“Calling all fans of THE VAMPING BLOODSUCKERS – if you want to really help our band please email the following DJs and ask them to play our new single Black Is The Night.” (Insert long list including Steve Lamacq, John Kennedy, Edith Bowman, Tom Ravenscroft, Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, Marc Riley, Mark Radcliffe, Stuart Maconie etc etc.)
It’s an easy mistake – and many bands make it. Depending on the number of Facebook friends they have, anything up to a hundred emails will get sent to every programme on the list. Typically most of these will be a generic message, CC’d to all the shows at once, along the lines of:
Please please please can you play “Black Is The Night” by The Vamping Bloodsuckers – it’s so great and their my favourite band and deserve to be heard on your great show.
All radio shows need an email address so listeners can get in touch. On popular shows the problem is that genuine messages about the show get swamped by a tidal wave of promotional spam from pluggers, club nights and indie labels – alongside the inevitable Nigerian fraudsters, fake bank messages and offers to enlarge the programme’s penis. And of course that means some luckless member of the programme team has to go through the inbox every day, deleting all the crap.
If just five people request The Vamping Bloodsuckers all on the same day, it’s instantly obvious the band have put them up to it. All further emails about the band over the next few days will get deleted on sight. And if The Vamping Bloodsuckers have a large following and there’s a lot of emails to delete, the group can be fairly certain of getting noticed and remembered by the all-important producer of the show. And not in a good way.
Whether or not your track gets picked for airplay will depend almost 100% on what it sounds like. If it’s not in the right style for the show (or if it simply sounds pants) no amount of emails will make it sound any different. The only thing that matters is getting the show’s producer or presenter to actually listen in the first place. Will getting a hundred emails make them more likely to seek out the Vamping Bloodsuckers from the hundreds of CDs stacked up on their desk?
Not as such.
And yet it’s still possible to make intelligent use of email, text and Twitter to increase the chance of your record getting (at least) listened to. Here are your uncle Tom’s suggestions:
1) Make personal contact with one show at a time – don’t send mass tweets or emails
2) No need to pretend to be someone else – it’s fine to admit you’re in a band
3) Focus on just one song, and give people a Bandcamp or Soundcloud link to streaming audio.
4) Put your biog/photo/release info on the Bandcamp/Soundcloud page, not in your email/tweet.
5) People you contact then have the option of checking you out with a single click.
6) If busy, they’re less likely to click on a Youtube link, a Download This File link, or on an attached Mp3
7) Tip: actually listen to any show you’re targeting, get to know its culture and how it works.
8) If it’s a live show, occasionally tweet/text something funny/interesting about the on-air discussion.
9) If you seem interested in them, they’ll be more interested in you. But don’t overdo it: become a Regular, not a Pest.
10) Once they know you, it’s easier to ask if “someone on the show” could give you some feedback on “this song we’ve got”.
Incidentally, the best way to get music to my own attention is to submit your music to this blog any Monday to Thursday. Team Freshnet consists of myself plus a dozen expert friends and volunteers who listen to every single track that comes in. If just one of us adores your song, it will appear on our Listening Post that weekend. If your song doesn’t get picked that week, you can be still sure that at least half the team – including me – will have listened to it. And you’re always welcome to re-submit another track the following week.
An earlier version of this post appeared in May 2010 on my BBC Blog.