In today’s ever-changing music industry, artists cannot simply be good at one thing. Music has many facets: production, talent, style, not to mention, social media presence, promotions, and live performances. Nowadays, despite all the resources available for up and coming artists, making it in the industry is harder than ever.
It is easy to think that with the technological advances following the discovery of internet, it would be simple for an artist to get their music heard. Before internet, artists were usually only recognized by recording label representatives at live performances. Today, artists don’t even have to leave their houses to send a song across the country. Because anyone can do it—everyone does. And this convenience is the very reason the standard for music has been raised.
My experience offers valuable tips to anyone looking to get ahead in the music industry. As the Urban Music Director at 90.5 FM KSJS, I have watched artists go from local openers to headliners. I have seen social media accounts go from a few hundred followers to a few thousand. Because I have worked in the industry, I have learned the tricks of the trade. This is not necessarily a full-proof method for becoming the next trending topic, however, these tips can provide great advice to anyone looking to get a head start in the growing music industry.
Become a fan of your local college radio stations
Before anything else, check out your local community college or university’s radio station. College radio is widely known for playing local, independent, and underground music. Whether your genre is electronic, rock, hip-hop, or even something experimental, chances are, there is a place for it in college radio.
Most of the time, songs broadcast on college radio months before they hit mainstream radio. Knowing about college radio shows, programs, and events can put you ahead of the game. Here is why: college radio stations thrive on music submissions.
An insider perspective about how to submit music professionally might provide some insight to someone who has never done it before. With music rampant on social media, the last thing any artist wants to do is spam all the people in the music industry by tagging them in unwarranted posts. Getting an email address to contact will be far more effective than messaging someone on Facebook or Instagram.
Your Email Matters
One thing to remember is that students, teachers, faculty, and alumni run college radio. Therefore, music submission emails must be somewhat academic and at the least, professional. By academic, we do not really expect the use of proper sentence structure or sentences even being grammatically error-free. We simply mean that the body of the submission should contain important details such as the proper spelling of the artist name, track name, any features, and any additional information is often helpful, like upcoming shows, a short bio, contact information, or social media links.
The music industry already lacks a certain level of professionalism. With hip-hop music often referring to women as bitches, rap songs about murder, and the seemingly acceptable use of drugs, it is cliché to call for professionalism in an email. However, I greatly stress its effectiveness. Professionalism, in any career, is crucial. Music submissions are merely requests for airplay; they should exhibit clarity, quality, and a sense of requisition.
“Adds” vs “Features”
There are two instances when submitting music: “adds” and “features”. Knowing the difference will not only add to an artists’ credibility, but it will also provide direction to the person receiving the submission. People in the industry like working with other people who know what they’re talking about.
Every radio station, whether mainstream or underground, follows a specific rotation. Rotation is a set of 40 tracks that are played several times per hour, hence the term “Top 40”. When submitting music for “adds,” artists are looking to add their music to this playlist for regular airtime. Whereas “features,” are slightly different. “Features” are played less often per hour, and from a pool much greater than rotation—meaning: less airplay, less often.
Realistically, an artist will decide what type of airplay they would like to request. Most of the time, the Music Director will let the artist know if their request for an “add” might be better suited as a “feature,” or vice versa.
Constant Contact Is Crucial
Radio stations generally update their rotation on a weekly basis. Weekly or bi-weekly music submissions from artists show effort and dedication. Some weeks, unheard-of artists must compete with big-name musicians, and a common mishap occurs when artists lose hope because they submit a song that is not accepted. Constant contact is crucial as listeners and DJs tend to favor artists they have “heard of.” From my observations, familiarity breeds interest.
One of the most valued skills in radio, especially in hip-hop, is the ability to clean music. As with all public broadcasts, the FCC monitors what can and can’t be said on-air. In mainstream radio, most stations would not accept songs with swearing or derogatory terms. In underground radio, songs might be accepted, but it could take weeks to clean due to the overwhelming number of music submissions received.
A free audio editing program like Audacity, paired with a few YouTube tutorials, and anyone can become an expert at this. Submitting clean music demonstrates an understanding of FCC regulations. It also saves radio stations time and money and thus, increases an artist’s chance for airplay.
Lastly, with social media platforms taking over the internet, I highly suggest artists make a website for their music. Post your contact information, latest single, or newest music video. A website makes it easy for on-air DJs to promote shows, new songs, and album releases. It also the best way for DJs to link fans to the artist. Free programs like WordPress lets users connect their social media accounts so when something gets posted in one place—it is also posted everywhere else too. Many programs are readily available that allow for a simple method of contact between the artist, fans, radio, and anyone else interested in discovering an emerging artist.