Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Marketing and PR

Waxing philosophical this morning.   Indie music business.  This is your business, your brand and you as an artist.  You need to make yourself shine through all of the muck and bland stuff that is out there in the mainstream. You need to burst forth onto the scene just to get a few measly likes on your Facebook page or follows on that Twitter account.  Each button push is like a trophy gathered in continual onslaught of war on music and fighting the good fight of getting your hard work into the ears of thousands to spread your message.  I see it all day and every day. I live it as an artist myself.  I receive a good amount of music for people crying out for airplay.  You can see who is really working their music and who is not.  I become amazed that some people don't give care enough to who represents them.

Research your marketing and PR.  Don't buy into the promises but actually do some research on the internet for how these companies perform.  Especially if they are claiming what they do offer and have testimonials.  I receive a certain company's press releases every day and usually about 10 separate emails for varying artists.  They send a great paragraph of what this artist is about and the links to all their sites except an actual Electronic Press Kit or somewhere I can download their release so that I can actually play them.  I'm a radio station; I play music.  I can't be the only one out there doing a radio show, who has run into this issue.  I still open their emails every day in hopes that one day, there might be a link to the artist's EPK or dropbox.  Not one link.  I decided to save their emails off to a folder to count how many I have received from them over the last year.  The tally is 2,193 emails this morning.  All different artists paying for PR from this company.  These are PR emails that are sent out to industry lists, but mainly radio.  Nothing sent to people who might actually hear the music.  Do I have time to chase down these 2,193 artists to hear their music through their sites and then hunt the artist down to get them to send me a track or two, so that I can play them for the world to hear?  NO.  My time is precious.  If I were doing a show every day and was getting paid for it, I might have a tiny bit of time to go after 1% of these people.  But, I don't get paid for this.  I pay to do this and I do it once a week.  I focus on putting together a quality show and am very picky about who I play on that show because my main resource, time, is very limited.

I work with several companies that promote and market the right way.  What is that?  Well, there are a bunch of ways to get the material to me.

  1. Dropbox - or something similar like Live drive or Google drive.  Where the artist can share out a folder of their album, EPK, singles, pictures, bio, one-sheets.  Anything they want, to get the word out to the radio stations that can play them.  Very effective.
  2. WeTransfer - you can drop a big file on someone with this tool.  Whole albums or singles.  Your choice.  You set expirations dates. (you can on dropbox too).  But herein lies the issue with this tool.  Expiration dates.  Sometimes I will received these links, but I might not get to my email backlog (and it gets quite huge sometimes) for a few months.  Guess what expires.  I don't get the WeTransfer I don't get the download and someone isn't getting listened too or played.  So please people, use this as a way to transfer files immediately, not for "hey, take a listen".  I guarantee you are losing your audience with this if it's used incorrectly.
  3. Bandcamp - I love this form of transfer.  If you give the DJ a download code.  They can download the album, put it in their collection and comment or review it at a later date.  I do this.  I download the artist.  Listen to them.  Pick a track or two to feature and also work through the album on the air over time.  I'll go back and choose my favorite track and write a sentence about them.  How not to use Bandcamp:  
    • "Listen to our album and let us know which track you'd like"  sorry, don't have time for this game.  
    • "Please help us by buying our album and playing it on your station"…sorry, don't have the money to do this.  I'm not rich. I may buy one album a month because that's all I have for disposable income.  Plus, I'm a radio station, whether you think I am or not, I shouldn't have to "pay to play" your music.  Nor should you have to pay to get played.  This is supposed to be a symbiotic relationship.  
    • "Our album is free, so download it here" as a Name Your Price download.  Here's what's wrong with that for DJs.  One, I can't put it into my collection when I go after it.  It might get lost in the din of "so many downloads" that I don't get to it right away.  Two, Bandcamp spams me with your future releases.  They don't do that with the download codes.  
    • "Subscribe to me for 25$ a year and you can download and air anything you want!"  NO, no, No and NO.
  4. SoundCloud - only good if you are going to include a download button.  If you don't and I open it to listen to your track and this is the only link you provide in the email.  You go into a folder called "follow up later".  Guess what?  I haven't looked in that folder in over a year.  So I'm not chasing you down to get your music.
  5. Email files.  Yes! Send a track or two.  Make sure I have your Twitter and Facebook page links.  Facebook is a must.  Twitter accounts, only if you have one.  Twitter is a great way to connect for musicians and fans.  I know a lot of people hate it or don't have one, but if you are serious about marketing with stations out there, you REALLY need to make the jump into 140 characters.  It's the truth.  Where this medium of submission fails?
    • a. Sending WAV files.  WAV's are great.  They are the best quality.  But if you didn't metatag your WAV when you created it in your recording software.  I don't know the album, artist, date recorded or composers.  I then have to open up software to convert your WAV into MP3 so I can actually tag it for play.  I have to number your entire album and tag it.  How long does THAT take? About 20 minutes to convert and tag an entire album.  Needless to say, I don't do this anymore.  MP3 320 is the way to go.  Most radio stations broadcast at 128kbps.  The crap streams like BlogTalkRadio broadcast at 64 or 48kbps.  They keep saying they are going to 128, but I'll believe that when I see it.  Plus they are expensive!!  But that's another article.  
    • b. Sending MP3 files with no metadata.  Kids, tag your music.  Enough said.  If I have to go and tag it for you, it's not making it into rotation for a month or so.  
    • c. Send MP3's that are NOT locked down.  I'll get files that someone who uses ReverbNation.  RN locks their attributes.  No metatags, no play.  Because the information gets tagged in the playlist on the website and if you don't have any info, no one is going to know when you were played on the show and the only time someone is going to know is if they listen to the whole show and hear me back announce it.  Most DJs don't even deal with the tagging.  I try my best to tag ones that aren't tagged, but in this case, it's a waste of effort.  TAG YOUR MUSIC!
  6. Spotify links.  Nope, nope, NO and a whole lot of nope.  Why? How am I supposed to download that?  How am I supposed to play it.  Oh, I have to listen to you on Spotify, then contact you and beg you to send me a track so that I can play you.  Nope.
  7. YouTube.  See Spotify.  Sorry, I'm a radio station, not a TV station.  People think, "oh, you can just play it over the air from the video link…" no, I can't.  Plus it’s a violation of YouTube's TOS for anyone to do so, even if they have that ability.  Also it's a violation of TOS if you download using a tool and then play the track.  Oh and if they catch you, you bypass the 3 strike rule and your bannd for life. Not just your channel name but your IP address.  Yeah.  
  8. Specialty services for promo.  I love some of these.  They offer great avenues of delivery.  Haulix is the best.  The promoters I receive Haulix links from, I love. Some have their own "home-grown" sites, which are great as well.  But some also limit the time in which you can get an artist's promo, which is poor.  Expire them after 6 months, not 2 weeks please.  Or they don't get played.  All the folks I deal with through Haulix, send out reminders for their artists every other week and their promos are available for at least two months if not six months.  

So, that's a lot of information to soak in, but it's been buzzing in the back of my brain for a while.  I get frustrated when I'm checking in music, because of some of these very things.  I download artists and create folders for check in by date.  Each artist gets a folder under the date of the check in folder and then sits there till I can put them in rotation.  I may only play an artist once when I premiere them.  Especially if it's just a single.  Sometimes I repeat.  I get so many new artists that it's hard to repeat sometimes.  When I receive great support from the PR for an artist, where the PR person shows up to the shows, I will play that artist more often.  If the artist themselves show up, I will do my best to play them again.  My playlists are pretty set in stone for the show, because I have a lot of people to get through.  But there are times that I make exceptions and play someone who shows up because I just like to make that artist feel at home on my show and I truly want to support them.

If you are a PR person and are requesting that I play your artist, that's fine, I will play them.  Do I expect you to show up for the shows?  How can I expect that?  I think it shows that you are serious about your artist if you do.  The UK folks I cut a serious break about this, because they are asleep when I am on the air.  The American PR…yeah, I think you should be showing up at least once and that should be when I am premiering your artist.  I've only had issue with a few PR people who have not done this.  Especially when it comes to making a big deal out of me playing their artist.  They might plug it once or twice on Facebook, or send out a few tweets, but nothing says support like you being there and finding out what people in the chat room are saying about the song being played.  A few other tips for PR folks:

  1. One thing that requires some finesse is feedback.  Listen for responses.  People in chat will usually say something about the song that's playing without being asked or coaxed into response.  
  2. Stick around a while.  Don't just show up for the song and disappear.
  3. Comment and support some of the other music being played.  I get a lot of great responses from other artists in the room over people being played.  It's great feedback for everyone.  And great networking.  Plus it builds your rep as someone who cares about the music in general and not just fulfilling an obligation to be there. I want people to have fun and enjoy themselves at my show.  
  4. The more you share on social media, the more people will at least tune in for a bit.  If they tune in and like what they are hearing, they will usually come back and see what else is playing or stick around to hear more music that they've never heard before.

So there you have my take on what it's like day in and day out of running this little show I do.  I work this show at least 15 to 20 hours a week preparing it; sometimes more.  I love what I do.  I'm passionate about it.  I'm really passionate about getting new music heard.  People deserve to get their art and creativity heard.  Music is healing.  Doesn't matter what genre.  Some people heal from listening to death metal.  That's why I play all genres.  Everyone needs to be heard.  Get it to me so I can get you heard.  Just take a few minutes to get it to me in the right way so I don't have to run around getting it all together for you.  I want to spend my time sharing it and talking about it, not tagging, renaming files, converting it from WAV to MP3 and all points in between.

And to those PR people that think that hiding your artist behind a wall of websites and pages and emails without getting tracks to a radio station to play them.  You need to rethink your strategy.  It's only hurting them and in the long run, hurting you.

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