me, it is on them. The world is a crazy murky place, I think personally its pretty screwed up, and people’s ideas in a lot of ways are just as messed up. But the human spirit in general thrives, and most people understand the difference between good and bad. There are usually simple ways to tell which side of the line you fall on. If you are reading this and are going, what kind of an asshole is this, good and bad, the world is screwed up, than you might not like me telling you the side you are on. Nothing in life is free, and yet people keep taking from each other without hesitation.
Think about all these things the next time you tag me on Twitter, even though we don’t follow each other, and tag 10 others as well, just because you want to promote your new song. Think about it when you are too damn cheap to pay 99 cents for music. We used to pay $20 for a new album when it was released. That’s not one of those back when I was younger moments, because even though it wasn’t as easy there still were ways to copy and steal the music. We just didn’t do it the same as people do now, of course we spent $1000 on a great stereo system to hear that album not on a phone that you will throw away in a year.
I am approaching this from 2 perspectives for the sake of this blog, but I can tell you in many ways it is no different than something I once wrote a number of years ago. I have had my own businesses most of my life and one of the things I am always amazed at is how people treat others. I wrote a book for small businesses with some simple things to look out for and ideas how small things can make a big difference in a positive way and negatively as well.
I guess one of the things about how I operate KB Radio is despite the fact I don’t generate revenue, I operate like every other business I have had. I believe in the adage you get what you give so I attempt to be diplomatic, but I also don’t have any problem if somebody goes out of there way to piss me off, in telling them that. I think one of the differences you will find if you are a musician or artist and reading this is that yours and my situation are very different. If somebody gets upset with me and tells me to pull there music, or decides not to send it to me, so be it. I have hundreds and hundred of others waiting and wanting their music played. Now please don’t take that as arrogance on my part. I appreciate the effort that each and every person puts into their work, and would like to work with as many as possible. I will tell you this, something I have always believed in, lost work over in the past and upset many people, I don’t believe in the idea that the customer is always right.
So what does that mean, because I have no customers and neither do you? I think though that as an artist if you are approaching things both as if you are trying to make a sale, but also as a customer it could be very beneficial. You of course are trying to sell your music and I don’t just mean physical sales and make some dollars I mean, to radio for airplay. However, once you are dealing or working with the person or company that you want to air your music, you have than switched to being a customer. This is why I mentioned before the idea that the customer isn’t always right. A simple example, an artist has their music playing on my station. We have been talking about doing an interview and to do so I need to call this person. The response is, “why do I need to give you my phone number? If I give it to you don’t abuse it.”
Now my immediate reaction is and was, being completely truthful, who the fuck do you think you are? You would like me to interview you, and yes there are lots of methods to do so, but just because you want to do it on a service like skype, doesn’t necessarily mean it works for me. This can be difficult because people I am sure are using all kinds of methods for their interviews, again as an example. I don’t like Skype because of drop outs and sound quality. I want to present a product, that sounds good, clear and professional. Before somebody sends me a note saying, maybe they have had problems, or something in their past that makes them hesitant. That would be logical, except I would also say, that person should reconsider a life going up on stage in front of people if they are hesitant about sharing a phone number.
Its to no ones benefit to make something as simple as arranging an interview difficult. Yet, of the ones I have set up so far, just this year alone, or attempted to set up. Easily half of the people contacted, have after initially wanting to be interviewed, never responded to requests for their availability. Beyond that there is an endless list of issues, and not the technical kind. Why isn’t this a simple process, and why are you doing such a shitty job selling yourself. Think about it, if the ball is served to you, all you have to do is provide something as simple as a couple of potential dates and times, the lack of response tells me, as the person you are trying to sell this to, that you really don’t care. Its just not that important for you to follow up with.
Lets get to the meat of things
I’ve started with a kind of negative feel so lets move to what I suggest to artists to do from a promotional stand point. If you as a musician think about how many million people around the word are all doing the same thing as you, just how difficult it has become because of our beloved internet, and easy connectivity you need to do something for yourself first of all. I am not going to get into promotion companies, I know some promoters and work with some great ones, but there are many without giving names, that do it just for your money. They don’t give a damn about you. I recently sent a promoter a request, they send us about 10 songs from artists a week. However they provide no details, no information, and even though I have sent them my blog about submitting, they choose to ignore it. I am not asking for huge summaries, simple things, like a link to the artists website, or their Twitter handle.
This company has ignored all requests, with not even the decency to respond with an F.U to me. After the last artists submission, from this professional came through, and I spent 20 minutes just trying to find out what name the artist wanted to be promoted by, yes it was that vague, I decided we will no longer accept submissions from this company. Shitty for the people paying, but the work this promoter isn’t doing, takes me 4 times as long as normal for each song, and I will be damned if I will do their work.
So if you are promoting for yourself, do a small thing and look into the people you are sending your music to. There are some truly great streaming stations, podcasts etc available around the world. But why are you wasting your own time submitting and sending music, and emails to people that will never even consider playing your song. If you are a salesman selling ladies shoes, high heel stilletto’s, are you going to stop by the local seniors nursing home to try and sell some shoes. Now at this point some assholes will say yes, and those people need to go away, because they are just thieves. No, you will look for the right people, to market these shoes for. So why the hell are you sending your pounding rock music, with explicit lyrics to the Christian Peoples Gospel Hour Podcast? I’m not going to call anyone stupid, but I have said this to people before. It must be nice to be so well off that you can just piss around and waste time and money like that. By the way, its your time I am referring to.
So start by looking for stations or podcasts, reviews that work with your music genre. With our technology its very simple to do a little research, make a list and than start to sell. You will find a little time invested to start will save you time in the long run. Time is the ultimate commodity, and if you have as an example 10 hours a week to work on promoting your music, wouldn’t you be better off spending that 10 hours on really promoting with people that want to work with you, instead of 10 hours sending emails and messages, hoping one person responds. One of the most common things I hear from artists is they dont get responses to their emails. Is it any wonder? Brother Bob and Sister Susan got your email, saw your song, “lick my stuff and I will make your night better” and immediately deleted it from the Christian Peoples Gospel Hour Podcast email servers. Their thought, are you stupid sending this to us? Is this a joke?
Sales is about building a client list and if you are looking for people to play or review your music, you need that client list. Keep notes, contact names, information about shows that stations air. The more information you have, is no different than from our angle, getting bio about you the artist. I like to go deeper than the bio though. Internet radio is so much different for the most part than Terrestrial Radio and a lot of the stations and people you deal with may not have experience or a background in Radio or broadcasting. But its their station, and if you want to get it played on their channel it will help you know as much as you can. This also works in the other direction as well. There are so many internet streaming stations and podcasts now, that are just there for people to entertain themselves. Here is where I once again piss people off. It helps to know that the station you are thinking of sending music to, only plays a certain kind of music. Has little to no following. No social media presence maybe. There listener base is comprised of friends and family who are tolerating, and those artists they agreed to play and maybe are checking it out.
What do you gain from this person. NOTHING! A simple anecdote, I have a Porsche to sell, and I am going to drive it down the homeless shelter. See if anyone there would like to take if for a test drive. Who knows, maybe, just maybe that person will find a lost lottery ticket that has the winning numbers on it. LMAO No its a waste of time! I wouldn’t do it, neither would you, so why are you sending someone with 2 listeners your music. I mean no disrespect to that broadcaster, but those 2 listeners don’t do shit for you as an artist. Now here is the tough part. You need to keep this contact list updated, because this broadcaster may turn out to be doing something special, and in a month or two when you review your contact list, you find they now have a few hundred listeners, and a growing following. Yes you could have said, i was with him from the start. Go away. LOL For every internet broadcaster out there doing it right, with listeners etc, there are 50 to 100 who aren’t. So is your time better served focusing on those one’s that show results.
I know at this point someone is thinking, its just a bulk email with 100 names so its no effort. Well you had to prepare that list, for every person who actually replies you have an incoming piece of email, and if its just that station or podcast with 2 listeners, its just time wasted. Plus, many will tell you, that email users aren’t always the best or brightest. Nothing worse than being part of a block of addresses, and somebody replies, but they don’t know the difference between reply all and reply. Now these email replies are going to every person on that list, and I can gurantee you some of those getting this extra crap aren’t happy.
You now have your list of stations and contacts to send your music out to. You can still save time by writing the email once and copying and pasting, however make it personal. A lot of the artists I deal with already do this, and I get emails every day from people I have never talked to, but the first thing they do is say hi to me and introduce themselves. Now here is another area where everybody is different in what they would like to receive when you submit music. I have gone to other stations websites and read some of their submission processes. I was use the word interesting, and refer back to my earlier recommendation. Know who you are dealing with. If you wish to follow specific guidelines for some of these stations, as odd as they seem, than work some of this in the best you can.
I would say to you, that a station that has a submission policy that includes we don’t respond to emails, and if you want to know if we are going to play you will have to listen, is not really interested in your music to support you, but rather as a tool, to gain you as a listener. To continue, make your email personal, but they don’t have to be long. I would like you to think in terms of how simple this technology has made things in many ways. When I first started, and for many years, I carried equivalent to 2 bankers boxes full of files to every show. It was a large cardboard file box, and had everything I needed in it. A file for every day of the week. Files for artists, holidays, local event history depending on the city I was in. I have a similar item today and it carries 1000 times or more information and is called a tablet, or a laptop or even your phone.
When you send information I will often see a long flowing review about an artist as part of the message. It is great to get that information, but you once again are creating more work, when there is a very simple way to do this and it makes it incredibly easy for people on this side of the industry or anyone receiving. Take all of that information and put it into a document that is attached, be it Word, PDF whatever the case. You may be saying to yourself, you’re kidding right, everyone should know that. For every email I get I would say less than 30% when it involves new music include that type of attachment. About 1 in 10 will have it all typed out in the email itself, at which point I need to copy and paste and create this same kind of file or to be honest, 99% of the time, when I am reviewing music, I just don’t bother. It is just an extra step in an already busy process.
If I have the attachment, I just save it to my master file, and any time I am looking for artist information, I have a file with all of them alphabetically. The other benefit of this is its a great way to document your history for me and for yourself. Maybe you are releasing a new album, so a bunch of the information needs to be changed. But the personal bio that you include hasn’t necessarily. So why create more work for yourself again? Do you see a pattern with me regarding streamlining and time management? You can take that same past document, remove the parts you don’t want, add the new material and save it with a new date, title etc. and save yourself some time. Why do so many people insist on doing the same thing over and over again?
People Don’t really do this?
A huge negative for me and something I can’t believe even happens is I receive emails that will have absolutely nothing with them, except the song attachment. No names, no information, not even a hello, please listen, three little words. There are always further problems with those emails. How do I know the name of the person or band, since everybody has different email accounts. Plus the music which is attached is usually not labelled correctly, and I mean doesn’t even include the song title or band or artist name on it. This kind of email often gets exactly as much effort as the sender puts into it. I am going to be completely blunt here. If you are so f’ing lazy you can’t write one damn word in an email, why the hell should I care about your or your music? That’s not arrogance on my part, that’s just common sense and common courtesy or complete lack of from the sender.
Now I mentioned songs coming in without information on them, and this is truly another issue that you need to make sure about before you send it to anyone. I get songs that the file name says, as an example its the KB Radio Band, and when I open the file, the artist is Al Yardy. So wait a second, which is it? I’ve had files from artists that have changed band names and sent it with the old band name still attached. Why are you leaving questions open to someone who maybe just looks at it, and doesn’t care. Maybe one of the stations you submitted to isn’t worried about the information and plays it as is. For us its a matter of display on Twitter and more and more are doing the same thing. Truthfully, its your song, you only have to do it once, before you send the file. You are sending it to 50 or 100 people as an example and expecting all 100 to fix this for you?
Your next step is going to be depending on each station, podcaster etc, is finding out if they confirm with you that they will be playing your song, what exactly does this mean. Do they host a show and it will appear on that show specifically. Does it mean its going into a playlist and will be played randomly or on specific days. Once again we are all different, so you need to know for your own information so you can maximize your promotion of YOUR music. Please don’t get me wrong about a couple of things. As a broadcaster I would like people tuned in 24/7 but as a promoter of Independent music I also want to see it played in other places because this helps the artists. So to use someone we work with here, Carla’s Coffee House from HGB Radio as an example. If you had an interview with Carla, on a specific date, which is different than having the song in the playlist with me, you need to approach the two of us differently. Now Carla may also have you in her playlist, but for the example only, you want to promote the hell out of that interview. Use your social media, using your timeline, tagging HGB all the time that you do this. Not only is this a good equitable practice but you also expand your potential reach by tagging her. Now I strongly recommend at this point that before you do that kind of promotion you clear it with each party first.
The next part gets into a pet peeve of mine and something I cannot for the life of me understand. Twitter has proven to be a fantastic tool for promoting the station and music and I have all 4 stations running live Twitter feeds on their own Timelines. That’s nothing new, everybody does it, but I will tell you its the only automated Tweeting we do. Now I look at each and every Tweet as a small promotion. That is why we include artists Twitter handles on songs. If you are listening and hear something you like you can easily find who it is, and link to them instantly. We have begun for the sake of show replays and to promote voting to tag multiple artists, but this is the only instance we do so. In each case, although I probably sound a bit hypocritical at this point, it is entirely for promotion. In the case of the voting Tweets it is to let everyone on the ballot know they are there. When we run the replay of the Indie show it won’t tweet of course because it is pre recorded, so we will do a tag with coming up in the next 30 minutes style, by way of promoting so listeners know their favorite artist is going to get played.
Now I hate mass Tweets with the station attached, so my previous section probably makes me sound like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth. I think though that there is a distinct difference between us doing this once a week to promote a specific event, compared to artists or promoters sending out Tweets with 25 or more Twitter handles on it, have you heard the latest song from artist X? These Tweets happen every day, and I get tagged in so many of them, whenever anybody replies it then hits my timeline. It really is just someones own method of promoting, that I personally find unethical. Here is the difference. When you tag me you are now promoting your material on my timeline without my permission. Thats it! End of discussion! Its the same when an artist tags there song on another artists tweet. I have started to use this kind of thing as an example. Do you know whats so funny. The people I have tried this with, get extremely upset and block me. Wait a second, isn’t it the same thing?
So this is an example of what I mean. This group Muscle Music tagged a Mosley Bar tweet with a YouTube video promoting one of their artists. When I asked them to remove it, they ignored it and when I did this to show what I meant by bad promotion, they blocked me. Who is the loser in this? I see potentially 2 that have the most to lose, first being the artists they represent, because of poor promotion practices and now cutting off an avenue to get their music out through me. The second is listeners that miss out and never get the chance to hear songs from them. I guess doing things the easy way is still the preferred method for them.
There are many online stations that have no problem with this kind of practice. Once again, if you do your research, you maximize your results, while at the same time not losing out on potential avenues to promote.
One of the biggest problems in companies and anywhere is image. In this world where everything is public, it is hard to keep anything private. Well let me correct that, its very simple really but in this profession, being all areas of the music business it becomes very public very quickly. I have a reputation for being a bit of a jerk sometimes. Most people will tell you that I work and play well with others, but I live by the adage, you get what you give. There was a case just in the last couple days, and I would rather have discussions privately, but when someone has me cut off so I can’t message them, I need to let them know there is a problem. things become very public very quickly, and I probably to my own detriment shouldn’t be as vocal, because anyone reading who doesn’t know that this isn’t the normal way i am will just view me as an asshole. So be it. Someone questions my credibility publicly and ethics, I’m going to respond. I will keep trying to be better the next time it happens.
This is an area I wrote about and harped on all the time with my employees over the years. Image can be everything and you can lose it in the blink of an eye. When it comes to business, I love giving some examples that I used in my book. I had a painter that came to quote for a job once. I had heard he did good work, and was highly recommended. He showed up in a vehicle that not only had seen better days, I think this van had actually died and they may have been pushing it from job to job. It was brutal on the outside, rust, dents, house paint splatter. It looked like one shock was broken and it sat on a weird angle. When he came in, he looked the same way. Disheveled with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. His lack of respect for the law against smoking in an office, spoke volumes. This was one of the best painters in the city apparently. Yet everything screamed that there was something wrong. I didn’t hire him for the job, going with my gut instinct and the more I heard, the more I learned. Yes he was a great painter, excellent work. But had been doing it a long time, and didn’t give a damn anymore. His references often would follow up with, did a great job, but not sure if he was worth the effort. Its funny, that part was never in the reference letters.
I also had the two experiences in my life that helped shape me. I grew up in a stable house with parents that were excellent and father I still admire. I went to a job interview once, with someone who knew and had worked with my father. We sat and chatted and had a beer, and I finally said, when is the interview going to start. He said and I quote ” Oh you were hired the moment you sent your application. If you are half the man your father is you will be an incredible asset to this company.” WOW! One of the things my father told me once was always be careful who you piss off. You may need them some day. Its funny, because while I believe in those words I haven’t exactly followed them myself all the time. One day I was driving to my office and on the way, some idiot cut me off and than proceeded to flip me off and swear out the window. I got to my office and settled in for the day, which started with interview coincidentally and guess who my first interview was. The same idiot who flipped me off. You could have driven a truck into his mouth when his jaw dropped and he saw me when he walked in. After he was seated, he said ” you know I want to apologize for my behavior this morning”. I laughed and said my puppy looks more contrite when he pisses on the carpet. You are only saying that because you are looking for a job. I told him his qualifications were excellent. His references were good, though I had begun to question them. But I wouldn’t put him in a company vehicle of mine if he were the last person on the planet who knew how to do the job. He was politely asked to leave at that point.
The artists reading this now are going, so if I flip off some wanker on my way home I should worry he might not play my music? No I don’t really think they are saying that, but I think when an artist sends me a song, and we respond politely saying we are unable to use the track. When they respond back with the statement “Whats Your Problem?” they should rethink doing that kind of thing. You can always inquire about the reasoning for a decision and its up to each station etc to decide whether they tell you. But be prepared for some odd answers if you get any. I know one lady who had a classic rock station who thought the Platters were classic rock. So who knows what she would say about some of the music being submitted. If you want to know why your music wasn’t selected, ask politely. Be diplomatic and you may get a response. You may get an answer that surprises you. It may not be something as simple as we don’t like the song, it may be something maybe that could help you in your next submission. Some of us do actually care.
The next area is follow up. I wish I had a dollar for every time I got an email from an artist, with their song, and we said we were going to play it, and we never heard another word. Nothing on Twitter, no emails, no more music submissions. Just the one email and done. Again this doesn’t make sense because you have found someone who will play your music, don’t you want to have some sort of contact? If you have set up your contact list correctly, you will have some great information. A little following up here or there never hurts, more promotion, and you never know what will come of it. Once you have established that contact, you know when your music is going to be played and you know how they promote, you need a plan of attack. Maybe you have a full time job can’t spend all day on social media. You shouldn’t have to. Set aside 30 minutes every day, and at that time, review your twitter account as an example. If stations are playing and Tweeting your song, get those posts, do follow ups, likes and comments in you are inclined. Now lets be very logical here. If you have your song out and its playing on 200 hundred stations, if every single one of those played it the same day, than yes you would need to hit 200 Tweet notifications. Congratulations if that is happening, and you need to find more time for your music. I get up each day and my notifications tell me I am usually anywhere from 500 to 1000 notification behind. Not every one has a like or retweet option so it is very simple to work through them. Some hellos, thank you’s etc. but get them done. If you leave them too long, Twitter won’t display them and you risk losing track of them.
To summarize I guess would be a good idea since I have had so many anecdotes along the way.
Create a contact list of stations, podcasts individuals etc to submit your music to.
Within this list begin to identify as much information as possible about these contacts.
Ascertain who should be on the list and which contacts to remove.
With each contact look for specific details:
Station Format, type of music they play
Submission policy and practices
Shows, airplay options
Number of times song can potentially play, is it once or multiple times
Follow up submissions. Ie (our stations likes a 60 day window for songs to become recognized by listeners)
Interviews, reviews etc. Are they available? What are the options
What other methods of promotion does the contact use. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Follow ups? Can you expect a response to your submission, and if so what is a reasonable time frame?
Create your email package that you want to send out. Based on each contact you may have to adjust somewhat from email to email.
Use your calendar or whatever scheduling program you want for follow up dates and times. If you are expecting a response in 1 week from a station based on what they told you, than add a follow up to your calendar for 1 week and add a couple extra days as a buffer.
Keep track of everything every step of the way. Its very simple to do and I would even be willing to assist in most cases with simple spreadsheet style tracking templates. Its just good, to have a master list. I sent song A to station 1 on this date. Decide what information is important and track it. When is next song going out to them. Follow up emails. Other promotional events.
Set up your schedule for checking your Social Media. Organize your day so when you do it, that’s your one and only focus. You will accomplish more this way
Once you starting getting all of these small items streamlined, you will find you have extra time to work on other more important things like the music itself. So many people don’t look at the little things and how they can add up to larger totals, but they affect us in every day life. Again an old example. As a teenager I worked in a self serve gas bar. This is of course before debit cards, so it was credit card or cash. Someone would come in and pump $10.01 or $10.02 and than hand me a $10 dollar bill. I would ask for the 2 cents and they would laugh its only 2 cents, the gas company can afford it. If they charged in on a credit card they would get angry about the 2 cents being put on their card. But in the case of cash, I worked on a major street that was like a highway, had a huge number of cars each day and on a typical weekend 8 hour shift it wasn’t unreasonable to have more than 1000 cars stop in. Take that number and multiply it by 2 Cents. That’s $20 and the big gas company wasn’t there at the end of my shift to balance out my cash, compared to the total gas pumped out of that day. That’s right, whatever the difference came right out of my pocket. Just remember that you cheap bastards next time you do that to some worker in any store still these days.
While I am talking dollars and cents the point is the same. When we get artists submitting music through Twitter with youtube links I have said it over and over, I don’t listen. Yes it only takes 3 or 4 or 5 minutes. Times that by 10 or 20 or however many get posted every day. So do the same for yourself with your own work. Why are you wasting your valuable time on things that will do absolutely nothing for you. It only takes a minute to send that bulk email. Just how many bulk emails did you send this week? This month? This year? Do the math yourself, and if you still aren’t convinced my best advice to you, take me off your list. lol If I am going to say hey its only a couple minutes of time I am wasting, I am going to have a beer in my hand and be sitting on my deck with the fire going at my trailer/cottage. You should have the same attitude if not for different reasons.
As i wander around the internet I will often check to see what others are doing to help promote Independent artists and I am constantly left wondering if I am old fashioned, or maybe just wrong in my thoughts.
As someone who runs an internet station I see combining that effort with other is a conflict of interest and unethical. There are stations or podcasts, broadcasters who not only broadcast but off a whole package of other services. I understand the desire to make money but at what cost? In one case a promoter also runs a national chart. Part of his package that promises artists that sign with him is plays on so many stations or podcasts and to chart on a national chart.
On his national chart 50% of the songs are artists that he represents yet it is supposed to be a combination of all charts submitted by hundred of other stations. Its so phoney and obviously theft but it continues despite being so blatant.
There are stations that offer similar types of services, we will play your song so many times for x amount of $. They make outrageous claims about who is listening but nothing to substantiate it. They also sell on air advertising and then in the same breath claim to be commercial free.
We also have countless books and magazines that offer everything you need to know to be successful in the music industry or in your musical career. I find it amusing myself, books like this. I wrote a book once on small business tips. I felt I was able to do this because I have had a number of successful small businesses and am able to explain my formula for what works and things I try to avoid.
So if someone is writing a book or article in a magazine telling you how to succeed, the first thing I would ask is how successful were they. They may in fact have fantastic ideas but dont tell me how to fly a plane when you havent done it yourself. Pretty simple philosophy really.
So does it make it unethical? In my mind yes, but thats just me. Am I perfect and do I make mistakes? No I am not perfect and wouldn’t want to be but as far as mistakes well I will make an honest effort every day.
I won’t ever ask for money in this fashion and while I dont approve of the methods and ideas mentioned, I am not anyone else’s keeper. We all have to go to sleep at the end of the day and if they can sleep okay doing these things, who am I to judge?
Let me first begin by saying very clearly that this is not a complaint in any way shape or form. I enjoy what I am doing and with the assistance of Sunny having streamlined some of the tasks and being able to share some of the workload, it has even lightened it in some ways. My main intention is to share and maybe inform about what we put into some of the station functions and how it differs from others. I have always replied to requests to items such as check out my YouTube link on Twitter with a link to our blog about stations Music Submissions. Recently they have been met with more arrogance and ignorance than ever, which leads to frustration. Lets forget the frustration and get into the meat of things with the music.
When I worked alone or when I work with others, the key to dealing with the incoming music submissions is to handle them in an organized and simple yet functional way. I do my music meetings weekly, reviewing music that comes in through email. Lets start with the volume of emails. We normally spend 3 to 4 hours on Sunday night. Monday mornings will get an additional 3 hours of review, with Tuesday being the day that most of the day is spent on music. That is about 6 hours through the day and another 3 or 4 in the evening and finally Wednesday is finish up day for whatever is left or what we have time for. With the two of us doing it, it’s approximately 30 man hrs per week invested just in listening. Now, you may wonder why it takes that long. It is a combination of the number of emails, combined with getting music from drop boxes etc.
We recently did a Facebook Live video during part of a Sunday music meeting. (Thank you to those who stopped by to check it out.) What they saw was that even with the email process, if we only spent 45 seconds listening to a song, by the time we did everything else associated with it, the average was between 4 and 5 minutes per song. A little simple math, will tell you that with an average of 300 songs or more submitted a week, that’s a lot of hours. Again that’s not a complaint. This is the point where I explain my basic reasoning for not listening to or commenting on songs tagged on Twitter feeds etc, or YouTube links sent as submissions. That same 4 to 5 minute process exists, because it always takes time to have the video load, etc, or if its a Spotify list, heaven forbid if I am not signed in. After all of that, we don’t have the song, I have to email or message and say, please send us the song. Then when the artist gets around to sending it, and we get to the email, I probably won’t recognize the email address because the are often in personal names, and I won’t recognize the song till I hear it. Even if I did recognize it I still need to open it and go through the process of getting it ready. So far tonight over a 4 hour period I’ve already had 6 songs linked via Twitter. So, that’s an extra 30 minutes of my time. Times already scarce, we make it super easy to submit and get on the air, so work with us.
With each song we review it then has to be decided if it fits and can be played on one or more of the stations. So, lets expand on that thought. I would love to be able to play every song but while the artists are trying to get played I am attempting to put out a radio station that appeals to listeners so they can hear your music. Excuse the term, but any idiot can get a free Shoutcast stream and play every Indie song that comes in. If you listen to some of the streaming stations, that’s exactly what they sound like. If, as an artist, you just want to able to say ” Hey, I got played on Joe’s Basement Radio,” then you are all set. I hope his mom and sister were listening.
There are a number of things we listen for when a song comes in. The first is the quality. I had a song submitted once from an artist who told me it was recorded on an iphone, sitting on a ladder in an aluminum shed. I have no intention of interfering with his creative process. However, when you put on KB Radio and hear professional sounding tracks from mainstream artists and indie artists and then it goes to something like that, your creativity disrupts the sound quality of my radio station. I am sorry, but I am doing this to put out a quality product. So in this case, your music is not going to get played on my stations.
This leads me to another part of the process that is time consuming but I work very hard at. I claim I respond to 99% of all emails, and it may only be 98 or 97% but I try. The rejection letter is the hardest thing for me. I get a glowing letter from an artist who has listened to the stations and wants to submit a song. But when we play it, Elmer Fudd doing a Captain and Tenille cover song comes out. Thank you for your submission…. but? Again, its not my place to tell someone they can’t sing etc etc.
The music process isn’t complicated for me as long as we stay on track. There are different categories, there are 4 different stations and each station is programmed differently. They have their own identity, rotation and number of Indie songs that go into the mix. Using KB Radio as the primary example, there are two categories for rotation and there is a set number of songs that fit into each category. Thus, for every song we add one song has to come out of that category. I will expand on that a bit later when we talk about clock development and rotation.
So the next step after you’ve submitted and we have selected it for play is, believe it or not, that I then need to make sure that the sound levels are good. Now, this doesn’t mean I am going in and adjusting your music, but what it does mean is that I work on a simple sound baseline and it needs to be in line with it. This is done so that when you tune in one song isn’t super loud and the next so quiet you have to turn it up. It’s not a perfect system because sometimes in songs the level changes are there in such a way that its impossible to maintain a baseline. What it means is some songs come in with levels all in the red and others barely registering. I will adjust to bring them down or up a bit, but it’s really what you could consider a starting volume.
Next is labeling. Songs are labelled by artists differently, sometimes with code names, sometimes not labelled at all. So in order for the information to post accurately on Twitter I need to make sure its in there, spelled correctly etc. I know many of you are thinking, Really? This is something you have to do? The straight answer is Yes. 80% of the music that comes into the station is either not correctly or completely labelled. I am always amazed at the number of songs that come in as part of an email and that email has no wording or comments just a song attachment. Then when I open the song it is labelled as 01 or 08. So I now have to guess the artist’s name based on their email address. You couldn’t even write one word, like your band name? Those emails are generally ignored to be honest.
Here’s my logic in dealing with them in that way. I am going to give them just as much effort and care as that person did. I opened the email and looked at the song, probably at that point I have worked harder than the sender. It is now the beginning of May and when we look at year- to- date so far, we have had almost 10,000 songs submitted in the first 4 months to the stations. Each song, as we go through, needs to be tracked with the week it was reviewed and which station it is being added to, if applicable. It is amazing how many artists or managers will send the same song a couple times. So it’s important to keep track of all of this. Once all of the weekly music is reviewed, we then need to review the current rotation lists. As mentioned, for every new song going onto KB Radio, a song that is currently playing needs to come out of the rotation. This is why tracking of dates is so very important. Don’t take that to mean the oldest song just comes out automatically. There are a number of factors that go into the decision for what comes out each week.
After Wednesday night’s Indie music show, if I have enough energy, or Thursday morning, we start the physical process of changing out the music. This requires taking all the new songs and putting them into the appropriate file folders in different computer systems in the radio network. From there I also remove the songs that come out that week and put them into their new locations. Now that the new music is in I set the computers for each station to run. Each station has a preprogrammed rotation pattern, or clock, that I designed specifically for my target audience and demographic. The broadcast software uses that rotation to go in and assign music for the next seven days into a list for each of the 4 stations. Live shows and other programming are different this is just your everyday music listening.
While it is running I usually will update the master playlist which is that list of songs that tells me what is playing on each station. Then we make sure the songs we added are on the appropriate lists and songs that are pulled are moved to their new list. During the time we are doing music submissions, I also do a live show on Monday night and sometimes work in an interview that has to be recorded and then edited. If the interview is involved you can add a minimum of 3 hours time to get it recorded and then edited and ready for airing. Our other major process in those days is of course the Top 25 that we put together every week and the new KB Country Radio “JukeBox Top 10” The voting doesn’t end until midnight Tuesday night for the Top 25 and usually we will work on it as soon as the voting closes.
Once the voting is completed we get a report that shows all the votes, where they came from and all kinds of cool little details. I have talked plenty of times about my efforts to stop people from cheating and there are those who continue to try. There are actually a lot of ways to tell when voting isn’t legitimate. Like so many things in life the more you do them the easier it gets and the bad votes are not that common but tend to stand out. The first thing that happens is that these votes are removed and then new totals are created. Once totals are complete we can then program the points into the system for that portion of the tabulation. The station’s portion is calculated and is worked out every week. The station’s numbers do not go from week to week like the voting points. Each category is reassessed and the new totals are put in. It then gives us a final total which, when organized, represents the new Top 25.
Once again it doesnt end there. The final results have to get posted to the website, the custom designed spreadsheet I use for the calculations, has to be prepared for the next week, which starts right after we air the countdown live on Wednesday nights. With the voting, the poll site needs to be updated, artists and songs coming off the voting list and others going on. That information of course all gets updated, and then it has to be added to the update on the KB Radio website. Sunny handles all of that Wednesday nights while I do the live show, plus takes care of posting some great Twitter links to let artists know they are on the voting list. She also is responsible for the Twitter accounts of 3 of the stations. I handle KB Radio’s Twitter but for the other stations, its all Sunny, working hard 7 days a week.
That work has seen tremendous growth with those accounts, something I couldn’t accomplish on my own with the limited time. It used to be I changed out the music on Wednesdays after the live show ended at Midnight Eastern, however that process is somewhat longer now with 4 stations, all the tracking of songs etc so its usually tackled on Thursday mornings. It takes a tremendous effort to do this in the manner I want these stations to operate, and I make this effort to present a professional operation to the best of my ability. We aren’t perfect, but I only know one way to work and that is to give it everything or don’t bother.
The idea was to give you kind of an inside view of what we do, and from here on Thursdays we have the live 80’s show on KB Radio at 8PM. We have a new live countdown show on Friday nights on KB Country radio at 8pm, plus the weekends are full of other programming. We carry shows like Carla’s Coffee House and broadcast it on 3 of the stations. Each week we replay the Indie show, so it needs to be processed and labelled etc for rebroadcast on KB Indie Radio and send it out to other stations that carry the show. We also have things like an Electronic show that is music only, that airs on KB Indie Radio on Sundays, and we like to go back and look over the music that played the previous week. The computer system draws the songs, and puts them in order, but if it has been pulling one song more than another week to week, then we need to make adjustments.
The last thing I want to tell you about is something that I worked very hard on, and have a great deal of pride in. That is the rotation of music on each station. Since each station plays different music, the clock needs to be unique for each station. So let me explain it, without being insulting in anyway.
The clock, a real one, has 60 minutes per hour. Now on average you will normally find that 13 songs will play back to back if uninterrupted every hour. So for me the idea is how to fill those 13 spots in a manner that accomplishes a number of very important goals. The first is I want listeners that will tune in and stay tuned in. This means I need to find a pattern with the songs that play so that they fit smoothly and sound good going from one track to the next. We all have our own tastes in music, but generally when you put something on to listen to, you have a sound in mind. In other words you put on something to listen to you don’t want to suddenly find you are listening to something entirely different.
Its like the music changing from Rock to Country, and that’s not what you wanted to hear, but its less drastic. I am looking for songs for KB that blend together. Since it plays a mix of mainstream from the 70’s through 90’s and Indie for the most part, you don’t want to be listening to Steely Dan and suddenly as that song ends it runs into something from Anthrax. So song selection is important, broken into different categories, and from there those categories need to be determined for what is best back to back, or mixed etc.
This is an example of a rotation clock I have designed. So you have a 12 hour clock, and 13 positions on the clock. What you are seeing are music categories. In this case there are 6 categories, F1, F2, T1 T2, G and R. Each category has music assigned to it and in using a 1 hour clock like this, the programming would draw songs in this order from each category. Now you might not end up with exactly 60 minutes every hour, you work on an average and looking for a flow pattern, so that isn’t a big deal. A one hour clock isn’t always the way to go. When we recently retooled KB Indie radio, and streamlined some of the music etc, that clock was based on 150 minutes. The pattern in that case repeats every 2 1/2 hours, and would be completely different categories etc. Each station is totally unique. Even though a number of the Indie Artists we get in are played on multiple stations the categories don’t match from station to station.
Over the last month I have lost track of the number of times we have pulled up reports of music rotation to see just exactly how it is playing. How frequently a song may be coming up, or maybe how often an artist plays, that is a factor in the equation as well. A typical report for a 24 hour period is just over a page per hour, but like everything else with computers and tracking provides me with a wealth of information. We pull this information up and compare it although we track a ton of information as it happens, with hourly stats and can see hours that worked better than others. When a show other than just the streaming music airs we can see rise and fall trends. This graph shown below is typical of 4 similar graphs that run constantly on one of the screens in the studio.
So what is the point of all of this information? As I stated in the beginning I wanted to show a little bit about our operations, and just how seriously we take this. I believe in the adage you get what you give. Have I pissed off people along the way? Absolutely, and for the most part, I try and explain why we do things a certain way or ask of things a specific way, but some people just automatically assume I’m an ass. That’s okay with me, as you’ve seen, there’s a long line and if somebody doesn’t want to work with us, I would be lying if I said I gave a damn about them.