Merry Christmas, my name is Georgie and I previously worked as a radio plugger. My job was to get bands/artists songs played on the radio. In the radio industry, this time of year comes with its own set of challenges as a plugger. One Christmas, I represented Shakin’ Stevens who had recut his Christmas classic ‘Merry Christmas Everyone”. My job was to get this track as much radio exposure as possible. Now, due to the fact it was to raise money it did well in some respects, this was bolstered by it being a familiar song. However, one piece of feedback I kept getting was that people just wanted to hear the original. Despite being lower quality in terms of production (having been released originally in 1985), the original had one thing on its side – nostalgia. That’s the version many grew up listening to and love.
Mariah Carey, Slade, Shakin’ Stevens and The Muppets all have one thing in common - a Christmas hit. The hits are massive income-generating tracks for artists and the industry surrounding them. Mariah Carey has made over $60 million to date, and earns $500,000 every Xmas. Considering this, you are forgiven for thinking that a Christmas hit will pave your road to financial success.
The first question is to ask - is a Christmas song stylistically appropriate in your genre? If you are a punk act, then releasing a Christmas song could be considered intensely commercial and uncool. However, if you are a Bublé-esque then a Christmas track could well have radio potential.
There is a simple answer, Christmas tracks evoke a sense of nostalgia. It is not so much about the track itself, it’s more about the way it makes you feel. Unless you have a time machine handy and can make a historic Christmas track, writing a successful Christmas tune will be a tall order. You may find more success in covering an existing song.
It may seem to be a great time to release in December, as all the major label artists do. However, consider that they are releasing albums to be given as Christmas gifts to friends and family, it may be that your death metal album is not an appropriate gift.
The industry is generally oversaturated in December, and if you are an artist with a moderate to small reach you could get lost in the noise of Christmas. Instead, use this month to reflect and get your plan together for January (this is covered in next week’s blog).
I’ll let you in on a secret… the large majority radio is planned on the day. It needs to be topical, and it needs to be relevant. There is no point in planning it the day before as it will be old news by the time the show is live. This means you, and a band/artist need to be as flexible and available as possible to get that slot on a show on the day.
Let me tell you a story about how this has really paid off. When I was a plugger, the producer of the Robert Elms Show on BBC Radio London called me at 10am saying "we have a slot today for an interview in 3 hours". She needed me to sort it out and get any artist or band in. As a plugger, I said ‘sure, no problem’, then put the phone down, had a mild panic, and rang a few people.
Unfortunately, no one was free that day… until I tried someone I was plugging who lived on the Isle of Wight. It was a long shot, but I gave it a go. To my surprise, he said yes, and he managed to get from his armchair in the Isle of Wight to the studio in London in 3 hours. He did a great interview and brought his guitar along, which I actually didn’t ask him to do. He thought ahead and played a track live.
Not only that, the artist was promoting a Christmas themed album. He had created stories based on old photographs he’d found from Christmases gone by. Robert Elms loved it and asked him back. That just shows that if you are available and committed, then you absolutely have a shot at getting on the radio.
If you work hard and you’re consistently reliable, you'll be on the tip of the tongue of the person who puts acts on the radio. I knew this artist had worked hard. I knew he would show up, he would do a good interview and also be able to do a track live if needs be. You need to gig, get your name out there and network. This helps whoever gets asked to find a band or artist know your name. You need to be the act that a plugger thinks of when they have a slot to fill in a couple of hours.
So, this Christmas, don’t get caught up in the festive noise. Use December to reflect and get ready to work hard in January. Next year may just be your year to get on the radio. Keep pushing and Happy Christmas!