Promotion is to local musicians as passing football players is to educators: a necessary bane of their existence. Between puzzling over arcane Facebook algorithms and why one hundred “going” looks suspiciously like three people facing the bar, bands often can’t see the forest for the few twigs they’ve repeatedly tripped over. One of those overlooked trees is radio, the primitive short-range communication that was once the only way to get music to a wider audience. Even in this age of Bluetooth and satellites, it’s still an effective medium, and for local bands trying to get their music heard, it has an edge: folks are usually tuning in because they’ve run out of stuff to listen to.
College radio stations, such as San Antonio College’s KSYM and Trinity’s KRTU, are the most likely to give local music some love, and both put their programming online for extra reach. Don’t rule out the commercial stations just yet; as national culture increasingly values local vogue, the more savvy may soon embrace that trend in order to stay relevant.
Jeanette Muniz is a local music supporter, musician, and DJ at KRTU with six years’ experience hosting the Live and Local program, which gives San Antonio talent airtime to showcase their work. She knows the struggle of exposing music to the masses, and she’s come forward with insider tips for getting your music on local waves.
1. Get Your K*t Together
You can’t wing it when you’re in the local radio studio, and the same is true of getting yourself there in the first place. Make sure your press kit is polished. If you don’t have one, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. A good press kit will even the odds in any situation your identity needs to be in somebody’s brain, pronto – venue bookers, industry reps, even potential listeners you meet on the street.
There’s endless information online on how to create one, but for radio booking purposes, Jeanette says it should include an information sheet with a brief bio, track listings, and upcoming shows in addition to whatever digital media you send. She stresses this sheet should be a page, not a novel. Radio staffers have to go through a lot of emails each week, and the faster they can digest your information, the happier they’ll be.
2. Win Internets
Keep your social media and website content up-to-date. If you don’t have a website, at least put all the information that would be on a site onto a Facebook page. If a DJ has any unanswered questions after reading what you send them, they need to be able to find it online quickly and without any hassle.
Also, one person should be solely responsible for social media. Jeanette often sees every member of a band creating uncoordinated content, and most groups don’t even realize that it’s a problem. If posts have contradictory information or are released inconsistently, the band will look disorganized. Nominate the person with the best skill and practices to take charge and put everyone else on sharing duty.
3. E Pluribus, Os
Just as with social media, select one person from the band to be your public speaker. The most important qualities are to be able to memorize and communicate talking points clearly and concisely. You don’t want everyone in the band is talking over each other on the air, nor do you want radio listeners straining to hear a trickle of mumbles and whispers. Your vocalist isn’t necessarily the best person for this job, and Jeanette has seen plenty who don’t speak words as well as they can sing them. Perhaps someone in the band has taken public speaking classes, or is just plain loud. Choose them.
4. Don’t Blindly Stab Westward
When you’re ready to sell yourself, research the stations and their programs – what genre they tend to play, which bands they’ve previously hosted, and their audience demographic. If you’re an electro-folk band petitioning the DJ of a metal show, a positive outcome is not likely in your near future.
When you pick one (or a few), reach out to the DJ, not the station manager. A DJ will be much more willing to listen and are invested in the music the station plays. Managers, if not wholly uncaring, tend to have more important things to do.
5. Pump ‘Em Up
While the object of a radio session may be to cast your net into a sea of unwary fans, it definitely won’t hurt to corral them into your wake. Create hashtags for your day in the studio and have your friends spread them around. The DJ will likely be putting out an announcement as well, so have your social media guru put it on blast. If the show is going to be live-cast on the internet, recruit some of your groupies to spam the link in the moments leading up to and during the show when you can’t.
6. In the Studio
Prepare your set well, and be prepared to change it. Put the intended track list in the DJ’s hands, and make sure there aren’t any issues with it in advance. It should reflect a good variety of your musical range, but the songs should also be radio-friendly and not overly long or esoteric. That means no Kashmir.
Also, radio studios are usually small, so think small. Jeanette advises bands to be prepared to break down into a more compact set-up. Bring alternate, space-friendly instruments if you have them, and rehearse a back-up acoustic set, just in case plugs don’t plug or equipment fails.
Most importantly, watch your language when you’re live on the air! A slipped bomb can get the station slapped with hefty fine and potentially ruin the DJ’s career, not to mention destroy your chances of ever being invited to return.
After your air time, make sure you follow up with the station. Don’t forget that the DJ invited you because you made them a fan. Send them a nice thank-you email, as well as any new information on show dates and releases. They’ll likely be interested in plugging you for a few days to come.
Many thanks to Jeanette Muniz for sharing these tips. Tune in to hear more from her at KRTU’s Live and Local.