Before I jump into this post feet first, here’s the skinny on what I do at the station: as Assistant Music Director, my job is to work with the Music Director to listen to all the CD’s we get in the mail, mark our Top Five Favorites, sort by genre, and communicate with music promoters about their artists’ airplay. Here’s me listening to the new album “Surfin” by Canadian indie rock band To Stowaway. This CD was accompanied by a personal email and a really nice typewriter-written letter. Aspiring artists, take note.
Now for my spiel. In the modern music industry, it can be tough for independent artists to gain an edge. So, as one of two musical gatekeepers to the KTUH kingdom, I have the secret for you:
Humility might mean simply taking the time to tack on a thank-you note to your CD before sending it to radio stations for review. Remind your audience that you value them as a human being, especially if that audience is a broke college student who has to listen to 20 other CD’s before they clock out, who could also influence your airplay. Here are some examples of artist humility I’ve experienced in my line of work:
- Billy Yost, lead singer of The Kickback (a Chicago-based indie rock band), wrote his phone number on the insert of his CD “Sorry All Over The Place,” encouraging listeners to call and chat. We got it in the mail – so I called. He told me about the Corn Palace of his South Dakota homeland, I told him about Hawaiʻi’s endemic homelessness problem. He got a spot in the Top Fives that week, I got to riff with a great up-and-coming artist and get the true inside scoop on what would become one of my favorite summer albums.
- Rachael Yamagata, independent singer-songwriter, called the station for a live-on-the-air phone interview during my weekly radio show “The Bubble Bunch.” She told me about how she got her start stalking Bumpus and bringing them coffee at 4am until they finally let her into their band, I told her a bad pun about how trees go online (spoiler: they log on). She got major promotion for her Honolulu concert, I got promotion for my show and the thrill of talking to an artist I admire.
So there you have it. Humility. Artists benefit from it, their audiences are made to feel special and valued. Everyone wins.