Thanks to the convergence of computers and media, there are more places to get your music “out there” and discovered by new fans than ever before—from digital streaming and social music services to MP3 blogs, podcasts, video, and more. Plus, music isn’t limited to the car or home stereo anymore. People are listening wherever and whenever they want—through computers, phones, tablets, TVs, game consoles, and even watches. Today, music is accessible anywhere, anytime. You should make sure your music is, too. But where should you start?
In our latest book, The Indie Band Survival Guide (Second Edition), we examine all of the ways you can get your music heard, and detail the specific steps to make it all happen. However, that’s too much to cover here, so we’ll break down 16 opportunities for you to target your approach and get started.
1. Commercial Radio Getting played on commercial radio usually requires a big bankroll and radio promoter. But even if you’re on a budget, there are still some backdoors you can use to get on the air. First, many radio stations have local music shows. Go after those. Second, radio stations have many non-music talk shows that accept music submissions as beds, bumpers, or to break up the talk. Talk shows are especially great in that if you send songs that fit their show topic, your music will stand out.
2. College Radio College radio works the way that commercial radio should: Good music can get played if you submit it to the right people. To maximize your chances of getting played on college radio, compile a list of stations (see Yahoo!’s list at bit.ly/102WC4a), then call them—don’t just send them unsolicited music. If you can form a personal relationship with the music directors, all the better. Target music shows that feature your genre; these tend to be run by students. Be as targeted as you can. And, if you’re touring through college towns, contact local college stations weeks in advance, since they often produce live, in-studio music shows that feature visiting musicians.
3. Public Radio Public radio has an open policy to listening to new music, and it has a large audience. But as a result, there’s a lot of competition. To get on NPR, explore the shows produced at your local NPR station as they often feature bands from within town. Also, submit your music to nationally syndicated shows like All Songs Considered (npr.org/blogs/allsongs/), since music selected by that show will get played nationwide and through the show’s website.
4. Satellite/Cable Radio (SiriusXM) As satellite radio grew up and competitors eventually merged into a single company, it became more difficult to break into. That said, stations like XMU (siriusxm.com/siriusxmu) feature independent music. To get your music considered, contact the Sirius Music Programming Department. (See siriusxm.com/contactus.)
5. Internet Radio Because of new laws regulating Web radio royalty payments, most Internet radio stations are either affiliated with terrestrial radio stations or work with aggregator sites like Live365 (Live365.com), SHOUTcast (shoutcast.com), or Radionomy (radionomy.com). Many stations stream through iTunes Radio (iTunes.com). These sites act as platforms for a large number of stations in every genre imaginable. Each one is an opportunity to get your music played. Check these sites and find stations that match your music. Don’t just submit to stations that feature indie music. If you make electronic dance music, approach stations that play that music. Listeners won’t care if you’re on a label or not; they just want to hear good music. Once you’ve identified relevant stations, visit their websites and follow their directions on submitting your music for airplay.
6. Podcasts Think of podcasts as radio shows on demand. Unlike traditional radio, listeners who discover a great podcast often go back through the archive and listen to past shows. So, getting on a podcast can be more advantageous than just getting played once on radio. Plus, it’s relatively easy. Podcasts come in every flavor: music shows of every genre, talk shows on every topic. Don’t just focus on music podcasts. Talk shows often want to feature music as a break between segments. Search through iTunes’ podcast section and look for ones that either feature your genre or cover a topic that one of your songs tackles. Browse that podcast’s website to find out how to submit your music for consideration. One good example of a well-established music podcast to get played on is Coverville (coverville.com), which focuses on cover songs.
7. Music Streaming Services Sites like Pandora (pandora.com) and Last.fm (last.fm) stream music to listeners based on their established tastes. Getting your music on these services gets you into their mix. Pandora has a submission mechanism (submitmusic.pandora.com) while Last.fm requires you to join and upload your music directly. Both services focus on providing listeners information about the music and artist as well as direct links to digital stores. So although these services are a bit like radio in that they limit listener control of song playback and sequence, they help to bridge that “last mile” between the listener and an impulse sale by offering a direct link to buy the song they’re hearing. This makes them particularly effective opportunities to get heard.
8. Social Music Discovery Sites Services like Spotify (spotify.com) and Grooveshark (grooveshark.com) give listeners access to their music collections and include social and recommendation tools to help listeners discover new music. Plus, they are integrated with social media like Twitter and Facebook. Placing your music on these services can include you in the musical conversation and help you build word-of-mouth. To get on Grooveshark, join and upload your music (see grooveshark.com/artists). Getting on Spotify requires using a digital distribution service such as CDBaby (cdbaby.com), TuneCore (tunecore.com), and Reverbnation (reverbnation.com).
9. MP3 Blogs The Internet didn’t open up opportunities just for musicians, it also opened up opportunities for music lovers to discuss and share the great music they’ve discovered. They do this by blogging and posting the MP3s they’re discussing. To explore a large number of MP3 blogs, check out Hype Machine (hypem.com). Target blogs in your genre and follow the submission guidelines.
10. Music Archive Sites Websites like Archive (archive.org) and Etree (etree.org) are storehouses of music history and are used to share and discover media. While Archive acts as a giant library of recorded media, Etree specializes in archiving concert recordings. Both sites have broad copyright agreements that encourage sharing, so if you choose to make your music available through these sites, make sure you’re comfortable with their terms.
Using the Web
11. Audio Content Hosts We talk extensively in our book about the importance of having content hosts for all of your media since having it easily accessible and online is critical to properly build your Web, social, and mobile presence. Some audio content hosts do more than simply host and distribute your music, however. Sites like Soundcloud (soundcloud.com), Reverbnation (reverbnation.com), and Bandcamp (bandcamp.com) allow people to browse and listen to all the music hosted through their service. Getting on one or more of these services not only helps you build your Web, social, and mobile presence, but can lead to new fans.
12. Your Website If you’ve created your own website to promote your music, it would be a waste if your fans can’t hear it. Embed a music player so people can sample and discover your music. This is where having an audio content host is helpful. The services above all include easily embeddable music players with their service.
13. Social Media Facebook and Twitter are major outlets for fans to discover and share music. Music players from most audio content hosts build social features into their music players to encourage fans to share songs within their networks. Some services, like Reverbnation (reverbnation.com), include creative ways to share your music through banners, Web links, and advertising.
14. Social News & Entertainment Websites A world of websites encourage people to share links to things they like. Sites like stumbleupon (stumbleupon.com), Metafilter (metafilter.com), Digg (digg.com), and Reddit (reddit.com) allow people to share, promote, and discuss anything—including music. For instance, Reddit has dedicated forums, or subreddits, for music discovery, broken into genres; target the forum that applies to your music. In forums that revolve around topics rather than music, you may be able to introduce your music if it’s “on point” to the discussion. But be careful not to go overboard on promotion and spam the boards. There’s an appropriate way to market yourself, as we discuss in our book.
15. Non-Music Websites A website doesn’t have to be dedicated to music to share music. Blogs, message boards, charities, organizations, and businesses often post music. For instance, our band, Beatnik Turtle (beatnikturtle.com), wrote an album inspired by board games and set out to target board gamers. We discovered websites like BoardGameGeek (boardgamegeek.com) that had millions of people discussing the very topic our music tackled. Game companies like Cheapass Games (cheapass.com) even posted our music to their audience. Thinking beyond the recipe “music = music sites” and contacting the owners of these sites can help get your music heard by new audiences.
16. Internet Video YouTube (youtube.com), Vimeo (vimeo.com), DailyMotion (dailymotion.com) and other video sites built sharing tools into their video players from the start. Now everyone knows how to share videos with one click. It’s frictionless and it amplifies word-of-mouth faster than any traditional advertising campaign could ever achieve. Add to this the fact that YouTube is the number one music search engine in the world, and getting your music seen as well as heard becomes a no-brainer. If you don’t have videos yet, it’s time to make some. There’s a lot to doing so, and we recommend checking out our book chapter “Get Seen” for learning how to create, market, and make money using video.
New devices and applications are being created every day that mash up content from these categories listed here into something novel. For example, Flipboard (flipboard.com), which bills itself as a “social magazine” for mobile devices, gives people a convenient way to discover, view, hear, and share any type of content—text, photos, video, and music—with others. If your music is in just a few of the places we’ve talked about here, you’ll likely be one click away in these types of mash-up applications going forward.
So don’t view the above list as all “must-do’s”. Instead, focus on the ones within reach and appropriate for your music. By going for just some of these opportunities, you’ll automatically get your music heard on all kinds of devices and systems—wherever listeners are. Remember, the goal of getting played isn’t just to get heard, it’s to get people talking about you. This the first step in the cycle of building word-of-mouth and creating “buzz”. Once you get there, you can use it to build more “buzz” through the right use of social networking, press, music reviewers, street teams, etc.
Don’t just sit there. You’ve got the basics, now go get your music into the ears of new fans!
Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual For The Do-It-Yourself Musician (Second Edition) and The DIY Music Manual; teach and speak on music business; and are founders of the open and free musician resource IndieGuide.com.