Thoughts from the shadows of a great American city

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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As we head toward Christmas, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. To make sure homeless human beings receive the food, love, and friendship they need, please donate to the Nashville Rescue Mission by calling (615) 255-2475 or visiting Nashvillerescuemission.org.  Thank you.

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The “Grow Your Following” Series
for Singer/Songwriters and Bands

Part 3:  How to Get Radio Play

by Dave Carew

In this third installment of my “Grow Your Following” series, let’s take a look at how you can secure radio play for your songs. Although this is more difficult that it used to be (thanks to corporate behemoths such as Clearchannel), it CAN be done . . . especially if you target independently operated stations such as WRLT Lightning 100 in Nashville. [NOTE: For a complete listing of such stations nationwide, see The Billboard Musician’s Guide to Touring and Promoting.] Radio play remains—hands down—the BEST way to promote yourself and/or your band.

To get some real-world guidance on this topic, I turned to my buddy, Todd Adams. These days, Todd is an outstanding photographer [see Toddadams.net] and IT manager, but a few years ago he was deeply involved in the music business. During that time, Todd used a strategy that helped secure widespread radio play for Tony Vincent. (Tony soon will be starring in a nationally-touring stage production based on Greenday’s American Idiot album.)

Here’s the conversation I had with Todd:

UN: What’s the first step toward landing radio play?

TA: Determine which stations to target. The charts are compiled according to what select stations—called “reporting stations”—are playing. The key was to get Tony played on those stations. After that, we serviced those stations with his CD, plus background on who he was and why they should play him.

UN: How and when did you follow up?

TA: We followed up right away—within four days—to see if they’d gotten the package and, if so, had they listened to the single and, if so, whether they’d decided to play it yet. (Not if they’d decided to play it, but if they’d decided to play it YET.)  After that initial call, I probably called more than was welcome, but it seemed to get the job done.

DC: What were the results of your radio campaign?

TA: Tony was added on several stations right away, and some of them moved him into heavy rotation right away. This was key to getting OTHER stations to go along. For example, if a big station in Dallas played the single in heavy rotation, it was much easier to get a smaller station in Cedar Rapids to go along.

After six weeks of calling Program Directors across the country, Tony’s first single entered the national chart. It was the first time an independently released single had ever gotten a spot on this particular chart.

UN: What final words of advice do you have?

TA: To try this strategy. Despite the influence of radio consultants and big media, there are still many stations that make programming decisions locally and give new artists a chance.

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance publicist and copywriter.

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