Just because the inaugural Canadian Songwriting Competition winners have been announced, doesn’t mean that we’ll stop picking our judges brains and sharing their industry knowledge with you! Stay tuned to our blog throughout the summer for more articles and Q&As with the tastemakers that made CSC possible.
Cara Heath is president of leading boutique music promotion company With a Bullet. Here’s what she had to say when we asked her about the ins and outs of Canadian radio.
- What does a radio promoter do? Consider us like a cross between a lobbyist and a publicist, with a focus on radio station relations. Our clients are artists, managers, and labels. We maintain strong relationships with the programmers at radio stations across the country, and represent our clients and their songs to radio, helping them establish their own relationships with the outlets, secure airplay for their songs, and set up interviews and performances. Basically trying to secure as much attention as we can for our clients’ work.
- What is a common misconception that artists have about the Canadian radio landscape? There are a few common misconceptions:
a) Listen: it is important to listen to radio and check in with it frequently as things are constantly changing and the station may not be playing what you remember them playing even a year or two ago.
b) CanCon at Commercial Radio: it is true that stations have to play a certain percentage of Canadian music but that does not mean they play all Canadian music submitted to them. You are competing against the tried and true, core Canadian artists when it comes to Commercial radio so when you think about approaching these types of stations you need a great song, be active with touring, and have a solid marketing plan.
c) There is no place for my music: You need to be realistic in your targets but there are many different radio outlets that play a wide variety of music. From Online/Podcasts, College Radio (Hip Hop, Jazz, Loud (Metal & Punk), Electronic, Folk/Roots/Blues, World, etc), CBC, Satellite, to Commercial Radio (AC, Hot AC, CHR/Pop, Country, Alternative Rock, and Rock) there is usually a target segment for every genre
d) Radio is outdated: Radio is still a great way to be able to get your music heard by a large segment of the population, however, it is important to remember that this is just one part of the marketing puzzle and there are certain outlets that you would be approaching early on like CBC, College, Satellite, and others like Commercial radio that would be approached when you have more talking points and built more of a reputation. Most likely, you should not be doing a radio campaign first without other things in place.
- When should an artist hire a radio promoter? When you have finished music and a proper plan in place, you can begin to have conversations about next steps and building a radio plan as one piece of your overall marketing plan. Ideally, you’ll have tour dates, a publicist, and maybe even a digital ad campaign planned. More and more these days, it also helps to have built up a story on streaming services too, because radio stations are paying attention to these stats to see what’s working.
- What is one thing that you think will change about radio in the next five years? How about one thing that you predict will remain the same? Commercial radio will continue down the path of very tight playlists and major competition, but that will open up opportunities elsewhere with other types of radio outlets. I think they will continue to be more interactive with their listeners looking for new and increased ways to engage with their audiences – they have to, for their own survival.
- Name one of your all-time favourite songs, and what makes it great to you? Wow this is a tough one, I have loved music since I was a toddler singing The Beatles (thanks to my mom), running home from school to watch Toronto Rocks as a 6 year old; all the 80’s music videos; picking up an electric guitar at age 13 (inspired by Metallica and all the heavy bands of the time); being the first girl at my high school to play guitar in a few different Alt Rock bands happening at the time. Music is in my blood and has always been so important to me. One thing is for sure, I love music that makes me feel something: be it nostalgia, visceral raw emotion, echoes some lament, or the dizzy effects of love – there needs to be that human element that connects us all and true songwriters know just how to tap into it. Music soundtracks our lives.
Ella Fitzgerald – there is something about her voice that I can’t get enough of – “Our Love is Here to Stay” & “Let’s Face The Music And Dance”
The Beatles “In My Life”
Jesse Malin – “Brooklyn”
Iggy Pop – “Raw Power”
Misfits – “Hybrid Moments”
Here are a few of my personal favourites. At first glance, I don’t know what that list of tracks will tell you, because sonically they’re all across the board, but the more I think about it, it’s possible to find some commonality between them: The artists are real. Authentic. They’re insanely talented. They’re not worried about posing, or what they look like. They’ve committed themselves completely to their vision and their art. The melodies are incredibly powerful and memorable. The passion in the vocal delivery is undeniable. The artist is immediately identifiable. There’s an intensity to them (whether it’s soft and smoldering, or unbridled and screaming), these artists “mean the hell out of” these songs. And no one is holding anything back, or leaving anything on the table. They make you feel.
- What do you love about the Canadian music community? I love that it is actually a community, bands helping bands. There are very few degrees of separation from many people making music and working within the industry, and there is a connection / common thread between all of us.