How to make the perfect radio edit

Posted on August 28, 2019

I’ve worked at various radio stations over the years as a presenter and a music coordinator. Based on this experience, I’m going to tell you how you can make the perfect radio edit. I know loads of you guys are going to be writing and releasing singles, and radio play can really maximise your exposure. It has the ability to get your music in front of as many people as possible. So here are 3 easy tips:

Tip no.1 - edit out the swearing

You may have noticed loads of artists (even the squeaky-clean ‘pop’ ones!) have swearing in their songs, but they know if they want any chance of getting it played on the radio, they have edit it out. Swearing may be okay on your album but it’s still not okay on the radio. How you edit out the swear word is up to you, but here are a few examples I have heard. You could reverse the word, replace it with another word that rhymes, or replace the swearing with a sound, a bell or hitting a drum.

As a music coordinator, I receive loads of emails from artists who are sending in their tracks. So you need to make sure it’s as easy as possible for us to spot whether it’s a clean radio edit or not. How you do that? Put it in the file name of the track! Eg. ‘My song (clean)’.

That being said, some songs that haven’t been edited may slip through the net. The result? We get in big trouble and we will never, ever play you again. So, edit out the swearing!

Tip no.2 - consider the length of your track

There is a sweet spot for a radio edit length, and that is around 3 minutes. It fits nicely into an hour and you can fit all the components of a song into it. Now, you might say, “but Georgie, Bohemian Rhapsody was 6 minutes long”. I hear what you're saying but that is an exception to the rule. You have to earn your stripes to be able to play a song of that length.

Keep it simple, keep it short. If you are going to deviate from the three minutes I’d go under in time as opposed to over. Generally, as presenters, we have to hit the news as close to on-the-hour as possible, so we tend to end up with this awkward amount of time that is hard to fill. If you can make a song that is 2 minutes to 2 minutes 30, then we can just throw it in there. This is so much better for the listener than listening to us waffle to fill the dead air.

Tip no.3 - the importance of the intro

You may have heard people say you have to get straight into the vocals, but as a presenter sometimes I like a little intro that I can talk over. Make it maybe 5 to 10 seconds, something which gives me time before the song starts to say a bit about you, when the song was released or where you’re gigging. Please though, don’t make the intro 30 seconds long!

There is another part to this. Every week, pluggers come in to play their latest tracks by their clients to you as a music coordinator. They have a 10 minute appointment and want to play 5 or more songs. Do the maths - they cannot play every song all of the way through. They can really only play a little snippet of it. So the sooner you get into the song, into the vocals and display the tone of who you are, the better.

Maybe in the future, you will be working with a plugger, or perhaps, you already are. If you don’t know what a plugger does, they quite simply promote your music for you and get you played on the radio.

A little secret

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I was plugger myself for a year in London. I had regular appointments with BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, 6 music, Radio X to name a few. To let you in on the process… I’d go in for my appointment with someone from their music team and sit down with my physical CDs (which were 1 track promo CDs for each artist or band I plugged). I handed the CDs over, they put it in their CD player, and we would sit in silence until they’d heard enough (which sometimes wasn’t long at all!). After the track was over, they would say “hmm, okay” and then you would be on to the next one.

You can imagine me sitting in this meeting with the head of music for national radio stations, with the job of selling your music in a matter of seconds. How I do that? Well, it’s actually your job to do it. You must show everything you’re about in that time, and really get yourself across. This means I come away happy and will want to work with you again, and the head of music remembers you.

An extra bit

Those are my three easy tips. To add to these, there is an extra little bit from me and that is please make my life easy. Label your track, send us nice artwork, have a good story about where you started, who you have supported, and what gigs you have lined up.

You have to remember that when you send your songs in, there are a million other things going on. I’ve got to talk about certain things on air, I have to remember certain questions in an interview, add new tracks to the playlist, give a listener’s, sister’s, ex partner’s dog a shout out – you catch my drift. If you can send me a simple email with a link to your music (don’t tell me where to find it on Spotify or Soundcloud) it will make my life easier and it will pay off for you.

I look forward to hearing you on the radio!

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician please join us at WaterBear HQ for an Open Day or order a prospectus.

By georgie.palzeaird

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