D Grant Smith ~ Indie Musician Coach

D Grant Smith

D Grant Smith

Is your music ready to be heard on the radio? Nearly 100% of artists think they are just because they have a recording or have had people praise them at a show. It’s not always true. Being “radio-ready” requires more than just a recording, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

There are a lot of things in the music industry that have changed in the last decade including distribution options, the rise of social networks for marketing and branding, and the incredible opportunities that indie and unsigned bands have to make money doing what they love. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of many great young (and older) artists’ stories in their early days going from completely unknown in their music communities to having radio airplay and doing world tours.

My perspective is a little different than many in this field, but it’s from specific place: radio broadcasting. Indie music hasn’t always had the prominence in mainstream culture that it has today. In 2003, after working in radio for 5 years, I was really sick of being inundated with the same 20 songs played endlessly on every radio station across the country. Fortunately, there was public radio (NPR and community stations), where diversity thrived and non-pop artists could get exposure.

I worked for an NPR affiliate station in Texas and was inspired to create a program that showcased a variety of artists, both known and unknown. That program is The Appetizer Radio show. In the past 10+ years through hosting the show, I’ve been able to discover some great emerging talent. The focus of the two-hour weekly program is to showcase songs and artists that aren’t getting commercial airplay.

Most of these artists have music on digital distribution outlets, like Spotify or Soundcloud, but others don’t. While there’s something to be said for putting your music on as many distribution channels as possible, there also needs to be a strategy or plan for doing so. At the end of the day, the music itself isn’t all of the work you do as a musician.

D Grant Smith at Abbey  Road There’s a big aspect that has to be done well and done right, and that’s marketing. One of the most efficient ways to market your music continues to be radio airplay, especially on non-commercial stations, like public or community radio, because you get a more personal connection with the station and their audiences are much more engaged with the programming. This means that there is a higher likelihood you will convert listeners to fans than just putting a song online and sending out a mass message or tweet.

Sitting in the decision-maker chair for what music submissions get heard on the radio and what don’t, I know quite a bit about how this process works, what station managers and programming directors are looking for with new music additions, and what needs to a part of a pitch to a station or indie program to get picked up. Since this is a role I’ve had for many years, this unique perspective gives me a great opportunity to work with emerging indie and unsigned bands and musicians and to position their music (songwriting and recording) as well as their marketing to stations and audiences in the digital realm.

I get a lot of submissions from artists who are not “radio-ready.” Their branding is not defined, their sound quality works but there’s little intrigue in their music, or the messaging gives me no reason to dive into their stuff. If you’ve sent out singles or albums to stations for submission and heard nothing back, there are reasons for that. Not many places or people will key you in on what you need to send out, how to send it or examine the effectiveness of your marketing to stations. If you can’t get station managers to listen to your music, it’s harder to expect strangers online to do so.

Navigation and coaching all involve relationship, and at the heart of everything I do, that’s the biggest element. The people who will help you the most are not necessarily your fans, and probably not necessarily people you’re related to. They are people who extend their knowledge, experience and insight to you through a developmental process of transforming what you have now into what you want to have down the road.

It’s a journey. I want to take that journey with musicians, who have tried to do everything on their own and found that the road is complicated, mysterious and uncertain. It certainly is all of those things, and trying to find the path forward on your own, without direction, can cost a lot of time and money (and not necessarily produce the intended results).

Let me make your road forward a lot easier.

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The Appetizer Radio Show

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