‘All we hear is radio gaga’

Queen’s 1984 hit ‘Radio GaGa’  is a song about radio’s loss of importance in people’s lives following the development of video and stations like MTV. They tell the story of how radio “made ’em laugh, made ’em cry, you made us feel like we could fly” and in many ways, mourn the loss of it’s role in everyday life “so don’t become some background noise”.

It’s quite ironic that nearly 30 years later, I am writing a blog post on just how significant radio is in my life and in the lives of original artists, bands and songwriters. In fact I am going to go so far as to say that it is more significant to me right now than any other form of music revenue; gigs, merchandise, music sales. Gigs cost a lot of money to run, travel is expensive and venue hire is costly. Unless you are a well known and established act, money from merchandise will really only serve as pocket money in the early days especially when you have to make back all the money you spent on it. And as for music sales….

For the past 3 years, I have supplemented a proportion of my previous income through cover gigs, piano teaching and performing at weddings, corporate events etc. Outside those income sources and hours worked, I have also worked an additional 30 hours per week without any pay in order to set myself up and dedicate as much time as possible to myself as an artist and songwriter. I knew it was always going to be made up of very long hours, hard graft and a lifetime supply of patience and finger crossing in the early days!

However, I have actually been very lucky in the early years of my career as a songwriter in that every few months or so, a lodgement is made into my account from IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organisation) with my earnings from radio play and somehow those 30 unpaid hours every week start to feel somewhat worth it. Whilst the amounts are small in proportion to the hours worked, it is a huge reward of spirit, energy and self-esteem. It opens up the possibility and hope that it will amount to a reasonable annual salary one day.

My point of this blog is that the relevance of radio in the life of a songwriter or original act is enormous both financially and emotionally. It is also extremely relevant to the regrowth of the Irish economy, perhaps an income source that the government have overlooked for a long time. If I make a living in this country through the broadcast of my music, I will stay in this country and put that money back into the revenue stream. It’s common sense. Millions of euro leave this country in royalties to overseas artists and their representatives every year. Millions…

(I was delighted to read today that TD’s had met with a delegation of Irish music industry representatives to discuss the possibility of increasing the percentage of Irish music played on Irish radio to 30%)

Whilst I know it may not be as black and white as I make it, I do know that if the government, the BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) and the radio stations witnessed the look of sheer delight that appears on my face every few months when my work is financially rewarded, they wouldn’t think twice about making positive changes as soon as possible to make it happen over and over again all over the country! It seems like a very simple move forward??? Irish people would get the opportunity to hear more music from their own artists, radio stations could capitalise on new business opportunities working with new independent music businesses and labels and more of our songwriters and artists could actually make a living out of their unique trade.

“You had your time, you had the power, you’ve yet to have your finest hour”. For some reason, this quote from Radio GaGa feels very appropriate and true at this very moment in time…
 Radio GaGa, written by Roger Taylor,Queen



Jumping on the PR bandwagon!

PR is something I knew very little about up until I had to start doing it myself when I started to release music. The only other experience I had of PR was way back in 2004 when a song I wrote was a runner up in an Irish series called ‘You’re A Star’. The song got involved in a little bit of controversy over the level of production put into the song. Word was put out at the time that Brian McFadden, who was the writer of the other song had received a much bigger studio production than mine and as a result meant that it wasn’t fair on the contestants, the songwriters or the voting public. I was advised to get a PR company involved so that I knew how to handle the situation if asked about my thoughts and views on it. I was so naive, and wasn’t completely sure what really was going on behind the scenes. I was also naive to the HUGE amount of money that PR was going to cost me and boy did it cost me. Not hundreds, THOUSANDS!!! Whilst having my name broadcast to a million people over a couple of nights was a huge achievement for me, the experience left me broke as I made very little money from the song and single release! So not only did my song lose the competition, I lost a lot of money!! An eye-opening experience for sure.

When it came to releasing my own music, 7 years later I decided that I could give the PR side of it a go myself. A very risky move I know but there was no budget there for PR so I had to bank on myself. The result were better than I had hoped for or imagined. I managed to secure a national TV and radio appearance from one particular press release and reached a radio audience of around 400,000 people without spending a penny!!

The downside is that PR really is a ‘luck of the draw’ kind of thing and something that is relevant today might be completely irrelevant tomorrow. 

I believe that for PR to work really well, you need someone in that role who is as good at spotting an opportunity as they are at writing and presenting the press release. For example, the horse-meat issue is huge at the moment. When that story broke, that became a priority in the news and any ‘horse’ related items would have been swallowed up 🙂 by the media for those couple of days. It’s all about timing and finding an angle about your event or your release that is going to have an appeal about it right at that moment in time. It is however a pain in the backside too if you are doing it by yourself. Obviously it takes a lot of time to get the release ready and then get it out. You also need to be in a position to stop whatever you are doing right at any particular moment and jump on the PR bandwagon whilst the story or your angle is still hot!!

By the way, these thoughts and blog posts are just my opinions. I don’t claim to have the right answers but I can tell you about my experiences and perhaps there is something in there you will find interesting or useful! Till next time! Image