The College Radio DJ’s Dilemma
So you work at your college’s radio station, and you’re lovin’ life. You get to talk about, listen to, and play all the cool new bands. And it’s all up to you, who gets played. What could be better?
But wait….now you’re getting hit up by bands you know, friends of bands you know, and friends of friends of bands you know. You’re getting CDs in the mail from bands you don’t know, and emails from everyone who ever picked up an instrument. How the hell are you supposed to deal with all the new music coming your way? Welcome to the College Radio Dilemma: Finding good bands among the oodles of options without losing your mind.
Part of the reason you signed up for college radio is you love music, you love new bands, and you might even be in a band yourself. So when you see CDs and music submissions flooding the station, you automatically have a soft spot for anyone who has ever put their heart and soul into cutting a demo CD. You want to do right by them, to give everyone a fair listen.
But let’s be honest, there are only so many hours in the day, there’s too much music, you have class ( you are in college, after all), and last but not least, not every song is destined for radio airwaves. Most music simply isn’t going to cut it. Not to say the music sucks – but it’s just not good enough for my station, you say. Fair enough.
So, how to manage the submissions process?
The Problem with CDs
Too much work, not enough reward
No one has time to listen to everything out there, that’s a given. But trying to get to every CD that comes in the door is nearly impossible too. Physically tearing open packages, slicing cellophane, opening jewel cases, popping in discs, pushing play….skip, skip, skip to the song you want … that’s a shitload of work, especially when 95% of the music won’t make it to your rotation list. Plus, you’ve got a ton of waste: paper, plastic, metal, postage, etc, again, for only a 5% useable rate. Not to mention the limits of storage space.
Judging a book by its cover
That pile of CDs is way, way too big. After tackling a handful of them, soon you’re only picking out CDs with cool artwork or because some other feature or marketing gimmick gets your attention. Obviously, this means you’re not looking at what matters most … the music … and may be missing out on good possibilities.
Let’s face it, accepting tons of unsolicited CDs is an old-school, inefficient process of reviewing music.
The Problem with Digital Links and MP3s
The internet had promise of solving the problem of inefficient CD press kits. But digital band submissions have more than their share of problems, too. Besides the fact that there are way, way too many digital submissions to go through, the main issue is inconsistency: every band emails their music in a slightly different but arguably maddening way. Some send YouTube links … but what if you actually like the music? You can’t add a YouTube link to your stations rotation, you need the actual song file. Attachments aren’t the answer. Your “like” rate is less than CDs, probably closer to 1%. Meanwhile your hard drive is clogged with bad music, not to mention your overflowing inbox… simply not worth it.
And if you happen to find a song you like? Now you have bit rates and WAV files to contend with. Many times the correct meta-tags are not in place, creating yet more work for you. Bands are generally not in tune with properly formatting and tagging their own songs and you just don’t have the time to bail them out.
It’s small wonder many college radio stations simply post on their submissions page “CDs Only,” and take their chances that only “serious” bands will follow through. But you’re seriously limiting exposure to what’s out there by excluding digital files. Besides the inefficiency of reviewing blind CDs, many labels and publicists have moved to digital-only releases, using digital press kits with high-quality MP3s for their promo.
Wouldn’t it Be Great If…
Some college radio DJs are so overwhelmed with the submission process that they simply skip it altogether and find their own music or bring in the latest music they’ve purchased. Some call record labels and ask for comp records. All the while, the unsolicited artist submissions pile up in the corner, gathering dust, while dreams slowly evaporate into the wood paneling.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a managed process of artist submissions. Imagine…..one source to manage all submissions coming into the station. Music is placed in front of you and someone pushes “play.” You lean back and ponder the song….Yay or Nay?
You’re pretty picky, you’ve been doing this for awhile. Most bands are going to get the thumbs down. Nay it is, on to the next one. The rejected band goes into a “maybe later, but probably not” pile. Thing is, this pile doesn’t clutter anything up, it’s behind a closed door. Don’t worry, you can easily find the band later if you change your mind.
Okay next band…..Nay….next….Nay….next…hmmm…this one is a Yay. Cool. You contact the band. After all, the band will be ecstatic to hear your approval, and what the hell, you enjoy making people’s days. WIth one click you notify the lucky musicians.
Then the approved music arrives however you like it: CD or download MP3. You pick.