How to Get Radio Airplay

Are you wondering how to get radio airplay as an independent artist?

Radio can offer widespread exposure for artists. With any other channel, it can be a challenge to reach a large number of people at once, but radio is still a medium where your reach could number in the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands from a single play.

As result, getting radio airplay is a worthwhile goal.

This doesn’t mean that getting on the radio should be equated with instant success. Just because your song gets played on the radio doesn’t mean that everyone is going to take notice or even like it.

Still, the radio tends to do a good job of marketing products, businesses, and of course musicians. They generally know how to talk to their audience.

Here’s a process you can follow to get more radio airplay.

Understanding the Different Types of Radio

Before we go any further, it’s important to understand the different types of radio that are out there.

In addition to commercial radio on the AM/FM dial, there’s College or non-profit radio, community radio, internet radio and podcasts, and of course satellite radio.

Here’s a breakdown of each:

  • Commercial radio: these are the stations that show up on the AM/FM dial and are usually owned by large media conglomerates. Quite simply, this is the hardest place to get your music played as an independent artist. Without the help of a radio promoter, or better still a major label backing, your chances of being played are close to nil. If you do hire a radio promoter to help you get airplay, you will want to make sure that they are qualified to give you the type of help you need.
  • College and non-profit radio: College or campus radio is typically run by the students of an educational institution. Because they are independent entities, independent artists have a better chance of getting airplay on them.
  • Community radio: community radio stations generally serve specific geographic areas or communities. These stations are most influenced by the communities in which they exist. Their programming tends to be a mix of things, as opposed to just music. This is another area where independent artists have a good chance of getting airplay.
  • Internet radio and podcasts: internet radio is a bit of a mixed bag. While Pandora may well be one of the most noteworthy examples, there are plenty of other services and stations available. Some are operated 24/7 like in traditional radio, while others can be found in podcast formats.
  • Satellite radio: SiriusXM is perhaps the most well-known satellite radio provider. Satellite radio generally serves larger areas than traditional radio because their signal can be relayed through one or more satellites.

College Radio Campaigns & Captain T

Captain T, Derek Sivers and college radio campaignsWhen it comes to College radio campaigns, my favorite story comes via Derek Sivers.

In 2007, he shared the tale of how he was working with an artist called Captain T.

Because the music was very much in the vein of X-Files (conspiracies, Area 51, etc.), they went and found some jet black envelopes. On the outside, the envelope read, “Absolutely Confidential: Do Not Open”.

The envelope contained a CD and a crumpled up letter that bgan with “You don’t know me, but I live in the bushes behind your station…”

Of the 500 stations they sent the CDs to, 350 of them played it!

The chances of getting picked up on College radio are generally 30 to 40%, so 70% is not a bad batting average.

What we can learn from Sivers’ example is that it’s important to find a way to stand out. Radio stations are bombarded with hundreds of CDs.

Don’t forget to add some personality to your campaigns. Make it fit your brand.

The CD Baby Radio Campaign Method

Here’s an overview of the CD Baby method.

The first step in putting together a College radio campaign is to figure out how many mailings you want to do.

CD Baby suggests doing 100 – 200 mailings. If you have more wiggle room in your budget, or if you have a specific strategy in mind, you might consider sending out more or less.

Remove the cellophane wrapper on the CD, and make sure to include your band’s one-sheet. That’s all you need to include.

Don’t forget to highlight the songs you want the DJs to play/listen to/pay the most attention to by bolding them on your one-sheet.

The second step is to put together a list of College, community, public, and specialty programs on commercial radio that you are going to mail out to.

CD Baby suggests limiting your list to places you can realistically tour through three or four times per year. Make sure your package addresses the radio programmers or DJs directly by name. A package addressed to the radio station could get lost in the mix.

Thirdly, follow up with the radio stations by phone or email two weeks later.

Here are three things you should be asking the station when you follow up:

  1. Did you get my CD?
  2. Did you get the chance to listen to it?
  3. Will you be adding it to your playlist?

If they tell you that they are not currently considering your CD for airplay, either ask why or say thank you and move on. Don’t linger on the phone or get defensive about your music.

If they are playing your music, check back every few weeks and continue to build a relationship with the program directors or DJs. Remember to thank them for playing your music.

Continue to Add Value

If a station plays your music, keep them updated with your career every quarter (so they can talk about your latest tour or CD release).

Also ask them how you can help them. Perhaps you could do a bumper or a giveaway in conjunction with a contest. There are a variety of ways you could add more value to the station. Get creative!

Submitting Your Music to Podcasts

Finding podcasts on iTunes to submit your music toThe easiest place to find podcasts is on Apple iTunes.

Keep in mind that you are looking for podcasts that specifically play your style of music. Podcasts come in a variety of different formats, (talk, radio show, video, music, instructional, etc.), and you don’t want to be submitting your music to every podcast you can find.

Look for the ones that: a) play music, and b) play your style of music.

Submitting Your Music to Internet Radio

Internet radio stations can be found on SHOUTcast, Internet Radio, Live365 and a variety of other places.

Put together a list of appropriate stations, and track down their submission guidelines. Guidelines can vary depending on the station, so make sure to adhere to their specifications.

Some Final Things to Consider with Radio Airplay

There are three key things to keep in mind when it comes to initiating a radio campaign. They are:

  1. Budget: you can’t carry out an effective radio campaign without a budget. Make sure you have the funding necessary to do the mail outs.
  2. Time: you’re going to need to set aside some time to make a campaign work. It takes time to do mail outs, and it takes time to follow up with the stations. Make sure to put it in your calendar!
  3. Product: it’s easy to take for granted, but you can’t have an effective radio campaign without a professionally produced, radio-ready product. Your CD doesn’t have to be recorded in an expensive studio. However, your production quality should be such that it could be played back-to-back with other tracks on the same radio station and be of similar quality. Your CD should also be available in stores (online, offline or both) for easy access.
Is Pro Tools the Unspoken Industry Standard?

Is Pro Tools the Unspoken Industry Standard?

I still remember when my friend Patrick Zelinski and I first started learning Pro Tools back in 2009.

We found the interface a little challenging, and whatever DVDs we could get our hands on at the time never really seemed to teach us the basics or provide us with a process for how to actually use the software.

It was still a valuable learning experience, and we did eventually get around to recording some demo tracks with Pro Tools. Patrick stuck with it. I, on the other hand, kept learning on Tracktion, and I was happy with that. I still use Tracktion today.

At this point, we’ve both worked on commercially available music projects, and feel pretty comfortable on our respective platforms.

Pro Tools: Back In The Day

Pro Tools has gotten a lot better over the years, but some of the features were a little lacking when I first came across it.

The need to use a proprietary audio interface, the fact that you couldn’t easily export your project to a WAV or MP3 file – that kind of stuff made me laugh and also a little sad on the inside.

I’ve never had any of those issues with Tracktion. I’ve used at least three different audio interfaces with it, and I’ve always been able to export to whatever common file format I’ve wanted to – even in earlier versions!

Oh, but what about plugins? Tracktion doesn’t support plugins, right? Wrong.

Most digital audio workstations support a variety of plugins without any problem, not excluding Tracktion.

In short, I couldn’t understand why Pro Tools was considered that important.

One Phone Call

When I was still running a home studio, I would occasionally get calls for work. The studio served a niche market, and we didn’t do much promotion, so we just did what we did, and that was okay.

A friend of mine referred me a possible lead, and when they called, the first thing they asked was, “do you use Pro Tools?”

“No. Why?”

The gentleman on the line wasn’t able to provide me with a good answer. He just wanted to make sure that we had Pro Tools, as if that was a Better Business Bureau badge or commendation of the Pope or something.

I reassured him: “You can use any plugin you want on Tracktion, and I can always export the tracks to WAV.”

I didn’t get that client.

So if you’re serious about audio engineering, you should at least have Pro Tools as an option. I don’t believe it needs to be the only option you provide, but if you want to appeal to a wide variety of clients, it’s wise to be prepared.

Pro Tools: Industry Standard?

The Pro Tools audio interface in actionHere’s why Pro Tools is considered important: practically every noteworthy studio has it.

This does not mean that it’s the most used DAW in these environments, nor does it mean that it’s the best. But it is prolific – there’s no denying that.

If you want to move your project from one studio to the next, you probably won’t encounter any issues. Odd are good that, wherever you go, you’ll be able to load up your project files in Pro Tools in a different studio without much trouble, and resume your work.

But I can’t see how that’s a major advantage since exporting your files to WAV in Tracktion (and other DAWs) isn’t likely to cost you more time.

After all is said and done, however, I have to admit that Pro Tools is an “industry standard” of sorts. If you don’t believe me, ask a bunch of artists, engineers and experts what they think. Odd are most will tell you that they use Pro Tools.

My Thoughts On Digital Audio Workstations

Tracktion digital audio workstationSo far, with the exception of one missed opportunity (if you can even call it that), I can’t say that I’ve ever needed or wanted Pro Tools.

Maybe I’m just not active enough in studio engineering for it to matter, but I’ll share my thoughts with you anyway.

With DAWs, the most important thing to me has always been usability. I will never budge on that.

I’ve experimented with a number of DAWs, and to this day, I have yet to find anything simpler and more intuitive than Tracktion (with the possible exception of Garage Band, but I don’t own a Mac).

If an interface is easy to use, it means that I can get sketches and ideas down fast, and I can also work fast. By extension, I can serve my clients with minimum friction (yes, I still do some production work here and there), and get my own projects done the way I want them to without the added stress of a cluttered interface.

As for plugins, I’m happy to use free or low-cost ones unless I find that I absolutely need something better. I have great guitar hardware, and I can make bass and drums sound pretty good using the tools I’ve got.

I’m now in a position where I could acquire more gear and plugins, but I’ve always been a do-what-you-can-with-what-you’ve-got kind of guy, and there are many well-established engineers that are the same way.

Final Thoughts

I get it. Pro Tools is a big deal.

I don’t believe any one tool or resource becomes an “industry standard” without good reason. I would argue that Pro Tools has had anything but a spotless history, but a lot of people love it and have gotten good use out of it.

I just don’t like people that say, in effect, “Everybody is using Pro Tools so you should too.”

I suppose you’re also the type of person that would wear Crocs because everyone else is.

That doesn’t make any sense. If you want to stand out, you have to do something different, don’t you think?

If you want to stand out, you have to do something different. Share on X

I say go ahead and make music on FL Studio or Ableton Live. Why the hell not? This will instantly separate you from the drones that go the way of the sheep.

There’s enough homogenized pop crap out there – go and make something that’s real.

What do you think? Do you use Pro Tools? Would you consider it an industry standard, and is it truly the best music production software you’ve ever used? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Build Your Guitar Calluses

Download the PDF version of this article

It’s true. When you first start playing the guitar, it isn’t a very pleasant experience.

This is because you’re training your fingers to do things they’ve never done before.

It’s important to keep that in mind when you’re just starting to learn. Of course it feels unnatural!

But if you play for long enough, your comfort level will grow, and what used to seem difficult will eventually become second nature.

But what about those guitar calluses you’ve heard so much about? How do you replace the soft skin on your fingertips with tough skin that stands up to abuse?

Here are several tips on how to build your guitar calluses.

Start A Regular Practice Routine

Just start doing it. Don’t worry too much about how long you’re practicing for – just play a little bit every single day.

When you’re just beginning, you are at greater risk for injury and picking up bad habits, because you don’t know right from wrong.

“Is this supposed to hurt?” you may say.

Well no, not unless you’ve been overdoing it!

Playing the guitar isn’t supposed to give you an unusual level of discomfort. But like I was saying earlier, it will feel a little weird at first because you’re getting your fingers, wrists, and arms to do things they’ve never done before.

So go easy at it at first. Just put in 15 to 30 minutes a day. Your calluses will start to develop little by little.

Experiment With Different Gauges Of Strings

This is something I did a lot early on. I’d heard that players like Stevie Ray Vaughan played on 13 gauge strings, so I would also experiment with different gauges (but I never tried 13s – that would be insane on an electric!).

Once you get used to playing with nines, you can exchange them for 10s (although it is a good idea to get your guitar set up at this point), which are heavier and will give you more resistance. You’d be surprised.

I have some great guitar calluses now, but when I was playing with 10s and even with 11s for a while, I remember that my fingers got cut up pretty good.

Keep in mind that – and I know I’m repeating myself – you don’t want to overdo it. If you play until your fingers bleed, like in that song “Summer of ’69”, you probably aren’t going to be able to play for a few days!

This is a guitar hack if there ever was one, but it won’t be of much use to you if you take it to excess.

Experiment With Different Guitars

A classical guitar is usually equipped with nylon strings. These are very easy on the fingers, which means you can practice for longer periods of time without feeling too worn out.

Electric guitars typically have nickel strings – either nines or 10s. These bite into your fingers a little more than nylon strings and do provide a little more resistance. Harder to practice on for longer periods of time, especially if you do a lot of string bending.

Acoustic guitars often come with 12 gauge bronze strings (and 12 is considered pretty light for acoustic!). The crappier the guitar, the harder you will have to press down to get a decent sound out of it. Not a pleasant experience, but it can toughen up those fingers pretty quick.

Experimenting with different types of guitars can help your fingers get used to a variety of different string types – and it can also provide a healthy distraction while you’re still building up those calluses.

Play Your Butt Off

Once you’ve covered the basics, and your teacher has given you the go-ahead to practice for one hour or more per day, it’s time to play and play and play until there’s no longer any major discomfort with your fingers.

This is the most reliable way to build up your guitar calluses – gradually. If you keep practicing, before long, you won’t even notice that your fingers hurt. You’ll be able to play hours on end without ever taking a break.

Just remember to be patient with yourself. This isn’t going to happen overnight. If you don’t have calluses yet, it means that you haven’t done a lot of real playing yet (not trying to hurt your feelings). You’re going to have to put in some serious time.

No, you won’t need to play for 10,000 hours to get your calluses. But it doesn’t just happen in a couple of weeks either.

Final Thoughts

That’s all there is to it. I’ve heard of people doing some pretty strange things to get their calluses, but there’s no need. Don’t try to hack a hack!

How to get guitar calluses on your fingers

Just play guitar – that’s the key!

Any thoughts? I would love to hear them. Make sure to leave a comment below!

LinkedIn Marketing for Musicians

Since the death of MySpace, most bands have found their way onto Twitter and Facebook, but they probably haven’t given much thought to LinkedIn as a means of promoting their work.

The truth of the matter is that LinkedIn isn’t for everybody. It is intended as a professional networking environment in which people don’t expect to be bombarded by constant noise (status updates, event invites, group invites, etc. etc.).

But seeing as how LinkedIn is the third most popular social networking site on the internet right now (February 2016), and it’s held that position for a long time, don’t you think there’s some value you could derive from LinkedIn marketing?

Connecting on LinkedIn

If you aren’t familiar with LinkedIn, then this is a great place to start.

Like any other social networking tool, LinkedIn allows you to create connections, both personal and professional.

It isn’t like Facebook where people can “like” your band. It isn’t like ReverbNation where people can “become a fan”. LinkedIn isn’t a fan-building tool, per se.

However, LinkedIn is a platform for business (and this is The Music Entrepreneur website, in case you’re lost). And, if you’re a musician, songwriter, composer, studio engineer, or a creative professional, you would say that you’re in business, wouldn’t you?

Jamie Leger also emphasizes this point in this very informative guide: Musicians Guide to LinkedIn – Getting LinkedIn Like a Pro!

Getting Set Up

It’s important to note that you won’t get much benefit out of LinkedIn or any other social networking site without an upfront burst of energy, and ongoing spurts of effort.

Setting up your profile often takes the most time and energy to do, and once you’ve populated your profile, you still need to maintain an ongoing and regular presence.

If you can’t see yourself keeping up with your LinkedIn presence in addition to your other online channels, it may be best to leave it alone. Just know that it can be a valuable tool if you use it right.

LinkedIn is a Search Engine for Professionals

Much like YouTube, LinkedIn is a search engine in its own right. However, while YouTube searches a database of videos, LinkedIn searches a database of business professionals. What this means is that keywords and key phrases are just as important as any other search engine.

What are some things people would be searching for if they were looking for someone with your skills and qualifications? Make sure to include these in your profile.

5 LinkedIn Marketing Tips

The aforementioned Jamie Leger has a follow-up article on the subject of marketing with LinkedIn. In it, he covers the following points:

  1. Network with people. This seems pretty obvious. Social networking is called social networking because you’re supposed to be social. Is it possible that a corporate entity would be looking for a band for their upcoming motivational event? Is it possible that a movie production studio would need music for their next masterpiece? Is it conceivable that someone might require some mixing and mastering services for their multimedia presentations? Of course it is. Reach out and connect. Bonus tip: it’s also a good idea to connect with others in the music industry and collaborate with them.
  2. Ask questions in groups. Leger suggests that one of the best ways to take advantage of LinkedIn is to get involved in groups and ask and answer questions. This could be a great way to add value to others. You will also be seen as an expert in your field if you’re able to provide answers that others find helpful and useful.
  3. Promote your work. Developing relationships with people through the use of groups allows you to expose your work to more people. It’s worth noting that this is not a place to spam links, but if you can add value to people, they are more likely to act on the content you post.
  4. Search for opportunities. Leger notes that there are new music opportunities, contests and giveaways being posted to LinkedIn all the time!
  5. Publish articles on LinkedIn Pulse. This is a tip of my own. You can use LinkedIn Pulse as your blog, getting more exposure and attention for your posts than you might be able to on your own site.

Conclusion

Is LinkedIn for everybody? Maybe not. However, there are musicians who are finding creative ways to use it to their advantage, so why can’t you?

Do you use LinkedIn to market your music online? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

Facebook Marketing for Musicians

I’ve already spent some time talking about how to use Twitter as a band or an artist. The conclusion I came to was that intrusive, in-your-face methods of marketing are mostly ineffective (are they working for you?).

Offering quality content (yes, even if that is 140 characters worth), building friendships and relationships, and putting some thought and planning behind your marketing efforts (and being specific about what you intend to accomplish) are going to produce much better results.

These days, it’s almost as if Twitter and Facebook go together. People don’t usually talk about social networking without mentioning both. They are, in all practical terms, the most important social media marketing and networking tools available right now.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m a little skeptical of Twitter’s new direction, however.

But let’s take a look at how to use Facebook as a musician.

Create a Page

It may seem obvious, but you need to create a “Page”, not a “Profile” or a “Group”. This will allow people to “like” you and your band.

Once set up, you need to populate your page with upcoming shows, events, bios, status updates, a band logo, pictures, and pretty much anything else that’s relevant. It may be time consuming, but this is an important step to take before marketing your page to hundreds or even thousands of people.

Spread the Word

There probably aren’t any ideas that haven’t already been covered elsewhere, but presented here are some strategies you can use to get more “likes” on Facebook:

  • Whenever you go on stage, let people know that you’re on Facebook.
  • Connect your Facebook page to Twitter. When you post something on Facebook, an update will automatically be sent to Twitter. When people see that tweet, they may follow the link back to your Facebook page where they can “like” you. Although it is possible to have your tweets automatically cross-posted to Facebook too, this generally isn’t best practice.
  • Put a Facebook icon on your website and your blog (with a link, of course). You can also use a Facebook widget to display more information if that is to your liking.
  • Display a Facebook icon (and other relevant social media icons) at the end of your YouTube videos, letting your viewers know that they can find you on their favorite social media sites. Also put a link to your page in the description.
  • Make use of Facebook advertising. It costs a little bit of money, but Facebook ads can be targeted to specific demographics, and can help you build your following much faster than if you depended entirely on your organic reach.
  • Join relevant groups and promote your Facebook page there. But make sure to do this with tact, and also beware of the rules of individual groups or you will get banned.
  • Whenever you send out a newsletter to your mailing list, make sure to include a link to your Facebook page.

Third Party Applications

Unfortunately, it seems as though Facebook changes its format about as often as Auto-Tune gets abused in a new EDM track (slight exaggeration, of course).

As result, it is difficult to pin down exactly what functionality has been added or removed at any given time. In general, there isn’t a lot of great built-in functionality for bands on Facebook, because it doesn’t have a music focus like MySpace did.

Fortunately, there are many third party applications that you can use to spice up your page:

  • ReverbNation has a widget that makes it easy for bands to showcase their music on Facebook.
  • CD Baby has a Facebook store widget that makes it easy for you to sell your music on Facebook.
  • SoundCloud makes it easy for you to send an update to your Facebook page every time you upload a new track.
  • Email marketing services like iContact and MailChimp usually allow you to send out your latest newsletters to Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Conclusion

I haven’t covered the specifics of how to set up your Facebook page here, but hopefully the tips I’ve shared get you off to a rolling start.

Do you have any tips for marketing on Facebook? Are there any strategies that have worked well for you? Make sure to leave a comment below.