“Start with the assumption that the person listening to your music is going to hate it”

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Radio promo 101: assume the listener won't like your music

Radio Promotion 101: assume the listener won’t like your music

That’s basically what Bob Boilen (creator/host of All Songs Considered) advised during the “Public Relations, Public Radio, & More” panel at SXSW, emphasizing the importance of a great artist story when you’re trying to get radio play on NPR.

Ari Herstand wrote a great recap of this panel discussion for Digital Music News, with info on how to pitch your music to different producers and hosts at NPR. But the thing that struck me most about the discussion was Boilen’s insistence on having a good artist story.

According to the DMN article:

Boilen explained that when he was the music director of All Things Considered he always “made the assumption that the person listening to this music is going to hate it. And if you work from that premise then you have to find some way to tell a story and give [the listener] a reason to understand why this person makes the music they make and why they’ve chosen this path in life. You might hate the music… BUT you understand why they’re playing that music.”

“There has to be a story that any person can get excited about whether or not they like the music” – Vince Pearson, Associate Producer, Morning Edition, NPR.

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of building your artist story, and using that story as the centerpiece for your music publicity (and radio) campaigns.

If you’re looking for some tips on how to find and pitch that story alongside your music, check out “How to create and tell your artist story.”

And on a somewhat related topic, since your image is one of the most immediate aspects of your story, check out “How to create an image for your band.

Have you had success promoting your music to radio? What was your “story?” Do you feel like you’re at a disadvantage because you haven’t found your story yet? Let me know in the comments below.

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[Picture of boy listening to music from Shutterstock.]

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  • Its good to ove your music and have enough material..something you would listen to if you had to listen to others all day…WWW.reverbnation.com/originalb6

  • Calvin Sims

    I think that it is hard for me to come up with a good back story, because I feel it should be real I can remember the truth, but a made up story might overlook some details. Image however, I have no problem with. It’s just a flashier version of who I truly am.


  • Das Goravani

    that hurt, yuk fu

  • Hummm The jury is out on this for me. I really do not care why someone wrote whatever or the story behind it unless I am already hooked on a song and only then may get curious. And most of the time not even then. The music should speak for itself IMHO. Otherwise it’s boring and sounds self serving to me anyway when an unknown goes on about their music.
    I often forget to uncheck the box on Reverbnation where you subscribe to bands newsletters when they fan you and you fan back out of courtesy. They are usually just a yawn and I always delete them without even opening them. Then again maybe some do like all that stuff. But if I don’t care for a song already why would I care about the reason it was written? I have friends who are DJ’s on major FM stations in my town and I never bug them with anything about my music. We all talk more about animal rescue than music hahahaha. They all know I’m a musician and I figure if they cared, they’d ask.

  • Well, I think the story is way of getting people TO the music. Like, if a blogger has two CDs in front of him and he only has time to listen and review one of them, he’ll probably look at the one-sheet or press release or whatever, and open up the CD from the band with the more interesting story. At that point, you’re right — nothing should matter but the quality of the music, and how it moves you, but until you’ve heard it, you only have words to go on. Also, in the case of your DJ friends, I know how you feel exactly. I tend to be that same way, especially when they’re people in the industry who are inundated with artist requests. BUT… then again, there’s that saying, “You don’t ask; you don’t get.”