The music industry is tough, especially if you’re starting out. Even if you’re not in it for the money, you still want listeners. Despite what some media outlets would tell you, college radio is a viable way to get heard. In these days of Pandora, Spotify, and other algorhythm based music-matching radio websites, college radio provides things you can’t get from a website: personality and human connection. Besides, college radio is generally seen as “cool”.
However, as a college radio station director, I have multitudes of people wanting to get played. Some of them don’t, and for good reasons. I certainly cannot speak for the entirety of college radio, but here is my personal list of things you should do if you want to get played.
1. Make it as easy as possible for us to play or promote you.
This is probably the best tip I can give you.
Most emails I get go like this:
Hi! I’m an independent artist looking to get played on your station. Here’s a YouTube video I made six months ago. Thank you for putting me on your station!
This tells me you don’t value my time, even if you didn’t mean it that way. Yes, I could rip the audio of your video using any number of download sites. Why would I, though? If you just send me a YouTube video and expect me to do the work for you, you are essentially telling me either my time is not worth anything to you or you’re lazy and put me on a press list. Either way, I don’t have time to deal with you. I have actual artists who value my station enough to not waste my time with needless chores.
You may be saying “why not just ask them for a music file? They may not want to be rude and assume you want the song straight away”. That’s a bit like having a job opening and asking me “why not just ask them for a resume? They may not want to be rude and assume you want their resume straight away”. There is no manager, CEO, or human resource person that will ask anybody for a resume, especially when they have so many applicants. Think of every track you send as a job interview. We’re not going to go out of our way to get your material, especially when I can click “next message” and use another musician’s track who actually made my job easier by giving me a link. If you don’t include a link, your pitch will most likely go in the trash. It takes about ten more seconds, and costs you nothing. If you can’t afford webspace, upload it to SoundCloud and turn on downloading. Upload it to Mega. Do something to get us the file in your opening pitch.
2. Cut out all the crap that I don’t care about.
Yes, I am now aware you’re an actor. Yes, I can see that you’re a model as well. Your six-pack abs are impressive. These things don’t have an impact on me as a radio professional. Nowadays it does seem like to be successful you have to have multiple talents. However, sending me all the information doesn’t differentiate you from the crowd. My inbox is filled with head shots and promo emails from rapper/actor/model/singers. While it’s most likely a lot of work to do that, it’s not a defining characteristic anymore. I know you think you’re the next Will Smith, but frankly that’s what everybody thinks about themselves.
You’re a musician. Let your music speak for itself.
3. Personalizing is for professionals; cookie cutters are for the lazy.
A little personalizing goes a long way. If you make me feel like you took time to send me a message, as opposed to putting me on a list and hitting “send all”, you’ll get further. Press releases bore me. I ignore them more often than not. While our station does have a blog, we are not an organization that prints press releases. Most college stations lack the resources to follow up on press releases in a journalistic way. We aren’t a newspaper. Don’t treat us like one.
Do some research before submitting to stations. What’s their mascot? Are they a new organization? Could you help them out in any way? Put that in there. Who are you addressing? Find their name out. Make it the first thing you write. Do they have a show on their station that caters to your genre? Include them in the message.
Yes, it’s more work. However, work is exactly what you have to put in to get noticed.
4. Don’t lie to me.
When you tell me you’re represented by ClearChannelCumulusCBS Management Corporation, I know you’re lying because that is an obvious ploy to impress me. When you tell me you won “Rapper of the Year” from Urban Rap R&B Time Magazine, I’ll check what that publication is. If it doesn’t exist, I know you’re lying. Stop making up phony awards and magazines to give yourself props. It’s trashy, unethical, and more importantly it makes you look bad to the people who actually know what they’re doing. Don’t lie. If your product is good enough and you market yourself right, you won’t have to lie to get noticed.
5. How can you help me?
This may have ties with tip number one, but station directors will respond to extra help. Willing to come and do a concert for their station? Awesome! Want to perform on-air? Yes! Want to join up with us and help distribute promotional material? OH GOD PLEASE PLEASE HELP ME. See where I’m going with this? If you can make my job easier or help me promote my station, I will most likely give you a response. We need performers. We need interviews. WE NEED HELP. HELP US. HELP US HELP YOU.
Your pitch could go something like this:
[person you are addressing here],
Hi! I’m a local artist looking to get played. Here’s a link to my latest single in WAV and MP3 formats. I am available for interviews at your request if you are interested. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to collaborate with you more, because I think we can be of benefit to each other. Looking forward to working with you! Go [insert mascot here]!