Airplay or fairplay
As I sit down to write this blog, I know that somewhere in the world, within the next hour, at least one radio station will be playing a song from our album "Chair". I do not mean to sound conceited, boastful or arrogant of this fact. But as I'm reflecting about radio airplay, specifically relating to The Updraft Imperative, I thought I would lay that thought on the page first. That thought is, in itself, one which I had not dreamt of conceiving only twelve months ago; yet our little band, which produced this self-funded album from thoughts, lyrics and tunes inspired from sources both supernatural and natural, were just last week ranked 1st on a Top 25 worldwide chart for independent artists. 1st!!! But how...and why...and what, if any, is the secret to having radio airplay on a scale not imagined by myself in times past.
It would be a simplistic answer (though not entirely inaccurate) to say "God let it happen!" I would entirely agree and hold firmly to that statement; but just as God opened the Red Sea, Moses had to journey, beginning from his rescue from the bulrushes, all the way through the plagues, ending up at the edge of a mass of water, holding a staff out as God had commanded him to do. Yes, God was instrumental, but Moses was His instrument.
The Updraft Imperative would possibly still be a band without God's input and direction...but it would be a sad trio of lads fumbling through just another gig...just another practice. Likewise, recent airplay and interest in our music is something we have worked hard to achieve, though we know it is Him that inspires and directs us. We are His instruments.
Would our music be the same if radio stations were currently not playing our songs? Of course, though, to see our songs reach even to the point where they are now, is truly astounding and inspiring!
Can I share my thoughts on the songs for a moment? Chords, lyrics, a beat, a tune, some harmonies, some mixing, some blending, some mastering and there's a song, albeit a simplistic explanation of its elements. It's crazy to think all these need to work as a cohesive unit for a song to work. If my guitar playing stinks, or Pete's kick drum is sloppy, or Josh's harmonies are less than harmonic, it simply won't work. What is the key element to all these working as a unit? I believe it's time...time to rehearse, time to listen to what works and what doesn't, time to get the best sound from each element of the song, time to mix down the song, time to let the song breath and then listen to it again after a while and see if it's lost some of its edge or impact, and then time to listen to it simply for listening's sake!! If all these time elements are observed, then I believe anyone can pen an acceptable song (though time may tell if you agree with me or not). Airplay needs all these elements to be present BEFORE a track, single or EP is presented to any station. Yes our time's limited, but rushing to complete a project or recording can determine the fate of the recording, and hence the radio airplay potential. Not only do independent artists have to battle it out against the multi-million dollar labels, but the tens of thousands of other artists who's work is equally playable. Therefore, taking a good amount of time to be realistically happy with the recording/a is vital to have any chance of radio play. Usually speaking, if you cut time, you cut quality!! Of course being OCD about your music and spending insane amounts of time 'making it perfect' isn't necessarily healthy either, nor does it guarantee a perfect outcome...but that's another topic for another blog.
But what about the indie artist and getting noticed? Good question. And it has the same answer as the above question regarding songs...time! Most of the artists I know are not Elvis Presleys, Bing Crosbys, Michael Jacksons or Celine Dions, though I'd probably come watch their show in Vegas if they were! We will not be snatched up by a major record company, nor sign a multi-million dollar contract which includes all the publicity we will ever need. No. We are the independents, and due to this simple fact, we need to put in the time to get ourselves and our music noticed. And I'm talking lots of time, particularly on social media, mainly twitter (my experience at least). Yes it may cut into time set aside for other duties (important or not), but it cannot happen without an almost unhealthy amount of time spent creating contacts, responding to hundreds of emails, listening and interacting with complete strangers from around the world, joining groups, encouraging other artists, and most importantly of all, an unwavering self believe that the music being promoted must be heard, that is worthy of being heard, and that the whole meaning of an artistic life is having people hear music that they simply cannot live without! Along with time there also needs to be patience, and patience with an understanding that there may never be radio play for the music you've sweated, stressed, pined and processed over...however, having this knowledge sets the scene to be determined to follow the course of pushing and promoting your music. So that if radio play occurs, there is a healthy amount of respect that your songs have been chosen above others who are just as keen and eager to have their music played. And if radio play doesn't occur, it does not change the importance of the music nor the impact those who still hear it will feel.
So what has it meant to me, as a member of a now internationally radio air played band, to have this occurring at this point in my life? A possibility, which I had honestly abandoned as a youthful fantasy a little while back if I'm honest with myself and you. It's meant many things, and yet changed very little. As a musician in the band, who believes what I've recorded is very worthy of being heard, knowing that thousands around the world will hear these songs is both humbling and affirming. That we recorded songs, so they could be heard, it's exciting that they are exercising the potential they have. For myself, I still have a wife and family with duties that remain unchanged, including my full time job, and other commitments outside these as well. I could, I suppose, get a swelled head, but I believe it's a good thing I'm closer to middle age rather than being in my teens/early twenties...perspective and experience counts for a reasonable amount, and I work at keeping myself fairly grounded.
Is radio-play the be all and end all for a band? Not at all. I've lived almost 40 years without having radio-play, and now that I have that occurring, I still believe I am the same, just with many more people hearing our music...which to me is a huge incentive to continue making the honest, encouraging, hope inspiring music. That even though most stations playing our 'gospel' tunes are not gospel stations, the music and lyrics combine to uplift, to put a pep in ones step! That as band members, we must view it as an imperative to continue making uplifting and God honouring music!