Tag Archives: indie musicians

Learn How To Get Radio Airplay The Right Way

In the video there’s a bit of role-playing through examples to illustrate the method explained here in this blog.


Many artists reach out to me on how to get radio airplay. It’s a big subject that confuses DIY musicians because music submission to radio is so common, but getting accepted isn’t. I’ve set out to remedy this for musicians who are serious about growing their audience using one of the best methods: radio airplay on specific media platforms.


Over the past few months I’ve talked about Super-Fans, Audience Growth, and the particulars of what works for Successful Indie Artists.

Radio airplay is one of the methods of exploding your fan base, as well as your music income.

Start with how to NOT get radio airplay

Radio airplay and promotion continues to be a beneficial means of growing your music as an indie or unsigned artist. However, there is a way to get airplay that is more beneficial to you than how 99% of artists do it.

  • Submitting your songs to every station who accepts and plays indie music is not the way.
  • Sending DM messages to radio shows or stations on Twitter is not the way.
  • Emailing stations your mp3 song is not the way.

How to get radio airplay that actually works

One of the best ways to learn how to get radio airplay is by seeing examples that work.  Just like everyone else, I’ve made some big mistakes in reaching out to radio stations to get my platform picked up. The key though is recognizing what works and what doesn’t, and making a pivot on the stuff that isn’t producing the results you want.

Most of us are used to seeing blanket emails that were obviously sent to a ton of people, with no specific individual in mind to receive it. Think about group messages on Facebook or group texts. Even if the person reaching out is a good friend, those are kind of annoying, aren’t they? Treat the person you want to contact the way you want to be treated. Send them an individual note. Before that, have an experience with their station that you can talk about when you email or contact them. By doing this, you show that you’re a genuine person who wants to build community and add value to the station or radio program with your music.

This is the method that I used to get my indie radio show heard around the country and across the world. I first did all the wrong things to grow my radio show. I sent the blanket emails, to both people that I know and those I didn’t. I got the same response from both endeavors: silence. Those tactics didn’t work for me and rarely work for others. There’s a reason why so many artists feel scammed when they pay for radio promoters to pitch their music to stations that get zero airplay from the endeavor.

The real secret to getting radio airplay is a mindset change. Shift from music marketing to community building.”Or as Ghandi said, “Be the difference you want to see in the world.” It’s the Golden Rule. It’s what makes the connections that we all have to build (the real ones, not the mouse clicks that pretend to be connections). Treat those you want to feature you like you want to be treated. It’s the pivot we have to make to see real growth happen.

When I made the pivot, and changed my approach, I found that it actually works. The details and step-by-step process of what to do, how to do it, and why is chronicled in my book book The DIY Musician’s Radio Handbook. The Handbook can also be used in your endeavors to grow your audience online via social media and with gigging, as well as reaching out to other music and media mavens for networking.


What Happens When Your Dreams Change Shape

I’ve noticed that our dreams aren’t always permanent things.

They can change.

Dreams changing shape or mutating into new things is good, not something that should make you nervous. I’ve heard people say with alarm, “But I used to want to do this thing with all my heart but I don’t know if I want that anymore.” It’s ok for your dreams to change if you are changing too. And it’s also worth noting why your dreams are changing.

Steve Harvey has a great book that tackles this idea called Act Like A Success, Think Like A Success. In it he talks about how to take your gift, the thing that you do naturally that no one else can with the greatness that you do, and use it to make your dreams come true. Harvey calls this your vehicle. Your gift needs a vehicle to take it to the next level, but you won’t always stay in the same vehicle to get to your end result.

Vehicles change. Dreams are the destination.

Here’s a little insight into my story and how my vehicles have changed a few times in the last few years, which was a little scary to me because they’d stayed the same for over a decade. I should have been cautious about the fact that I’d stayed at the same place doing a lot of the same things for so long. Instead, I was proud of the fact that most of my young adult friends were working on their 3rd or 4th job before turning 30 and I was still doing the same work I’d started when I was a teenager.

There is something to be said for commitment and longevity. But you have to look at the lifeblood too. I wasn’t stagnant in my job, but it also wasn’t fulfilling me in the ways that I wanted (and needed) to be fulfilled. Actually, I’d reached the ceiling on how far in the organization I was going to be allowed to go by age 29. And I knew it. But I didn’t do anything to try and improve my situation until faced with some startling realities and that forced me to move.

The fact that I had peaked in terms of how far I could grow in a company before turning 30 should have been alarming (in the ways described earlier) in my pursuit forward and should have led to a shifting in what my goals were. However, since I didn’t have clarity on my dreams, I couldn’t see that there was something really wrong with where I was and what I was investing my energies in.

I wanted to be a big success in the radio industry, but I didn’t want to be in the Pop-Radio space (think Top 40, Taylor Swift, Katie Perry, etc). I also didn’t want to move to a bigger city. So, in essence, I’d pigeon-holed my growth to have to be only where I already was. The dream itself needed to shift and the vehicle to get me to the real dream needed to change.

I worked at a public radio station that operated on a university campus with an all-student on-air staff, but a professional staff of 5 people who maintained the station’s revenues, operations, administration, marketing, and community connection. My role as Operations Director involved every aspect of the station some form or fashion (a bit in the fundraising and administration but not as much as the operations and community connection).

It was a leadership role that gave me a ton of experience in community building, organizational leadership, effective communication, teaching, networking, and management. But as I got into my 30s things around me started to change, meaning co-workers changed jobs and other factors, but I didn’t shift my outlook on the future. I didn’t have a direction.

What I enjoyed most was working one-on-one with college students as a mentor and leader. Teaching someone to talk on the radio takes time and patience. Teaching students how to ask questions that lead to other questions that lead to deeper questions when interviewing someone for a news story is what creates powerful radio. I really enjoyed that. Outside of the teaching of radio operations, I had a direct line into a many young people’s lives and had the opportunity to lead them in ways that went beyond working in the radio or journalism industry. I got to coach them on life stuff, like how to balance their budgets, what to look for in a job and career atmosphere, leadership development, and more. That was the best part of the work that I did, and the one thing I miss most from not being there.

I didn’t see it at the time but I do now. My dream wasn’t to work in radio, or be a big deal in the industry. The dream really was to work with individual people and lead them to bigger and greater things. Radio was the vehicle for that. The same is true for The Appetizer Radio Show. I created the show to be able to hear really great music on the radio instead of the same, boring 15 songs by the same boring 10 artists every day.

The music and media culture has shifted much since 2003 where now you can listen to the most obscure musicians online and on FM from a variety of channels. The dream for The Appetizer really wasn’t about doing something new or different. It was about making a difference in people’s lives and taking them to the next step in their journey, especially for the DIY/unsigned/indie musician. Everyone needs a platform that will give their work a start. The Appetizer Radio Show has been that platform for many artists who have gone on to bigger and greater successes.

It’s important to not confuse your vehicle with your dream, but it’s very easy to mistake one for the other. The key is looking deep within yourself and finding that gift that you have. The gift is the one thing you do naturally without bringing in education or training. It isn’t something someone taught you. It is something you were born with. What is it that people around you say you do naturally that is better than anyone else? That’s your gift.

If you don’t know what your gift is, ask some of your closest friends what they think. Then compare notes. I know that I’m naturally an Empoweror (made up word for “one who empowers”). My communications with people, whether online or in person, are done naturally and intentionally to lead to a positive result, even when I’m upset or holding someone accountable. Yet empowering and encouragement aren’t my gifts. They are a part of the gift, but not the whole enchilada.

My gift is that I’m a great listener who thinks objectively and puts pieces together to create a strong perspective and clarity. I can hear the stories people tell me and naturally connect the dots to what is really going on without knowing all the specifics. I’m good at reading people’s mail, as the saying goes. My natural inclination is to take that discernment and communicate in an edifying way that brings encouragement to the person I’m speaking with.  Positive results and outcomes are the results produced. This gift moves people forward, gives them clarity and direction, and takes them to new successes.

I see now how my gift has been used in the past careers I’ve had, yet none of the jobs or careers were the dream. The dream is bigger. What I think is my dream now is probably bigger in reality than what I imagine it is at this point. As I grow and increase the spread of who I am and become more recognizable, the dream will grow too, and the vehicles that take me there will change.

The same is true for you. The vehicle you’re in now to take you to your dream will morph, switch, change, or mutate. Some vehicles you’ll still interact with or catch a ride with periodically as you grow. Others you’ll never see again. The vehicle is what changes, but not the dream itself. The key it to really understand and have confidence in what the heart of your dream is so that you don’t confuse yourself and your direction like I did.

Do you know what your gift is? Can you recognize where you are right now as being a transport to get you closer to fulfilling your dream? How has your dream and your vehicle shifted or grown in the past year? These are the questions to reflect on to see how you’re progressing.

Since you know my gift, let me utilize to benefit you. Reach out to me and tell me your dream and the transport (vehicle) you’re in right now to get to your end goal. Leave a comment or Contact Me and let’s talk.

[feature image by Jeronimo Sanz]

How I Learned The Next Step To Take

Photo Credit: MoDOT Photos

Photo Credit: MoDOT Photos

Honestly one thing I’ve struggled with for a long time is admitting my mistakes. The fear is that if I show chinks in my armor, I’ll be less appealing and less trusted by the people I want to help. But the truth is, without revealing my errors and mistakes I let you down and don’t allow for real connection to take place.

Since I’ve not done this much in the past, or in our previous interactions, I apologize. I want to serve you in the best way I can, so that you can have the success with your music and projects that you dream of.

One thing that has kept me from moving forward with some of the work I’ve done over the last year is not knowing which direction to go, what steps to take, or if I made a decision about one thing and it didn’t work, I would have wasted time, energy, emotion and money on a dead end.

Do you ever feel that way?

That fear kept me stuck for several months. Two years I left one job I’d been at for over a decade and started doing something completely different. A year later that new job transitioned into something different, and I couldn’t stay on as I had originally planned. I found myself in an unknown space, with the future not looking so certain as I had planned.

Continuing to work on The Appetizer Radio Show and doing a some projects with a few emerging musicians kept me connected to music and media instead of leaving all of that past life behind. But I was honestly without direction on what to do with my experience and passion, where to go, and what to do.

I read a lot on a variety of subjects, especially small business growth, marketing, entrepreneurship, and leadership. One subject that became a constant thread in my reading was teachers and mentors. Several outlets stated that one of the best ways to weed through the noise, overcome obstacles and find pathways to reach your goals is to find a mentor or coach. So I started looking for one.

The difficulty in this search is that there are plenty of teachers and coaches for small businesses. There aren’t many coaches for people whose experience is in radio, media or indie music. I did find a few well-meaning individuals who weren’t really interested in taking on new people, and one who was willing to talk with me for 30 minutes about what I was looking for. But he wanted $120 for me to just talk with him for half an hour.

I couldn’t do that financially, so I moved on.

It took a while to find a coach who spoke my language, I connected with right away, and who shared a similar path and journey. After much searching, I did find that coach and mentor. We’ve been working together for about 10 months now and it has been more than worth the investment. Actually, working with my coach has paid for itself a few times over. Here’s why:

I know that I’d still be spinning my wheels, questioning my decision making and living with more frustration in the lack of results for my efforts if I hadn’t taken that next step and sought help from a coach and mentor.

color close upYes, I am a coach for musicians and entrepreneurs. But I don’t have all the pieces figured out in my own path, which is why I have a coach whom I trust, respect, and value. Working with him has helped me find the next steps in my journey. All of the great leaders and coaches in any field have others who are helping to guide them to their next win.

Your next step could be the result of a conversation with a potential mentor and coach.

You and I are both on journeys of finding growth and success with the work we do. You are passionate about your project, career and what you create. That passion carries forth in everything you do. It’s a part of your story.

If you’re like me and want to know how you can take the next step in your journey, then we should talk. Don’t worry, I don’t charge people anything to find out where you are and what you’re wanting to do. Let’s have an initial chat to see if I can be of service to you, or if there is someone else who can be a good match for you in my network. Contact me below for details or email me at dgrantsmith@gmail.com.

I look forward to connecting with and helping you grow.

How Musicians Can Learn From Recent Oil Industry Breakdown

For Texans, the oil industry has a strong connection and influence in just about all realms of business. I live in West Texas, both the region and the area as it is referenced. Sandwiched nearly in the middle of Dallas/Ft. Worth and Midland/Odessa, our economy has been greatly impacted by the shale oil boom of the last 5 years. A lot has changed in that time period both good and bad. What the current downturn in oil prices and the subsequent response by the big oil companies has done provides a huge illustration for the music industry to take note of.

OIlIndustry1When the first news of fracking hit, and companies started investing in the technology of shale oil refinement, everything changed in Odessa. What used to be a strip of Interstate 20 had only a few restaurants and one or two hotels on it. My in-laws live in El Paso, so we make this trip west through Midland/Odessa a few times a year without incident. Not so much anymore.

It’s very expensive now to live in Midland/Odessa. Workers in the oil fields make a considerable wage, but up until recently there were so many workers that there was no place to house them. Trailer parks would fill up with anything that could resemble a place to lay down and sleep. Guys would pay any amount of rent to be able to keep their drive into work under a few hours each day. Others chose to live outside of town and commute in.

The boom in the oil industry created more jobs than the economy had experienced before. Smaller businesses could no longer attract and keep employees because people could make so much more money working for an oil company doing manual labor. Whether it was fastfood workers or front desk people at hotels, every business was in a constant state of hiring. The growth in the industry and the amount of new businesses opening to enter the market space led to an influx of people and a boost to the economy.

However, outside influences have recently put a negative spot on the once booming shale oil/fracking industry. OPEC’s decision to keep production at a high point has dropped the price of oil down significantly, which is a great thing for commuters like you and I. The oil barrons don’t see low fuel prices the same way.

The big and medium-sized oil companies have responded by laying off thousands of workers. Suddenly, the supply and demand quota doesn’t produce the same revenue that it did even a few years ago. In the name of the Benjamins (which is what it’s all about in most business industries), future planning and growth get put on hold so that the big wigs can continue to live frivolously. Corporate bosses might be taking small pay cuts, but when cutbacks are needed it begins with the day-laborers.

MusicansPlayInBarWhat this has to do with the music industry is pretty basic. A one time there was a great demand for independent producers of content in a marketplace seeking new players in the game. However, that time is no longer here. The music industry is overflowing with creative and talented musicians and artists creating new work every day. Then there are countless other artists attempting to enter the market every minute. Some of these new names have the talent and depth to make an impact. Others aren’t there yet, but still they are trying to compete and sale their wares.

The music fan has responded accordingly by changing the way they consume music and media, expecting most of it to be free to them in every way. A smaller niche audience is still willing to buy music, but only on their terms and only artists who connect with them in a certain way.

Established names are continuing to reinvent their presentations, alter their sound, and do what they can to be first-of-mind with a mostly fickle music audience. Pop artists who used to sell millions of albums the first week of release are re-thinking their strategy when record sales are at an all-time low and streaming royalties are debated for unfairness.

What every musician has to do is come back to center and focus their attention on the fan base who consistently tracks with them. The shotgun approach to music creation and promotion doesn’t work when everyone on the block is doing the same thing. When you have a focused approach to how you create and sync with your audience, the threat of an overflow of artists in a limited space doesn’t create the same kind of fear.

Supply has far exceeded the demand of the market. Cutbacks are inherent every time this happens, and usually not to the benefit of those smaller acts trying to do things independently of a financier. This is one of the reasons for developing a plan for reaching a specific audience is essential to achieving anything close to a profitable life as a musician. Otherwise, the course of an indie musician or DIY artist looks much like the current oil field worker. Things were great yesterday, but the fields which were once ripe aren’t calling out anymore for you.