Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting Your Song on Radio: It All Boils Down to Relationships!

When people I meet ask me what I do and I indicate that one of my services is media coaching for recording artists, the overwhelming response from music industry leaders is, "oh that is SO needed!"  Yet, many artists and/or their team (managers, label, publicists, radio promoters, etc.) don't make this a priority, even though they understand the importance of it.  For those artists and their team who do make it a priority, good for you!  You'll be the artist who gets more love, and therefore more spins, from the radio stations when your interviews are done right!  And how do you do an interview right?  Well, while my book Advance Your Image and the blog "Doing an Interview? Read This!" by David Hooper (Lightning 100) both provide numerous guidelines, tips, and advice on radio interviews, I decided to ask some of my personal friends from radio what makes them love an artist enough to want to add their songs and to keep spinning them, and what makes them want to pull an artist's music from their playlist.  Here's what they had to say.

Things DJs wish there was a "dislike" button for:

  • Showing up late.  Radio is programmed down to the second.  It is important that, if you don't want your interview to be cut short, you show up not just on time but a little early to take the time to meet all the station's staff.  One DJ states, "There has to be some time for these two people [the interviewer and the interviewee] to find some common ground."
  • Coming in drunk, hungover, or stoned.  It should go without saying that you should never come in to an interview in any of these states, but since one of my radio friends felt it was worth mentioning...well, you can guess this probably happens more than it should.
  • Lack of eye contact and lack of attention from the artist.  "It's difficult to do an interview with someone who lacks focus, and it shows a lack of respect for the DJ and the station when the artist acts like they wish they were somewhere else," says one DJ.
  • Giving a forgettable interview.  "Giving the listeners just the product [i.e. info on your latest single, tickets to your show] and nothing more will make your interview forgettable to our listeners," says the DJ of an AM station.  Instead, leave the audience wanting more.  "When a person comes in to do an interview, I personally like to find an odd thing that they are interested in that is totally unrelated to the reason they are there, such as a person, place, or thing they feel strongly about.  Give the audience something beyond your product to relate to.  You can have the best product in the world, but if people can't relate to the seller you are sunk.  Give the listeners just enough to want more and to want to look you up on the web and download your single they heard played on the air."  Kellie Pickler is really good at sharing funny stories and tidbits that are unrelated to her "product," which is what makes her endearing to the audience.
  • Changing your mind mid-interview.  The DJ of an FM station described a time when he asked an artist prior to the interview if a particular subject was off limits and the artist assured him that it was not and gave him the go ahead to ask away about that topic.  But once asked in the interview about that topic, the artist turned cold and refused to discuss the topic.  Be upfront about what you are willing to talk about and what your deal breakers are.
  • Acting like a prima donna.  Radio stations and their staff should always be good hosts to the artist and provide whatever they can for the artist, but artists should also be sensitive to the fact that some stations (especially the smaller ones) don't always have the budget to cater to all the artists' desires, and artists shouldn't make unrealistic demands on the station.
  • Forgetting the "little guy."  Always remember the people who helped you get started.  This includes the first DJ to ever play you on the radio.  Pay homage to him or her and mention him or her in your interviews, no matter how big of a star you become.  Jack Ingram is best at doing this.

Things that will make a DJ your biggest fan:

  • Doing your research!  I stress this so much in my book Advance Your Image.  It's important to do this because it shows respect to the station owners, its DJs, and its listeners.  DJs know that, if you've done your research, you'll know if their listeners are mostly conservative or mostly liberal, and in turn you'll be able to word your answers in a respectful way.
  • Dressing the part!  Yes, you might think this is coming from me and that the DJs really don't care about this, but this actually comes from someone who worked in radio for 12 years.  She says it's important to do this because listeners and your fans expect it, and many times when your fans find out you're coming in to the station that day for an interview, they will show up at the station hoping to meet you in person and to get an autograph.  Don't disappoint them.  In addition, I say it's important too because more and more stations have cameras set up in their studios to stream everything going on in the studio live on their station web site.  So yes, you will be seen!  
  • Doing your part to make the experience run smoothly.  In addition to being on time and doing your research, help make things run more smoothly by doing the following:  Provide plenty of product to the station ahead of time.  If you are part of a band, designate one person to be the spokesperson who will facilitate the answering of the questions.  This does not mean that this person dominates the conversation.  Instead, it means that person will know which band member can best answer each question and will refer that question to that band member (using that band member's name so that the DJ does not get confused).  If you are doing a radio remote where you have to give 25 interviews with 25 radio stations in a very short amount of time, show just as much energy and enthusiasm in your 25th interview as you did in your 1st interview.   
  • Remembering it's not your show or your audience, it's the DJ's show and audience you're walking into.  The listeners listen to a particular station because they are fans of that station's DJs first and foremost.  The listeners are the DJs fans, not yours.  Your fans are the people who attend your shows.  Understand the difference, and understand that because of this, DJs can sometimes have egos like artists can.
  • Calling the DJ by his or her name.  Everyone's favorite word they love to hear is their own name.  Pepper the DJ's name into your conversation with each of them.  Doing so is one way to make it look like the DJ is part of your world.  Any additional ways you can do this will endear you to the DJ.
  • Being flexible.  The DJ of a large FM station says, "Be willing to be a little flexible on your previously submitted talking points.  Follow the DJ's lead and don't get irritated if the DJ asks a few questions that aren't related to your talking points."  We all know what just happened recently with Chris Brown and his GMA interview.  As long as the DJ is not asking inappropriate questions or questions you specifically requested them not to ask, go with the flow.  Blake Shelton is really good at following a DJ's lead and just going with the flow.  If the DJ is trying to direct you to a topic you don't want to discuss, learn how to casually bring the conversation back to the topic you are primarily there to discuss.  This takes a lot of practice and finesse to do it in a smooth and inconspicuous way, and Dierks Bentley is one of the best at this.
  • Being engaging and engaged.  Treat every interview as any other engaging conversation you would have with another person.  This means you remain engaged in the conversation with the DJ and continue to have fun even when the mics are off while your song is playing.  "I love it when it feels like you've got family visiting in the studio instead of a 'guest'," says one DJ.
  • Recalling your past interviews.  DJs remember every detail from the first interview they ever did with you, and they hope you do too.  They are likely to bring up something you said or did in that first interview in later interviews with you, so do what you have to do to remember something funny, unique, or special in each of your interviews with each DJ.  Keep a journal of this if you have to! 
As you can see, there's a common thread in what each of these DJs have said:  it's all about doing things that  foster relationships with the station and their staff.  This includes showing respect, being courteous, and taking the time to get to know each other. When I first posed my question of what do you like most and least from artists when interviewing them, each contributor emphasized the same thing:  "we like it when the artists develop a true friendship with us."  Always remember that and you'll have a team of DJs across the country paving the road to your success!

Next week I'm flipping the tables.  You'll get to read what artists like and don't like about how DJs conduct interviews and the artists' suggestions on how to develop and foster that two-way street of friendship.  Any artists reading this right now who want me to include your suggestions and feedback in next week's blog, email me at (you can also email me there if you're ready to start making one-on-one media coaching a priority in your career).  Any DJs reading this right now will definitely want to tune in next week!

Special thanks to Josh Talkington, formerly of Nashville's 103 WKDF and now the Chief Marketing Officer of SnapShot Interactive that provides EPK services for recording artists,  Tammy Hill of WDIC AM 1430 Real Country, Sherry Massaro former DJ and program director of WVHL 92.9 FM and former artist manager, and Sandy Weaver, middays for the Moby Radio Network.

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