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What do the Teletubbies and the Military Wives Choir have in common?

  • By Trev@circlestudios
  • 6 June 2014


Marketing your music: radio pluggers
This month our resident record producer, Trev from Circle Recording Studios in Birmingham considers what the Teletubbies and the Military Wives Choir have in common and why your band needs it too.
So, what do the Teletubbies and the Military Wives Choir have in common?
They both sold many thousands of copies of their record and got to number one of course!  But the more interesting question, is how did they do it?
If you've been a regular reader of Machiavelli's Guide, you'll have gathered by now that there are some significant building blocks you need to put in place yourself if you want your music to go big: a focused brand, excellent social media interactions, a solid fanbase, great music, release quality recordings etc. What we haven't yet talked about is what carries you from a great act with a hard core of loyal fans to a chart topping megaband?  Well, if you haven't yet spotted it, it's the key element that both the military wives and the Teletubbies had; and of course both had acquired it by very different routes. The Teletubbies by dint of their popular children's television show and the military wives because they had both television and radio support for their campaign.  What is that characteristic? Simples.  Exposure. And its something that we haven't really talked about in any depth in Machiavelli's Guide to date.  I guess it was implied of course, in that we have talked about how you need to get out there, to play a lot of shows, to connect with audiences and to build your fanbase.  But we haven't talked about exposure as a 'thing'.  Because while you may build a core of fans by playing live, you'll never really 'make it' unless you can hit the mass market.  And believe it or not, in the communication age that has become harder to do. Not easier. 
Why? Well, because you are only a couple of clicks away from getting your PR online, it has become increasingly difficult to be heard through the noise of everyone else trying to do exactly the same thing.  While there is a global audience out there just waiting to discover you, how are they going to know you exist in the first place?  We talked in http://www.supajam.com/blog/article/How-to-ensure-your-music-goes-viral-1 about how the right video, if it goes viral, can help you reach a wider audience.  But that needs some clever original thinking (and I'm not going to do that for you here!). There is of course the well-trodden path of a gruelling gig schedule and the festival scene. But fundamentally you can only introduce yourself to so many people by playing in front of them.  So once you have built your core audience, you need to think about what you can do to reach a wider one.  
 The well-trodden path to wider exposure, if you don't have your own popular tv show like the Teletubbies, is radio play.  And while radio is on the decline as a medium, especially amongst the younger generation, it's still probably the easiest means to achieve wider exposure.  But how do you go about getting radio play? Well the first thing you need to think about, as ever, is your audience.  Who are they? What do they listen to?  You see, there's no point pitching your music to a station that none of your audience would be seen dead listening to, and even less point pitching it to a station that doesn't play your genre.  So the first thing you need to do is your research.  Which stations and audiences would your music most likely appeal to? A good place to start your research is www.mediauk.com/radio and or Music Week magazine. Once you've decided on your potential targets, that isn't the end of the matter.  First you'll want to understand how wide their audience actually is.  Now some of you might take the view that any new audience is worthwhile.  But in a world where there are endless numbers of radio stations, both online and otherwise, in my view it pays at the very least to prioritise your efforts.
Once you have researched what radio stations you want to target you could of course write directly to the Head of Music with your EPK (we talked about them over here in case you'd forgotten: http://www.circlestudios.co.uk/blog/machiavellis-guide-press-kits-epk). But how do you differentiate yourself from everyone else doing exactly the same thing? Because as sure as eggs are eggs, you are not alone in trying to get radio play. And if you've ever wondered how a record can be released and go straight to number one in the same week I'm about to tell you...
The time-honoured tradition here is to retain a plugger to do the job for you.  Indeed, chances are that both ThebTeletubbies and the Military Wives had a number of pluggers on their team: radio, TV and social media. Traditionally a radio or TV plugger is a person who has good contacts at the station and knowledge of the types of music they are interested in playing.  Effectively when you pay a plugger to 'plug' your music with a you are paying them to use their contacts and knowledge to get your song played. Rates can range from a few hundred pounds a month to £3-4000.  And of course, not all pluggers are created equal so, if you are going in this direction, it is worth choosing carefully.  If you consider that a plugging campaign on a song will usually take 3-4 months you are going to be laying out a considerable amount of money for their services! (If there's enough interest in this subject I may do another blog on how to choose a plugger and what you should task them to do - comments in the box below please).
But if you aren't going to retain a plugger and decide to contact a radio station yourself, there's a few simple things you can do to make your music stand out from the crowd.  First up, do your research.  Try and work out what the person who receives new music is called and address your submission to them personally.  It's much less likely to end up in the bin if it is personal.  And if you want to really take that to the next level, or even the one after that, don't stop the personalisation there.  Call the person up.  Try and engage with them on their level (show your knowledge of their playlist, maybe ask what their personal favourite is on their current playlists). Because once they have engaged with you on a personal level they are much more likely to listen to your music when it does arrive.  Of course it needs to sound outstanding when they do listen, but at least you have raised the odds that they will actually hear it! 
Fundamentally, many serious radio stations DO really want to listen to new music.  It's just that it's often so nastily packaged or so badly written and recorded that it doesn't see the light of day. Even Radio 1 offers meeting slots to independent music producers and labels to make their submissions to the playlist committee. The key, as ever, is to know who to ask, to make sure you've done your homework in advance, and to deliver the kind of product that actually floats their boat.   So is your material better than the Teletubbies? Is the recording quality good enough for immediate release? Then what are you waiting for?!
The author of Machiavelli's Guide to the Music Industry, Trev, is a record producer and is the Chief engineer at Circle Recording Studios in Birmingham (www.circlestudios.co.uk).  In the last few months he has worked on a diverse range of records ranging from Manowar's new album to The Enemy's EP. Earlier this week he had Utah Saints in the studio. Thanks as ever go to iain@individstudios.com for the design of the main image above.  Give him a shout for all your band's logo design, photo or video needs.