- or -
Why I Don't Understand the Whole "I Hate Radio" Thing
Attitude is everything. A lot of people say that. I'd like to prefix it with two more words: "A" and "good". Anyone can have an attitude, but not everyone has a
For example: how many songwriters do you know who complain about the radio? I'm not talking about the people who say, "I want to listen to
, and I can't get it out in Suffolk because the signal's too weak. " No, I'm talking about the writers and musicians who flip from station to station grumbling, "This is all crap. Radio sucks. It used to be good back in [insert appropriate year here], but now it's all crap. " Some artists and songwriters think it's chic to put down radio, but what does this kind of attitude really accomplish?
I don't want to get off on a
-type rant here, but my experience has been that when this happens, the 'radio' writers don't want to be near (much less work with) these 'artists' because they don't want to be put down. Rather than contributing to the songwriting community, this divides it. But think about it for a second: can you name a major artist or act who didn't have at least one radio hit, even if it wasn't penned by the band? When it comes to making a living as a songwriter, radio and record sales are king of the revenue hill. So why hamstring yourself by dissing radio? I don't get it. How else do you plan to sell records?
Which leads me to another example. I bought the Backstreet Boys release,
, and on several occasions other songwriters have seen the CD in my listening rack in the studio. One of them actually laughed and asked, "You bought that?" Of course I bought it! To date, it's sold over 11 million copies and has been on the
for 59 weeks. How can I ignore that? Shouldn't I listen to the material that's currently at the top of the heap that I'm trying to climb?
I'm not saying that you should copy what you hear. On the contrary, I'm saying that if you watch the trends unfold in the markets that reflect your style, maybe you can predict where things will go. Then you can take advantage of new opportunities. Look at the Shania Twain/Faith Hill Effect (for lack of a better term). New Country and Top 40 were getting close enough in production style that someone saw the potential to shop the same material to both markets. Other songwriters and publishers soon followed suit, and now you can actually change radio stations in mid-song and hear a different artist covering the same song in a completely different genre. For a songwriter, what could be better than having the same song on two different charts?
Okay, forget trends. Forget predicting the wild animal of the entertainment business. How about just knowing where to shop your songs? I remember hearing a brand new country artist a few years back. I picked up her CD because I thought she'd be perfect for a song of mine. It didn't pan out for me, but just recently I heard a demo by another songwriter that also fit the artist, so I recommended her to the writer as a potential pitch. Will he get a cut on her next record? I hope so. If he does, then I can smile without reservation and know that I helped out a fellow writer in the community. I might even go to sleep that night thinking I almost have a clue about this business. But even if he doesn't get a cut, he appreciated the thought and he's now a contact who might return the favor to me at some point in the future.
Bottom line: listen to the radio. Read
(depending on what you can afford). Watch
(when they're actually playing videos, that is). Pick the sources that give you the best information about what's happening in
style(s) of music. Let them be your
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
. Watch and listen to what's happening. And for goodness sake, don't alienate other writers by putting down their style of music! It's hard enough to make it in this business -- don't handicap yourself with a negative attitude.