Hundreds of musical artists send me their work each year.
Every band wants to be played on the radio.
As a fellow musician, it’s easy for me to remember that each MP3 or CD is a piece of art, beloved by its creator. Each song is a part of someone’s dream.
As a DJ having to choose from the horde, I’m seeing that many groups and artists make recurring mistakes that stop them from getting radio play.
In the interest of getting your music into the right hands and making it shine, here are some helpful points…
Eliminating these common roadblocks can step up your professional game.
1. Bad Band Name
Sure, there are famous groups with less-than-great names, but unless you’re Led Zeppelin or the Butthole Surfers in talent quality it will likely hurt you.
Here are qualities of good band names:
- Easily heard in a nightclub. Should be able to understand the name when said over a mic in a crowded bar.
- Must be memorable! You should be able to say the handle once and have it make an impression. Test it. A scientific principle or misspelled book title might be clever, but can they remember it?
- Gives an indication of the music you’ll hear from the band. A name is a brand. If you’re a soul group with the word “metal” in your name, or a metal band with a cheery title, it creates a promise of art the listener will not hear. Inside jokes don’t work in promo. Please make good on what your name sounds like.
Bad Band Names:
-Anything you thought of with a bong in your hand. The words “spaceship”, “dude” or “excellent” are probably a mistake.
-Sexual or genital innuendos are not very original. These are the most common bad names and make you look like a tool. Think of something arty or musical instead, unless you sing only songs about doing it.
-Names that are hard to say or spell are going to hinder you. Please keep it simple and short.
2. Low-Quality Players in Band
The most common musicians in bands who can’t play seem to be drummers and singers. If there is anyone in your band that can’t do their job competently, it’s essential to replace them.
Drummers – You must lead the band. Following the singer or guitarist will throw the beat off. Play to a click-track if you must but please do not follow the other players.
Singers – This one is surprisingly the most common. How does this happen? If you couldn’t play guitar most groups would throw you out, but somehow people who can’t sing are still fronting bands. If your singer is pitchy, off-time or you find yourself turning them down in the mix, please get a new vocalist.
3. Lack of Good Hooks
Think of a famous song. Odds are it has a memorable phrase and/or melody that sticks in your head.
Songwriters must provide catchy, interesting hooks in order for a song to be great. Every song you want played on the radio needs one.
Bill Withers used to listen to other people’s conversation to find writing material. Granddaddy keeps long lists of ideas from his travels.
However you find your hook make it just a few words long and keep the melody basic unless you’re a master. Sing it to someone once and see if they can repeat it. If not, try again.
4. Needs Some Mystery
Music, like all art, is partially created by the spectator.
Leave a little mystery in your lyrics so that the listener can add their own meaning.
The above song “Use Me” by Bill Withers is a good example. We know he’s being used, but our mind starts to imagine how he was used. This is good art.
Straightforward lyrics are fine when mixed in as part of a puzzle or when telling a story. Otherwise, please leave something to the imagination.
A great example is Bob Dylan’s masterpiece Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan is the master of strong lyrical enigma.
5. Copying/Lack of Originality
Putting out music means making yourself vulnerable, sharing your inner self and doing something original.
Nature is always interesting. I’d much rather see one person with a guitar singing an honest ballad about their experience on earth than a full band fronting about girls and cars.
Having technical skills is key, but if there’s no personal story or unique emotion in your songs they’ll likely be dull. Real music needs passion and risk-taking. Continue reading