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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Get on the Radio, Part 1

Hi there,
Having worked with 100s of indie artists through PopTarts, and the independent release of three singles and two albums of my own, I often get asked for advice on what to do with an album once it's recorded. This is the first of a series of blogs that will hopefully give you some ideas. And please add any of your own ideas to the comments - it's all about community!

OK, you've poured your sweat, tears and bank balance into the creation of an original recording. You feel drained yet proud. Now the hard work begins - you actually have to sell the thing!

Radio is an important slice of your promotional pie. If you are a self-funded independent artist, there are still plenty of avenues open to you. Commercial radio in Australia (don't pack up and  move, it's even harder in other countries!) is a very hard nut to crack for everyone, particularly indies. Nothing is impossible though and I will cover the options for commercial radio in another blog. But I wanted to start with something a little easier to achieve.

Community Radio Wants You
I've been a community broadcaster myself (2MCR, 2SER and TVS in Sydney) so I'll start there.

Community radio stations are largely run by volunteers, are not-for-profit and encourage community participation. Part of their charter is actually to promote the local arts - that means you! Community radio stations often have solid, dedicated listener bases and with enough of a groundswell, community radio airplay could even help lead to commercial radio play.

One of your best friends should become the CBAA or the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia - the national body looking after 270+ community radio and TV stations throughout the country.
The CBAA have wonderful government-subsidised programs for indie artists. One is called:

'AMRAP' - CD Mailout

Amrap charges a small fee to distribute ‘radio ready’ CDs by Australian artists to community radio stations around the country. The good folk at Amrap actually listen to your CD and work out which stations are likely to play your style and distribute it accordingly. If you have a hip-hop record you want to promote with a tour through the East Coast, they will send out your CD to only those radio stations in the Eastern states who play hip-hop. Even though you pay a certain amount for this service, it is still cheaper and hugely more efficient than buying the padded bags and sending out CDs yourself. And their contact databases are comprehensive and up-to-date.

I've used this service quite a few times and managed to cultivate some fabulous community radio airplay and contacts as a result. Like anything in this indie game, the more work and time you are willing to put in, the more benefit you get. Amrap give you an invaluable report which includes contact info of all the radio stations to which they've distributed your CD. Use this to follow up!

When hosting and producing my own radio and TV shows I always appreciated artists getting in touch with me personally, keeping me in the loop with their upcoming gigs and releases, being available for phoner or in-person interviews and generally helping me provide interesting content for my shows. Never pester, but definitely get in touch. Community broadcasters are waaaay more accessible than their commercial counterparts. They will probably love hearing from you.

Amrap do mailouts every month but they are no longer a well-kept secret, so get in touch with them in plenty of time before you are ready to promote - they are popular! Their website is here.

Next week: How to get your music on the Digital Catalogue used by Community Radio.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Songwriting - Therapeutic or Tedious?

Hi there,

I've decided this is the year I finish the first draft of my novel. As a result, I've been reading a lot of how-to books on the subject to help nudge me along. Every single one so far has said that most writers don't actually enjoy writing. They enjoy having written, the satisfaction of finishing a piece of creative work. But the laborious process of getting the words in the right order is often plain frustrating.

I am hoping that learning more about writing fiction will also help me improve my songwriting. I've got to admit, those days when I'm wrangling rhymes and slaving over syllables can be more about exasperation than inspiration...but oh how I love having written!  So can you compare lyric writing and writing a book? Let's see, I'm going for 85,000 words for my novel - a song for me will be more like 150. But of course you have to consider rhyme and singability for song words too. And then there's that pesky music to go with the words.

A piece of advice that seems to be consistent in these 'Dummies Guide to Writing your Novel' type tomes is to allow yourself to write freely. It really helps to silence your internal judge at least for the first draft. So this week one of my goals will be to write a quick pop song. Get it out in one go without agonising over adjectives and getting vexed over verses. No editing. No refining. No censoring. Muzzle that inner critic and let the fun begin!