Get Played On Radios is a great e-book from BeatHouse UK filled with ideas and strategies on how to get your own music played on the holy grail of music promotion, the radio.
We talked to Ian Nilsen about how the idea of writing a book that would look into the business of radio for indie bands the world over came about.
BeatHouse UK has recently released previews of this rather interesting take on self-promotion for musicians across the globe, looking in to how to get their music on international radios without a record company. Ian and co-writer Magnus Gabriels clearly thinks that all the talk about social media is great, but also feels, that to really cut it in the business of music, you will also have to place your music on the good old radio airwaves at the same time. With the advent of DAB radios, most public radio stations are today offering specialized shows: indie, urban, jazz so you can target it much better, where as before only a single or few frequencies would have to host all styles of music during the day, thus making airtime limited. One day internet radio too might become a major player, although that might be some years away still, despite all the hype.
Q: So Ian, with all the hype surrounding social media, why do you write a book about radios that have been around for half a century and more?
Well, I believe many musicians out there have sort of given up on how to get their music out and about by now. Most were sort of raised on the idea that record companies would sign them, record their albums and put them on MTV and the bigger radios to get the ball rolling. All they had to do was being the guys with the talent so to say, look cool, and be at one long party for some years. Nobody really spoke much about that only about 4 % actually did make any money at all, although the record companies always managed to in the end.
Then with the entry of the internet in the early 00’s the record companies started to see the writing on the wall: there would be much less money to earn in the future. They pulled all the tricks out, sued internet entrepreneurs, invented even more complicated deals. such as the 360 degrees deals, but in the end, as it looks by now, to not much avail. Naturally don’t lay the record companies to rest just yet, they will always be around in some form, but if you are making music today you are much more on your own, although being on your own, coudl turn out to be a fantastic thing, say if you know how to manage your career properly.
As with many things in life, most people tend to follow the latest trends, with so called first movers always find new ways, before the next wave jumps on, with finally everyone in line, and that tend to saturate everything. At some point there were so many bands on MySpace that it was simply one huge mess and with Murdoch Media trying to recup some of his massive investments it simply turned people off in a big way. Facebook is going same way with tons of people screaming “ME ME ME”, all the time, with visitors and fans simply getting tired of it. Twitter is no good for musicians really, how great for building up a network.
Thats where the radio comes in, radios are listened to by many people atthe same time, in the millions, and because radios is not visual, your song actually comes across and people will listen to it, and they will listen again if it’s real good. Most hits, if not every single hit has had massive airtime along with it. What we would like to learn all these frustrated indie bands out there is how to promote and get on the international radios now that they do not have a record company.
Q: You have your own label, have you used social media extensivly yourselves
Yes we have and still does.
Well, to tell the thruth, most;y Facebook really. I came on board the social media at a time where facebook really became a hi-end platform. You began to be able to easily add videos from YouTube and Vimeo, music from SoundCloud (an excellent product by the way), and links to blogs. And the fans kept coming on board. With FaceBook you will need to find your followers, the common perception that just about everything just suddenly goes viral is simply far from the thruth. There are too many controls and filters build into these web sites for letting this happen.
Persoanlly I think that, if i can use a real ‘hipster’ term, that social media is fast becoming so last year.. (laughs). They are simply becoming way too big and it’s more and more becoming impossible to find anything there. When I was kid, I would hear a record somewhere on radio or through friends, buy it myself, and listen to it until I would have to throw it out again. Today you got tons of musical bits to listen too online, and to be frank, most of it is not very good.
You see, it’s not because everyone can now get a computer with some software that they are turning into the Beatles overnight.
Social media companies wants to make money soon and they feel that as they by now got 500 million members or so, they slowly can start to tie the net on their users and start to monitize. It’s not simple, (online) history proves them often wrong, people often simply moves on to the next new thing, and I wouln’t like to spend 2 years trying to build a fan base on FaceBook of 300.000 people , only to see FaceBook suddenly changing policy and you loose contacts to them all.
Q: Stop a minute, isn’t it only record companies that can get music played on radios?
Well, it definitly used to be a case of record companies having a stronghold there. There are tons of stories how they paid their way in, and dined and wined important people along the way, but remember that 10 years ago, it was far too expensive to make your own record, never alone produce CD’s and market them for anyone else. So in general radios only had quality music coming from the bigger labels. That is no longer true, and on top of that, record companies only signs real safe mainstream music these days. Whereas most commercial radios are happy to play whatever music they believe their listeners like, there a littleraly millions of radios out there, from college, community, internet and public radio (even bigger ones) that happily will take on good songs and air them. And I would bluntly also say a good 50% of commercial radios take on new music that they like in some form or another.
Q: Would you say that a band simply should send in a song on some CD and then turn on the radio then?
Oh no, thats a big no! and that’s really what we try to explain in this book. We learn people of the different types of radio stations out there, the people working in them, the key players to talk to, the formats, speciality shows, how you should present your material digitally or by post, how you plan a radio stragety long term and so on. There are houndres of things you should be aware of before you venture out on posting your song. On top we offer a radio database where the bands can get contact info, names, emails when they feel that they are ready to get started. That member only database gets updated all the time, so that we stay on top all the time. We also provides templates for emails, how to put your music on blog, how to get on google in searches and so on.
We also tell people tell that it’s not easy, but also that it’s real fun and that when you hear song coming out of the radio the very first time round it’s a massive thing. Sting nearly feel off his kitchen ladder, when Roxanne blasted out of the radio first time! People knows that when you start to gain airplay lots of people starts visiting you website or social media home and you begin to see real progress happened to both your visibility and sales.
Q: I wrote a song when i was kid, 3 chords, it’s OK, should I send it in?
(laughs) No I don’t think you should, not right away at least. There are phases you should go through, steps that you should take to ensure that your song is radio ready. We talk a lot about that in the book too. You need to find your best song, and fine tune it to the radio format you are aiming for. There are many rules and expectations in place when they recieve your material, and it would be great a shame that the program director at the largest radio in your country put you song aside early , only because did not prepare yourself well enough.
Q: Who should get your book.
I would say all indie bands and singer/songwriters out there that feels that they got one or more good songs, yet have no record deal and really wants to have a go at it. It could be someone that got a 9 to 5 job and only make music at weekends, it could be an indie band that is real seirious about their music or some singer that wants to go all the way to the grammys. It’s all levels really. It’s also hugely inspiring read, a bit like “hey thats interesting, why not try this and this”. A musical cookbook in music promotion for any musician out there that would like to get his music on international radios right now.