Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Getting Airplay on the Radio

One of the great things about being a musician in New England is that there is no shortage of radio programs that will play original music.  In just the Boston market there are 3 commercial radio stations (WAAF, WFNX and WZLX) that have local music programs.  And if that wasn't enough, there are numerous college stations (too many to list here) and on top of that we also have an online station (Unregular Radio).

So how do you get your music played on these shows?  Let's start off with a few basics, if you have a poorly produced song, a song laden with swear words, no apparent talent, or no drive to get your music to the DJs, you are not likely to receive airplay.  So let's assume you have a well produced song and if there are swears you have either also made a radio-edit version or you have made it abundantly clear that the song has swears so that the DJ won't inadvertently play it without knowing it's chock full of f-bombs.  We'll also assume you have some talent.

The next step is to get your CD or mp3 into the hands of DJs that play original music.  A great way to do this is to bring your music to a Social, there are always DJs who will happily take a copy of your latest CD or link to downloads.  The other way to get your music to the DJs is to check out their submission guidelines on their websites.

Bay State Rock is the local music program on WAAF.  Keep in mind that this is a local show so the host has the latitude to play whatever she wants, she is not limited to any particular genre, so if you think she won't play you because all they play on WAAF is Godsmack and Aerosmith, you are wrong.  The name of the program is a bit of a misnomer, the host isn't limited to playing music solely from the Bay State (that'd be Massachusetts in case you were wondering), she plays music from performers from throughout New England. These premises hold true for most of the local music programs.

Here are the links to the submission guidelines for the local programs on the WAAF, WFNX and WZLX:

Once you've submitted your music you are not done!! First, be patient, there are a lot of performers sending in their material, give the DJs some time to get to your music. If you have a big CD Release coming up, make sure to send your music at least a month in advance.

The next thing you need to do is make sure that the hosts of these programs know when you are playing out.  Their playlists typically reflect the performers who have shows coming up.  Read their submission guidelines, they will tell you how to forward the information to them.  Bay State Rock wants you to send an email a week or two before the show.  Boston Emissions wants you to send an email with the band/day date/venue in the subject line. Boston Accents doesn't want you to send show listings, he checks the calendar listings to see who is playing out.

To reiterate, READ the submission guidelines, if the hosts have taken the time to provide information the last thing you want to do is the exact opposite of what they have asked.

The other thing you need to do is look at their playlists, they all post what they played.  This will give you a sense of what they like and what they tend to play.  You really should be listening to these program and another thing you DO NOT want to to do is ask one of these hosts when they are going to play your awesome song, when they have in fact played your song.  This is a sure way to ensure that they do not play your awesome song again.

Once you have gotten some airplay, it never hurts to thank the DJ for the spin.  A good way to do this is in person at the Social and via one of the social media avenues (e.g., a short "thanks for playing us" post on the DJs facebook page, tweeting "Thanks for the airplay #radio name here").

If you have any other tips for getting airplay, feel free to post your comments here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A short primer on booking gigs

When looking for gigs, check out a venue before you contact them, see they types of music that they typically book. Pay attention to the instructions that the venue and/or talent buyer provides on their website. As a former booking agent for a mid-sized club I can tell you that professionalism and courtesy go a long way. Keep in mind that there are a lot more bands/musicians looking for a gig than there are venues, and it's not possible to give everyone the 11pm slot on Friday or Saturday night.

For those of you just starting out, be prepared to start off playing Sunday through Thursday. Try not to be too disappointed if the first night a buyer offers you is a Tuesday night. Do your best to promote your gig (coming to the Social and talking it up and handing out business card sized flyers is one great way to do this). Make sure that you send your show information to the local radio shows at least a week before the actual show. Lots of the local music show DJs program their show based on the bands who are playing out in the upcoming week.

Be strategic in booking gigs, space them out. Your fans/friends will appreciate having some space between performances and will be more inclined to come to your show. The exception to this is if you are playing different markets, it's okay to play shows in Connecticut on Friday and Cambridge on Saturday. Buyers pay attention to this, if they see your band is playing TTs on Thursday followed by Radio on Saturday they will wonder what the heck is going on.

At the gig, be professional, don't be a prima donna, and be nice to ALL the staff at the venue. Folks that work at a venue talk to each other, if you are a colossal jerk to the sound guy/waitress/doorman/bartender they will tell the booking agent. Don't trash talk the talent buyer or venue while at the venue either. You never know who might be listening. Yes, I never booked a particular band ever again after several folks came up to me to let me know their lead singer was gripping about how the venue sucked, right before their performance at the "sucky venue", to his pals. Remember that there is no shortage of other musicians who would love to have the opportunity to play.

After the gig, follow-up with the booking agent to see when you can play again.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Book a gig at a Boston area venue that hosts live music

Below is a list of Boston area venues that host live music.  The links will take you to their websites with information on how to book a gig at their venue.

Venues West of Boston: Booking Information

Below is a list of venues West of Boston that host live music.  The links will take you to their websites with information on how to book a gig at their venue.

Venues South of Boston: Booking Information

Below is a list of venues South of Boston that host live music.  The links will take you to their websites with information on how to book a gig at their venue.

Venues North of Boston: Booking Information

Below is a list of venues North of Boston that host live music.  The links will take you to their websites with information on how to book a gig at their venue.