What DJs Like

What I mean, specifically, is what *folk* DJs like in terms of the free promotional CDs that musicians provide to them in the hopes of getting airplay. I follow various listservs, blogs, forums, etc. in the folk genre because that’s often where acoustic singer/songwriters are bracketed for radio play. Most of the information below is gleaned from following discussions on the FOLKDJ-L listserv (an email forum for the DJ hosts of folk radio shows) and from Bob Blackman’s article “Getting Airplay on Folk Radio Shows” posted at http://www.folkradio.org .

I don’t know, and maybe no one does, what the potential or average profit ratio might be for sending CDs to radio stations, be they conventional broadcast stations or Internet streams like Acoustic Pie. It’s a business decision that each independent musician without a record label fronting the bills has to make. If you are about to tour, you do have a shot at improving show attendance if you get promo CDs out to the radio show DJs in the areas you’ll be playing as well as to the influential music editors/writers in those towns. But that’s a whole ‘nother article! To get back to promo CDs, here are some suggestions that will make it easier for a DJ to screen and use your CD and, consequently, increase your chances that your music will get airplay:

A. The CD Packaging Basics

1. List tracks on the back of the CD case, and:

  • Number the tracks
  • Include the length of each track

2. Clearly indicate your name and the album name:

  • On the front cover
  • On the spine (and having a spine-type case is a definite plus for big radio libraries juggling thousands of CDs)
  • On the CD itself

3. Include songwriting credits
4. Include lyrics (if the budget allows)
5. Keep everything legible

B. Extra Stuff to *Definitely* Include in the Mailing

1. Phonetic pronunciation of your name if necessary
2. Warning of any radio-unfriendly language
3. When and where you will next be performing in the station’s home area

And this might be a good place to mention that, if you can get all of this “extra stuff” on a single card that fits inside the CD jewel box – all the better! Anything larger will almost certainly be separated from your CD instantly, and probably discarded shortly thereafter.

C. Extra Stuff to *Maybe* Include in the Mailing

1. A brief bio and your best “sound bites” from press reviews (Don’t forget to credit the writer! Un-credited praise looks like it was generated by your marketing team!)
2. Brief description of the music
3. Mention of any tracks on the album that might be used for a holiday theme show coming up (Earth Day, Mother’s Day, whatever!)

D. Mailing the CD

1. Mail it wherever the DJ wants it! This may actually be their home address as larger stations are notorious for losing track of album submissions. Verify by checking the DJ’s web page for CD submission instructions if possible. Some DJs like you to check with them before shipping, some don’t. But just don’t rely on a list of addresses of non-authenticated reliability – check ‘em out!

E. The Follow-Up

This is very dangerous terrain here! Even the smaller radio show host spends hours fielding emails, phone calls, and postcards from musicians, and it can make them a wee bit testy. So, firstly:

1. Wait 3 weeks after shipping the CD
2. Try and figure out for yourself if the album got airplay. For example:

  • Search the archives at FOLKDJ-L where hundreds of folk DJs post their weekly playlists: http://lists.psu.edu/archives/folkdj-l.html
  • Check the DJ or radio station’s web site for posted playlists
  • Use the search engine at Live365 (the world’s largest Internet radio network and home to Acoustic Pie Radio) at http://www.live365.com/

3. If you decide to email the show host, the approach I’d suggest would include the following:

  • The date the CD was mailed and your belief that the DJ should have received by now
  • An offer to resend the CD if it wasn’t received
  • Something personal to show that you’ve listened to (best) or at least researched their show such as, “I loved your Earth Day show playlist. That Patty Griffin song is a favorite of mine…”
  • And a “Thank you”

F. For “Finally”

Send a thank you note or email. If your CD was played on air, thank them for that. If not, thank them for letting you send your CD, for their time spent listening to it, and for their consideration of it. You never know, a short but engaging “thank you” note may inspire someone to give your disk another spin.

Kelley Martin
June 2006


One Response to What DJs Like

  1. This is really helpful info, thank you for taking the time to share it!

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