With websites like MySpace, Reverbnation and Pure Volume and internet radio webcasters like Live365, getting your music heard by thousands of people is so much easier today than it was 5, 10, 20 years ago. But the one place that every band, singer-songwriter and solo artist wants to hear their music is on the radio. There is a feeling of accomplishment or success when you have a song on the radio. People write songs about being on the radio. It’s powerful stuff. There’s nothing like hearing your song being played on the same station that is playing bands that are where you want to be. It legitimizes you as a songwriter or as a band – at least in the eyes of your family, friends and your fans and local music community.
I’ll never forget the first time my first song was played on the local college radio station. My phone didn’t stop ringing for days with people congratulating me that I “made it.” I was 18 then, and was in one of the very few bands in that area to record a demo that was being sold at shows. There wasn’t much competition, there weren’t many bands in the area, and we were playing frat houses and bars on campus as well as local venues. Most importantly, we wrote simple, good songs that people liked. But now, even in small towns like where I grew up, the competition is fierce. Not only does every town have a million bands, everybody has a CD, and all the bands from all the other towns in the country know about your local college radio station and are trying to get them to play their CD.
So, having said this, how do you get your song on the radio today? It’s not easy, and people pay a lot of money hiring people to get their songs into the right hands. But, no matter how much you pay someone, one thing that is true today that was true 10, 20 and 30 years ago is that it all boils down to one thing; did you write a song people want to listen to? Really, it’s that simple. Remember, radio stations make their money selling advertisements, and if people don’t like your song they are going to change the station. So, you better write a song that’s gonna make people listen so the radio stations can sell more advertising.
It’s a little crass, but that’s the bottom line, and maybe not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. You want to be on the radio, write a song that people aren’t going to turn off. There is a reason why “Umbrella” by Rihanna is played all the time not “Ride the Lightning” by Metallica. You can sing along with “Umbrella,” it’s not too long, has a good hook, and has lyrics that people can relate to. “Ride the lightning” not so much. It’s almost 7 minutes long, doesn’t really have any hooks, and isn’t about anything people can relate to. Unless you always wondered what it was like the last minutes before you die on Death Row. But, Metallica figured it out. They learned to to write songs people want to hear, and now they are all over the radio.
Obviously there is more to getting your music on the radio than writing a good song that people want to hear, and no matter how good your song is, radio play lists are tight and it still has to get into the right hands. But, the most important thing is having a song that radio will want to play. But is there a place for your song? And how do you write a song that people want to hear? More on that in part 2.