If you want to sell records, there are four mediums that you need to go hard at: praying, touring, the Internet and radio.
Not to over-spirtualize this, but I don’t believe any major move we make as believers should be made apart from prayer. Pursuing a career in the music industry is no small thing. You should certainly consult God before you undertake it. You also will need to continue to consult God once things get moving. The books of I & II Samuel, I & II Kings as well as I & II Chronicles are filled with stories of leaders who sought God initially, but abandoned Him once they became successful. Don’t be that guy.
Touring is pretty self explanatory. The more times you can physically be in front of someone, the more likely they are to become a fan of yours. Most music forms, including Hip Hop, were originally created with a live audience in mind. Later on, the music was then translated to recorded form. This only makes sense. Humans connect better when we can touch, taste, see, smell or hear something. Live music helps us do all five.
The Internet, while it is the newest of these three, is just as important. Blogs, online magazines, social media and the like have revolutionized the way we approach marketing and promoting our music. They’ve also created avenues for just about anyone to build a platform, which also has its pros and cons. Mastering Internet promotions, though, can go a long way for an independent artist. Take KB’s latest album for instance, Rapzilla reported that 90% of his first week sales came from the Internet. I’d say Reach Records has mastered this.
The final stage, is radio. Since the 1920’s, radio has been a free medium for people to hear music, news, religious programming and talk radio. The medium was so revolutionary initially, many predicted that records would soon cease from being made as people were now able to hear music for free. The exact opposite happened. Radio helped propel the sales of records and now musicians were able to use this medium to promote their music. While radio isn’t the only avenue for promotions, it’s still a significant one even today. None of today’s top artists would sell the amount of records they sell without radio. Add podcasting to this medium and you still have a significant means of promoting your music.
I’ve been doing radio off an on for the past 14 years, with the last 6 (in November), marking the period of The Wade-O Radio Show. Before I got saved, I DJ’d in many of the clubs in and around Washington, DC. As a result, I’ve listened to thousands of songs over the years and have a good idea of what makes a record a hit. Based on this, I look for three things when I’m deciding whether to put a song on my show:
1. Good Production
Production encompasses a lot. Is the beat hot? Is the song mixed and mastered well? Is the song’s length between 3:00 and 3:30? The answers to those questions are crucial. Regardless of what you say on your song, if the production isn’t good, my listeners won’t hear your message. I don’t compromise this.
2. Catchy Hook
The hook is the most important part of the song. It’s what gets repeated 3-5 times during the song and will be the first thing most people remember about the song if they get that far. Your hook should be catchy. People should want to sing the song. We should be able to resonate with it. And simply put, we should “get it.” Your message should come thru clearly and succinctly.
3. Good Message
Not only do I look for great production and catchy hooks, I also look for good messages. This is perhaps the most important part. What are you saying? Some stations or shows may not take this as seriously as I do, and that’s cool. They must do what God has called them to do, just as I must do what God has called me to do. Our tag-line is “It’s More than Music….It’s Ministry” though. So what you say on your record is paramount for me and my listeners.
Does this song point back to Christ in some way? Does it challenge the believer to grow? Does it explain the Gospel? Does it rebuke, encourage or provide an example for Christian living? Only telling me how nice a rapper you are won’t cut it for my show.
Now that you have an idea of what kind of songs I look for, I’d like to share with you how to get those songs in the hands of people like me who will play your song on their radio show, radio station or podcast.