• How to submit piano music for radio airplay

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    How To submit piano music for radio airplay
    by Gary Farr
    , radio creator & programmer, pianist, composer

    I’ve been a professional pianist since my college days and have worn many hats in the music industry for many moons now. Several years ago, I was asked to create and program ‘the now’ successful Solo Piano Channel for SKY.FM radio. I also maintain and program two Piano Jazz radio channels, one on SKY and the other on JazzRadio.com along with three other channels which I also created; A Beatles Tribute Channel, Sinatra Style and American Songbook channels. I get hundreds of submissions every year from all four corners of the world asking me to play their music on our radio channels. Some of these submissions come directly from the artist, some from radio promoters and then I’m always searching for those long lost recordings and artists from years gone by.

    This blog is an insight on what you should and shouldn’t do to get radio airplay from a programmers point of view. There can be different rules for different types of music however this particular blog is geared for pianists (New Age, Jazz or Classical) looking to get their music on my Solo Piano channel and/or the Piano Jazz channels. Even if you are looking to submit or promote another genre of music, in general, this should give you some basic insight.

    Radio Promoters
    Certainly submitting music on your own can be time consuming but if you are on a budget (and who isn’t!?) doing it yourself can save you lots of money. However from my own experience as a record producer and owner of a indie record label, you are limiting yourself to maximum exposure without the hired help of a radio promoter(s). There are New Age promoters, jazz promoters, promoters for just about every style of music and they all tend to specialize in one or two genres.

    The percentage of submissions I receive from promoters is about 50%. I’ll listen to and consider any CD even if it comes from Mars. I personally don’t care if it comes from a promoter or not but the one big advantage promoters do have, is they know who to send your CD to. They have acquired the golden names and addresses for every radio station and programmer out there whether it be online, satellite or terrestrial radio.
    Most promoters won’t take you on unless they believe the quality of your music is up to their standards. Most are reputable and responsible promoters but a few can be whores and take your money. It is best to research them on your own, find out which artist they have been handling successfully and see if they fit your style of music. You can get good advise from them on how to package yourself, your music and the CD.

    This might sound silly to you but when radio programmers get hundreds of CD’s submitted and have to sift through them, the last thing they want to do is fiddle with the shrink wrap on the CD. DON"T send a CD with shrink wrap, make it easy for us to open and pop that CD in the computer. As a record label owner myself, I’ll have a couple hundred CD’s pressed without the shrink wrap set aside for radio promotions alone. Some promoters will give you mailing labels and have you do all the shipping and mail-outs yourself, some will do it for you. Ask them, get the full low down. Sending PR letters and notes along with the CD is fine but keep it short, I’m really not that interested in your life story, just want to hear the music and see if it makes a nice fit for my channel(s). If I get really excited about an artist, I’ll contact them and get more info. I must say, getting a short personal note from the artist is a nice touch. I figure if you took the time to write a note to me, I’ll take a little more time to listen to your music.

    Uploading Music
    Most online radio stations now allow you to upload mp3 files to their FTP site. If you go that route, that’s fine. Make sure you title the tracks correctly and convert to 320k, not 128 which can be the default setting on most software programs. SLY.FM radio prefers 320k mp3’s. Read the upload instructions carefully! Do it right the first time and save everyone time and trouble.

    Getting Airplay
    What gets airplay on my channels first and foremost, is talent! As a programmer, I am a musician first and really know the difference between a mediocre and great musician or composer. Why would you want to put out an inferior product out anyway! On the Solo Piano channel, most of the pianists are also composers. What gets my attention? Good compositions along with a good quality recording and a great sounding piano, that gets my attention. What really turns me off is a pianist using an electric keyboard. Sometimes I’ll get a submission with good compositions but the recording is poor or played on an electric keyboard. So disappointing! Or, I’ll get a submission with a great sounding piano but the music is unbearable to listen to!

    I know there are some really good sample piano sounds out there. Heck, I’ve used them myself for certain projects but truth be told, there is nothing that can replace a great sounding grand piano. If you are considering recording your own original solo piano work, do it on the best piano you can get your hands on. Spend the extra few bucks to hire a professional recording engineer if you are not confident in recording yourself. Once it’s on a CD, it’s your name and music on it forever. Get some feedback from your spouse, peers or friends before going to the final mix. Usually you will get different perspectives and thoughts you might never have imagined. I’ve even had pianists send me their ‘works in progress’ recordings asking my advice. If I have the time, I don’t mind at all giving my opinion as long as they are really open to hearing the truth.

    Word of Mouth and Promoting
    Once you do get your music on a few radio channels, let your friends, family and any fans know you are getting broadcast radio play and where. I like to see the artists on the Solo Piano channel get involved on our Facebook page. Write something to your listeners who respond or make comments about your work. Make sure your CD is well distributed and available on iTunes, CDBaby.com, Amazon.com and your own web site. Have a great looking web site but don’t make it tricky to naviagate. Keep it simply! Get out there and perform your music live. You will get more response and sell those CD’s doing live events. If I really like a particular artist, I will offer them a promotional package at minimum costs and create an artist feature on our channel. Targeted advertising and keeping your name in front of the listeners is money in the bank down the road and can establish you as a respected major player.

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