Becoming a radio sensation isn’t easy. We’ve all dreamt of having our own song surprise us on our favourite radio station – but, as John Zucco from The Right Profile told me, “the fact is most artists don’t get any [radio play], as it’s super competitive.” So, how does an independent artist get their music on the radio? For many musicians, the path to air-play is hard to navigate: What if your music isn’t commercial? What if you don’t have management? What if you can’t afford a publicist? Well, I sat down with a number of music publicists and radio pluggers to help you understand how to get on the radio-waves!
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Of all the interviews conducted, it was a common approach that artists should all begin their journey to radio with a DIY approach. Through the many avenues available in Australia, there is a path for all genres, but planning is crucial. Stephen Green from SGC Media clearly summed this up for me: “first thing is to be realistic about where your music fits. If you do crossover classical music, you’re not going to get on Triple J no matter who plugs it. If you’re a rock band, you’re not going to get on a pop station. You’d be surprised how many people miss this crucial step in planning” – so research what platforms suit your music style and go full-steam ahead!
TRIPLE J UNEARTHED
Australia is very fortunate to have the Triple J Unearthed platform. It is a free upload service that, according to Caitlin Crawley from Habit Music Company, “is a great way to get in front of Unearthed and Triple J presenters and clock up some reviews too”. By building a profile and uploading your music you will automatically have the opportunity to be played on the digital Unearthed Radio. “In some cases, all the presenters actually listen to all that music – and if they decide to play it on their program, then that could lead to an add to the official Triple J station” according to Michael Mathews from Michael Mathews Media.
AMRAP AirIt is the first free-of-charge source artists should use to be played on community radio within Australia. “AIRit services the majority of community radio stations” says Jess Searle from Collected PR, allowing presenters and music directors at the stations to have access to your songs. However, to take advantage of the eclectic community radio scene throughout Australia, Rob Carroll from Rare Finds gave some great advice: “identify the stations and their respective programs you think would potentially play your music. Get in touch with the music programmers and presenters, and politely ask them to listen to your music and consider for support where appropriate. Be concise in your pitch, only give them the information they need to know – summarised key points are great, as is a well-written and clearly communicated press release you can attach or link to. For the purposes of pitching songs, use links – don’t attach files”. Caitlin Crawley made a good point to me that “if any airplay does eventuate, be sure to shout out the presenters and stations on social media, whether that’s through a tweet, or a tag on an Instagram story, to thank them for the spin.”
Once you have begun to “get momentum and you can see some evidence that people are picking up on your music, then having someone who can find those extra places to fit you in can be a real advantage” said Stephen Green – this person would be a radio plugger. Ben Preece from Mucho Bravado defines radio pluggers as “the bridge between the artist and the radio, essentially taking music to music directors, announcers and programmers everywhere, and pitching the song for spins, playlisting and/or any support those stations can offer”. Caitlin Crawley adds that the role “includes servicing the music to these people, as well as following up in a timely manner, and possibly even pitching for interviews at the station if appropriate. It’s also really important for a radio plugger to keep tabs on when a song is being played, who is playing it, and being able to understand how this airplay and any feedback received fits in with a broader publicity campaign.”
Radio pluggers “understand where the song will and won’t fit. [They] also understand formats and if the track has potential or not. A good plugger will have relationships and contacts at key stations” says John Zucco; because of this Ben Preece adds that “hiring one is certainly a definite way to ensure the right people hear your music”. If funds allow, it is wise for artists to seek the services of a radio plugger once they’ve tackled the DIY approach. But Ben Preece warns to “find the plugger who is passionate enough to take your music to radio and fight for it if necessarily… there are plenty out of people out there who will just take your money, seek out who will tell you how it is”. So, make sure you do your research!
Finally, Ben Preece gave me some words of wisdom for all artists to follow: “don’t be a punisher though, you can only control what you can control and if the music is good, put it in the right hands and it will be discovered.”
Special thanks to these music publicists and radio pluggers below for sharing their industry knowledge:
Stephen Green – Managing Director of SGC Media
Caitlin Crawley – Publicist at Habit Music Company
Rob Carroll – Managing Director of Rare Finds
Jess Searle – Publicist at Collected PR
John Zucco – Managing Director of The Right Profile
Ben Preece – Managing Director of Mucho Bravado
Michael Mathews – Managing Director of Michael Mathews Media