Radio airplay and how to engage with the BBC at a local and national level
Radio edits, promotional information, biography and song length are all VERY important.
Although a lot of of the following section applies UK artists only please do read the parts about keeping your promotional information up to date, what the ideal song length is for radio play, why you should have radio only edits and generally how to make life as easy as possible for a DJ to play you.
A lot of this is all just common sense and would equally apply if you were a band in the USA trying to get played on College Radio or a jazz band in Paris trying to get an on-line radio station DJs attention.
We only targeted the BBC with our song as they are dedicated to playing new music. I did some research into the playlists of commercial UK stations and could see no way that an unsigned minor independent act would have any chance of getting featured, we just didn’t fit. If you know better or have had success as an independent artist being played on commercial radio in the UK or elsewhere please comment below.
First of all, if you don’t have one already, make yourself a BBC Introducing Profile. This is important for your immediate promotion of your latest project and also going forward into the future. Include as much information as possible about your act and most importantly keep this information up to date. It’s very easy to forget this last part, time passes and what was once an exciting new venue to play or album to promote over time can become an irrelevant memory!
Please bear in mind even if you already have a good relationship with your local BBC Introducing show, they regularly play you, seem to know what you are doing whether you tell them or not and you know they attend your gigs etc. then you still need to keep your Introducing Profile up to date and include lots of relevant info with each track upload you make.
The whole point of The BBC’s Introducing system is that everything you upload can potentially end up in front of any DJ on the whole network. Indeed I can actually see on my profile when other stations have listened to or played my music. Stations around the country will be relying entirely on the information the Introducing system pops up, they have no local knowledge of you even if you are the biggest band in your home Town.
“We want information………………”
A couple of BBC Introducing DJs have told me that one of the problems they face is a lack of decent information on the music they are sent through. This gives them several issues. Firstly they have nothing to actually say about the music or act they are listening to, even if they like it. If you have a decent active social media presence and it’s been a been a quiet month for new uploads they MIGHT look you up to get the information they need themselves, but realistically it’s unlikely. Give the DJ and the show’s producer what they need right in front of them, don’t make them go looking for you. This advice applies to doing your own PR in general. Further to this the local shows are all about playing unsigned music and new acts from that area.
It’s the AREA that is absolutely key, so no info from you will probably mean no play as they can’t confirm where you are from.
BBC Introducing Manchester won’t play a band from Cornwall unless they have a VERY good reason. Even the local shows are sent a lot of material every week, put yourself in the place of the DJ, everyone these days is short of time, so as the DJ who are you going to play? The act that comes complete with links to a website, gig dates and photos of them playing in several local venues is always going to be favoured over a band with no info, no social media presence and a soundcloud account that hasn’t been updated for 4 years.
“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” – keep your info current and up to date
So as mentioned already, keep the information on your Introducing account profile up to date but also put even more up to date information on each song or track you upload, specific information about that song plus any upcoming gig dates, release dates of albums etc. Keep an eye on your local Introducing programme’s air date too for how relevant your info is likely to be by the show’s air date IF you are played.
Bear in mind that at some of the smaller BBC stations the Introducing show is pre-recorded, following them on social media should give you some idea about how much lead in time is likely to be needed between you uploading and any likely airplay.
The local BBC Introducing shows play a huge range of genres but being the BBC you have to be realistic what they will accept with regards to lyrical content so radio friendly versions of anything contentious are more than worth considering.
“It’s the final countdown” – What would you play as a DJ under pressure?
Along with the lyrical content possibly being a case for a radio edit also consider the overall length of the track, in my opinion around 3 mins is ideal up to 3 mins. 30 secs. at absolute MAXIMUM. BBC 6 Music’s Introducing champion Tom Robinson has some excellent advice on exactly this subject in this blog-post and he favours even shorter song lenghts. His site in general has really excellent all round advice on from someone whose job it is to somehow select music from the huge amount of content his show gets sent. He also did play our song (running time 3mins and 5 secs for the radio edit) on his mixtape show.
When the DJ is trying to play as much as possible in their show, has already talked too much for the timeslot and the clock is ticking down, your 15 minute space-jazz odyssey is going to be the first one to be over looked and a 2 min fast pop punk song from a band you’ve never heard of is going to find the new audience that YOU wanted.
The footnote to this off course is the length of most of the music I make as Flexagon. Indeed my favourite tracks by other artists are invariably well over 10 minutes too, but they don’t get played on the radio either.
Send in your short ones!
It’s an important way for artists in some genres to be discovered but pirate radio doesn’t exist where we live and this is a fairly MOR song so that option was ruled out for us.