DJ Michele’s Airplay Tips – Part 3

Photo courtesy of Michele Myers, taken at the Leopard Lounge

Here’s the third, and final, installment in my advice for musicians who want to get airplay at KEXP. Please note that there are exceptions to all of these suggestions. There are many ways to make a good song, I’m just noting general tendencies. Also, please keep in mind that these tips are just suggestions from one DJ at one (very individual) radio station and are by no means applicable to all DJs or KEXP as a whole.

“Radio Food Songs”

1. Instrumentals are rarely chosen for radio play. Try to think of even ONE instrumental tune that is a radio hit since the Big Band era. There is a reason for this. Radio audiences are attracted to vocal melodies. Even a few spoken words (“Tequila!”) can make a song more radio-friendly. Instrumentals have a tough time. So if yours is really good, try to make it fit some of the other radio food criteria.

2. Good radio food songs are usually under 5 minutes. An optimum radio-play song will usually be 3-4 minutes. This does depend on the song and the artist and the DJ’s show (some nighttime DJs love 7 minute songs). But if you are just starting out, making your song 4 minutes or shorter greatly increases your chance of exposure.

3. Good radio food songs have strong, memorable melodies. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure your song has a good hook!! Make sure it is original. You should be able to hum it in the shower…

4. Don’t use clichés in your lyrics. At KEXP we’re looking for songs that are original. Be poetic, enigmatic and look for the unique in your writing. Has someone else used that lyric? If so, then change it up a bit. Remember that most great art has an element of mystery to it.

5. Good radio food songs have momentum, that means that there is movement and drive in the beginning (first few seconds) of a song.

Think about how long it takes you to turn off the radio in your car when you aren’t into something. It takes a DJ just that long to decide the song doesn’t happen fast enough. Watch out for intros! Sure, Morcheeba or The Wedding Present can riff on an intro forever. But as an artist looking for exposure, it’s best to make sure that the DJ doesn’t have to fast-forward thru the intro to hear the heart of the song. The best intros are short and ear-catching. The first 3 seconds of a song will be when the DJ decides to listen or not.

7. Most of the music I receive that I won’t play has one of three common problems 1. The singer can’t sing. (You wouldn’t choose a guitar player who can’t hit notes, why would you use a singer who can’t?) or the vox are buried in the mix. 2. The guitar is out of tune. 3. The drums lag behind just a touch. (As as side note FYI – on most professional recordings the drums are edited out and “replaced” a bit earlier than a human usually hits.) Good players with good sounds are essential.

Finally, remember that you’re doing music because you love it. So however it works out, isn’t that what really matters?

Best of luck to you. Boa Musica!

-DJ Michele Myers – Hosts “Nite Life” every Friday Night at 9pm on KEXP

Read part 1: Connection; part 2: Presentation.

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One Comment

  1. Katie Corcoran
    Posted June 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi Michelle, I just read your 3-part blog about airplay tips, and wanted to say I sure appreciated it! Being in a group that just finished our first EP, I found your tips helpful, thanks for posting this.

    from Clearly Beloved

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