work the mic

How to Get Your Music on the Radio: Tips from a DJ


February 7th, 2015

get your music on the radio: tips from a dj

Mark Rogers is the producer and host of "Hometown Heroes," a radio show that airs Sundays from 8-10pm on 93.7 WSTW in Wilmington, Delaware. Mark's show features live performances, interviews, and tracks from artists who are based in Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, a region known as the "Delaware Valley."

Many musicians have questions about how to get their music on the radio, and the on-air experience, so I thought it would be interesting to get a DJ's perspective on what musicians should know before going on his show, what happens behind the scenes at Hometown Heroes, and what he looks for in the music he plays on his program. In mid-January of 2015, Mark and I sat down to talk in a pub just outside of Philadelphia.

Hometown Heroes airs every Sunday from 8-10pm, and can be heard live on the radio in the Delaware Valley, or online at wstw.com.

Full disclosure: Mark was the first DJ to play my music, and my band has twice been on his program for live interviews and performances. I have edited our conversation for readability and clarity. Any additions I have made are in enclosed in [ ] symbols.

Work the MIC: How did you get into being a DJ?

Mark: I worked at WSTW full-time through much of the 90's. I did various jobs there including a couple on-air things: a show of 80's music on Saturday nights with a friend of mine, and producer for the morning show for a year and a half. Then that ended, and I was gone for a few years. This show, "Hometown Heroes," I forget when it started, another DJ had started that.

In 2006, I heard [the Hometown Heroes DJ] had left the station. I asked a friend of mine, "what are they going to do with the show? Who's going to host it?" He said, "you should." I hadn't thought about that. Sadly, like most people, I didn't know that many local bands, I knew 1 or 2. But, I told the program director, "I want to throw my hat in the ring for hosting." He liked the idea, and I've been doing it for nine years now.

How were you involved in music before you took the hosting job?

I've been a music fan since I was in high school. A music nerd even. As the years went by, I became a compulsive music buyer. I used to listen to Casey Kasem's Top 40. Because I'm a nerd, I would keep lists of songs and charts, I would read Billboard every week. I was obsessive about it. I started doing wedding DJ-ing stuff too, because it was a way to make money off this stuff I was buying anyway.

Music was always my number one passion, again, since I was in high school/junior high. So, even though I was only dabbling in the local music scene at that point, I was always a big music fan, I would go to lots of concerts, stuff like that.

What were your musical tastes like?

I'd like to say that I was really hip, that I knew all the Indie cool bands, but I was a Pop/Rock guy at heart. I mean, I like a lot of different things, but my musical taste never strayed that far from the mainstream, like U2, Ben Folds. I grew up with the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac. I wasn't that edgy.

When you were younger, did you envision yourself being Casey Kasem?

I kinda did, actually.

So, this is a kind of calling for you?

Yeah, [the Casey Kasem thing] never quite turned out, but [that dream] is why I looked toward radio. For years, I listened to that radio station. When I was going to Temple University, I thought, "let me see if I can ease into the radio world," so I went and I got an internship at WSTW. I did that for a semester. Then I kind of hung around until they hired me. I worked [in] the office, I worked in promotions, stuff like that.

When you stepped behind the curtain of radio, were there any surprises for you?

Hmm. When I first got into radio, it was 1991, so it's been a long time. I can't think of any surprises, per se. I guess seeing how a Top 40 station was all pretty much programmed. [When] you watch "WKRP in Cincinatti," the DJ's are picking what they're going to play. It doesn't generally work that way in the real world. You have program directors, formats, playlists, and stuff like that. I don't know if that was a shock, [but] it was an interesting thing to learn.

The way it typically works is the whole log is set up. So, the DJ's that are on-air, most of the time, the computer just shows you what song you're going to play next. Unless it's on a specialty program, like I do now, or a request show or something like that. I think that's how most stations work. They don't get a whole lot of leeway. The station wants to follow their format. So if it's a Top 40 station, a Rock station, Alternative station, they have their key artists they want to make sure get played so many times.

Is there any kind of restriction in what you play or don't play?

No, there really isn't. I've been very thankful for that. It's [now] a different program director than when I started, but the one who hired me said, "these two hours are pretty much yours to do with as you will." They've been very hands-off with it, very supportive. It's pretty much up to me to decide what gets played, what doesn't. There's no one looking over my shoulder.

Now, if I went overboard, and played all Death Metal, maybe someone would say something. On any given week, I can go from Folk, to Rock, to Pop, to R&B, Hip-Hop. I even kind of had a Jazz crooner this week. I don't go crazy with it. I try to stay within the bounds of what a Top 40 station would be, but I do have a broader range.

How do you put a week's playlist together?

I always say the toughest part is not what I'm going to play each week, but what I'm not going to play. There's so much music out there, there's so many musicians in this area, which I didn't realize till I got into it, and it's just increased. I mean, over these nine years, I would say there's more active bands and musicians - easily - than there were nine years ago.

I keep kind of a nerdy spreadsheet. I vaguely plan things out, like I know this artist has a show coming up January 30th, so maybe I'll give them a spin the week before to promote that. I keep a long range plan, then when I get into that week's program, I have like 50, 70 songs that I could potentially play, and I get to play maybe 15-20 songs in a week, so I have to whittle that down, which is always tough.

What guides your decision making process?

I give priority to artists that are active... they have gigs, they're doing stuff. If it's an artist who really isn't doing much, I'm much less likely to give them a spin. I try to go for a mix each week. I give a nod to the Delaware artists, because we're based in Delaware. But, I play plenty of Pennsylvania artists, Jersey artists, and some Maryland artists. I try to keep it diverse, but I don't want to lose sight of the fact that we're in Wilmington.

Artists that are proactive... like if I have an artist that emails me/messages me, [and says] "we have a big show coming up, can you give us a shout out?" I will do that if I can. But then there's other artists, that if it doesn't matter as much to them, they won't really care if they get airplay, it doesn't mean I won't ever play them, but it won't be a priority.

This is why I tell musicians, whether it's a radio show, a publication, or a concert promoter, develop relationships, because if it's an artist I know, and they send a message saying, "can you give me a spin?" I'm more likely to do that because I know them, [and] I know they're working hard. As opposed to if I get a message out of the blue from some artist I've never heard of.

Is there something that artists can do to establish or damage their credibility when they send you that probing email?

Communication is key. A lot of times, I'll get a CD sent to me, and I don't know whether it's the artist sending it themselves, or if it's some promoter or something, and I never hear a single thing from them. It doesn't mean I won't play them, but it can go in a pile, and maybe I don't get to it as quickly.

There's other artists who will check in and say, "hey, did you get my CD? What did you think of it? Can you give us a spin sometime?" Things like that. There's no set pattern, but people who show interest, and they show it's important to them, as opposed to I get a CD from some promoter who sends it out to 500 stations, and I never hear from them. It's not out of being vindictive or anything, [it's] because there's so much competition.

There's so many artists out there who are working hard. They're promoting themselves, they're playing gigs, they keep things active, they keep in the eye of their fans. There's other artists, you go to their web page, their facebook page, or whatever page, and they don't update it. It looks like they haven't had a gig in six months. That's not true, they just haven't let anyone know.

So, the artists that stay on top of things - and I know it's a lot of work, I know a lot of people are doing it as a second job essentially, but, the artists who are really doing the effort, and who are really trying to push forward the quality product, I think they deserve airtime. They're really trying, as opposed to other artists that are almost doing [this] in their spare time.

The passion comes through in the way they communicate?

I would say so. Passion, excitement, kind of a work ethic, even. There are some artists, all they want is to get that one spin, and they're happy with it. And that's cool, I get that. There's others that are really trying to build a career out of this, whatever their goals are. These artists that I see that they've really been working at it, improving their musicianship skills, improving their marketing skills, being involved in the community, and networking.

So, yeah, whether it's passion, commitment, anything like that. The ones that are really driven to it. The ones that aren't, they kind of fade away. I see a lot of artists, they pour all this money into making a CD or something like that, and then they don't do anything to support it. Like, why did you go to all that effort and time?

I know real life intrudes sometimes. Still, I've seen a lot of bands, they release an album, they have a big CD release show, then they don't have any more gigs for months and months. So, it's like, other than your friends and family, who's going to buy your CD if they've never heard of you, or seen you perform or anything? You've simply got to advertise your product.

Just to give the artist's side of that, my thing is I never wanted to be a publicist. I'm a total introvert. Talking to strangers is terrifying. So, the only reason I play out is to get my music in people's hands - not even to sell it. I don't make money at most gigs. I just want people to hear it.

You want to share your music. You make a good point, because everyone obviously has their strengths and weaknesses. If you are an introverted musician, then the optimal thing to do is to find an ally, whether it's a band member, or a family member, someone who has those gifts.

It comes back to, "what are your goals?" If your goals are to be a "success" in whatever form that is, whether it's a success in your hometown, in your region, the whole area, if you want to tour the East Coast, you've got to find people that will help you facilitate that.

If you're not gifted in promoting or shaking hands, there's no shame in that whatsoever. It's the rare musician I've met who is good at both the business end of it, and the creative end of it. It seems like most are good at one or the other. That's why they hand the business off. They know they're not good at it.

Do you get music from people who are ...only good at business?

By and large, over 9 years of getting music, it's the very rare piece of music that I've said, "there's no merit there whatsoever." I try to divorce my own musical taste - I mean, it's probably good that I've grown up being a Top 40 guy, that I have pretty wide taste. There's not a lot of music that I listen to and go, "ugh, that's awful." There's certainly some that I like more than others. I try not to let that color my opinion, because I know that what I like is not necessarily what everyone that listens is going to like.

I'm getting off topic. There are certainly those artists who are very good at promoting themselves. Sometimes, I think their music is not the cream of the crop compared to other musicians in the area, but, sometimes, promoting themselves can make a difference.

If you look at mainstream radio, what are some of the biggest artists? Is Katy Perry the best singer out there? No, but she worked her butt off to get where she is, and now she's hugely successful, so there's some merit to that, even if she's not your cup of tea. Or, whomever, Ed Sheeran, Mumford & Sons. Most of them got to the top because they worked to get there.

It's a very rare artist who achieves national or international success by chance. I think maybe in the 60's that happened, you'd get "discovered" but nowadays, those who've made it to the top have worked hard to get there.

Keeping listeners and fans engaged... I'm sure you know this, [they] have a short attention span. So, if you don't have any gigs coming up, or your new album is 6 months, 2 years off, how do you keep people from forgetting it? You have to be creative and come up with things.

Earlier, you said you weren't too aware of the local music scene when you started with Hometown Heroes, but now you're very active in it. How did you dive in?

I was mildly aware of it. I knew there was a local music scene. I knew a few bands. I got this gig, I go up to the local music library that accumulated at the station, and almost immediately, I realized that most of this stuff is just as good as what's on the major labels, and what's nationally popular, and it's only gotten better over the last nine years.

I got into it just because it was an opportunity that came my way, and I thought it was exciting. I've stayed in it because it became a passion, because I realized the quality of the music, and how much good stuff is out there, and then as I got to know the musicians, and got to know the community... one of the strengths of local music is, you can get to know the musicians. You probably won't get to know the artists on the Billboard charts.

Do you honestly feel like the level of local music is comparable with that of national acts?

Yeah, definitely, without a doubt. I could easily make a list of 20, 30 artists that I think due to the quality of their music could be on a national playing field, maybe more. There's a lot of artists that - again, going back to goals - are happy playing their local area, maybe popping up to Philly, maybe popping up to New York once in a while. That's all they want. That's all they're trying to do.

That's cool, there's no shame in that. There's definitely those artists that would like to "make it big" and hit the national stage, but the opportunities are not what they were 15, 20, 30 years ago. So, yes, to answer your question, there's many artists that have merit if given the right opportunity.

Aside from just playing music from 8-10 on Sunday, as a DJ, what else do you have to do?

A lot of this is relationship building, a lot of it is correspondence. One of the things that keeps me busy throughout the week is trying to stay up on facebook messages and emails. The artists that are active out there, they are the ones that are keeping in touch.

I do my best, but sometimes I fall way behind. I do my best to honor their efforts and stay in touch with them. That gets back to what I said earlier - how do I decide who I'm going to play? Do they stay in touch, did they tell me what's going on? Do they have a big gig, are they trying out for "The Voice"? Do they have a contest? There's interesting things going on. That's what keeps me busy almost every day.

Do you go to shows?

When I can. I try to go to as many as I can.

Have you noticed a difference between the way an artist's album is recorded versus their live show? For example, if they have string arrangements on their record, but they are far more stripped down on stage? Do you pay attention to that kind of thing? Would it make a difference in your decision to play them?

Huh. It can make a difference. It works both ways. I've certainly heard artists that I was not overwhelmed by their recorded music. I thought it was fine, but not overwhelmed. Then I go to see them live, and their personality, their passion comes through in that. Some people are better at the live show. They're more authentic, I guess.

And then there are those that are better at the studio music. If it's an artist that I'm going to see, and I know they put on a great live show, after I play their song on the air, I can kind of endorse [them] you know? I can say, "I've gone to see X band, and they put on a great show." If it's an artist that [only] does a great studio recording, I try to find the positive.

This is why I don't do album reviews. I don't put out my top ten lists or anything like that because I want to focus on the positive. Virtually every artist has something positive about their music. I don't think it's my job to be the critic, to be sniping at what I don't like about a song, or an album, unless someone directly asks me, which thankfully doesn't happen a whole lot.

The way I've interpreted my job is to support the artist, the music scene, and do what I can to help the artist. To see them grow and thrive. I don't think that means being a mindless "yes man." I mean, if there's an artist that I think should probably hang up the microphone, I'm not going to tell them that, but I'm not going to go out of my way to say, "hey, you should record a new album."

What are the instant turn-offs for you? Like, "I am not going to play this artist."

It's very rare that I say, "I will not play this person." I try to give everyone at least one spin.

Everyone???

I try. I'm sure there have been artists who have fallen through the cracks over the years, just because of the sheer volume. That's just the way my mind works. Something that helps the artists fall through the cracks is that if I only have a few random mp3s. Sometimes they get lost in the folders of all the other mp3s on my computer, as opposed to having a physical disc that each reminds me, "I want to give those guys a spin."

It's kind of a two-way street. That's what I mean when I say it's kind of a relationship. This probably goes into any area in life. It's nice to have people be real and authentic. If you get a spin, at least give it a like on facebook, or something like that.

Because it is an independent music show, I don't demand that everyone has this stellar recording, but every once in a while you do get someone who, maybe it's something they recorded live at a gig, and maybe it doesn't sound good, or you can tell that they recorded without a whole lot of skill.

I do my best to let them know, "I would love to play your song, I really like your song, but due to the quality, if I play this, it's not going to make you sound good, it's not going to make me sound good. So, why don't you work on this a little, and send it back again?"

Again, trying to focus on the positive. I don't want to be like Simon Cowell and say, "oh, that was dreadful," you know? You don't want to crush spirits. You want to try encourage and nurture.

How did you get into that mentality? What drove you to be a nice guy? Why not be Simon Cowell? The gatekeeper that says, "you guys aren't ready for the 'big time'"?

It's not my job to decide that they're not ready for the "big time." I did have an artist that called me a gatekeeper once, and I guess that's true to a point. I'm making a decision each week of who I'm going to play and who I'm not. But, I only control those two hours each week, and they control the rest of their existence.

It's just my personality. I don't know how you get to be a Simon Cowell, frankly. We've all had the people in our lives who have built us up, encouraged us, whatever our pursuits are. I remember hearing it said years ago that our self-image, our self-worth is built off of what the people around us think of us. So, if you're surrounded, even in life in general, by people that are positive and affirming to you, you're going to grow up with a much healthier view of yourself than people who grow up in a critical atmosphere.

I never really thought of this before, but I guess I carry that over into this area as well. You know, the typical musician is making this music because it's important to them, and it's not my job to crush their spirits. I guess because I saw right off the bat that it's very encouraging to musicians if they get support.

So, if [I] as a radio host can give them support, especially if they get their first spin, it's so cool to see musicians get excited about that. It's like [a] "That Thing You Do" moment. If I can do that for someone, give them a boost. Maybe they've had a rough couple of months, they can't get into any bars to play, or they're getting turned down, whatever. If I can encourage them, give them a spin, if I can call out their gigs, I'm just happy to do so.

As an artist, that's all you're hoping for, that someone will validate you by saying, "yeah this is actually listenable."

Yeah, for whatever reason, I've been put in this place. I have to be a good steward of these two hours. I could lose this show tomorrow. It could get cancelled. Or, the station could can me. I hope that won't happen. But, that's kind of one of my goals in life in general is just to be an uplifting, positive force, so I want it to carry through to this.

So, it sounds like, thematically, what I'm hearing behind some of your statements is that there are people where it matters if they get those plays, and there are people where it's just another avenue in a thousand.

I think that's correct. And, that's why I rarely go out and solicit music from an artist. Once in a while, I will if someone recommends something. But, by and large, I'll play the music that's sent to me, because most likely these artists are into it. They really want some airplay.

Not naming names, but there are some of the bigger bands in the area, they've never sent their music to me. And, there's no hard feelings. I don't mind if someone doesn't want airplay, but if they're busy elsewhere, of if they're busy touring, it's not a priority for me to play them, because it doesn't mean as much to them. You can see if someone's just starting out, like a young kid with his first band, it's a big deal.

What do you think bands do wrong during their interviews with you?

It's a pretty laid back show, so there aren't a lot of real bad things that bands do. They're all told up front that they can't say any naughty words. No one ever has in nine years, knock on wood. Every once in a while, I've had an artist that started to talk about political things, and it's like, "no, we'll save that for our AM station across the hall." Thankfully, it hasn't happened a whole lot.

If someone's a little too wordy, sometimes, like if they're telling a story that goes on and on and on, then I'll try to find a way to gently ease my way in, and say, "all right, we'll get back to that," or we'll go to commercial.

Every once in a while, you get an artist who talks a little too much. It's hard to call that a bad thing, because it's worse to have an artist that doesn't want to talk. I find that the shows that I get the better feedback on are the artists that I already knew a little bit. There's a little more back-and-forth, a little more repartee, because we know each other a little bit, and we're past the getting to know each other curve, so there's less awkward pauses and what-not.

I have found that most musicians, I guess because they're creative people by nature, don't have trouble with the banter, the talking, stuff like that. It's been by far the exception rather than the rule. I don't have a lot of examples to give you of things people do wrong, thankfully.

Is there one show or a couple shows that stick out to you as a trainwreck?

No absolute trainwrecks. Every once in a while, you get an artist that's a little too awkward, or a little too unsure of themselves. While I sympathize with that, it doesn't make for great radio necessarily.

What do you do with dead air?

If I see that I asked something, and the artist doesn't respond, I just kind of jump in and change the topic as quickly as I can.

Before I came on for my first interview back in 2007 or 2008, there was a band on that I think was probably stoned when they came in. Every question you asked them, they were like, "yeah man, we do what we do, we just try to bring the funk." I wanted them to give a real answer to something. It sounded like they were trying to be sound badass, but in my mind, they're communicating nothing.

I know what you mean. I don't remember that specific show. If you had asked me right after it happened, when I still remembered, I might have said, "yeah they weren't necessarily the best interview," whereas someone who just has fun, and can talk... part of it is definitely promoting your product, and your show, all that plugging and promoting. But, the artists who can have fun, and just relax a little bit, it makes for a better show.

Is there anything you think an artist can do to get to that relaxed state? Or, is there anything you do pre-show to loosen them up?

I do my best to put them at ease as much as I can, especially for those that have never been on the radio before or something like that. It's very laid back. It's not like I come with a list of rules. I'm a laid back person, so I try to let that set the tone. Maybe to my detriment, I don't have this hard and fast agenda, like "this is what we're talking about here, this is what we're talking about there."

Most shows, irrespective of how I plan them, develop their own theme, their own flow based upon the guests that are with me, and then a lot of times, the music that I'll play outside of the guest's music often develops its own flow, too, and I don't even plan it that way. Like, "oh we're playing a lot of Rock or Folk this week." I don't plan it that way usually. I'm so stuck in the individual details, that I don't take time to look at the overall picture, like, "how is this all going to sound together in a two-hour block?"

I was curious about that, if you have specific genre plans in mind, but it sounds like you don't.

Not usually. Once in a while, I do. I have my nerdy spreadsheet where I kind of back things out long term as much as I can. Sometimes I will make individual decisions because I come with this list of songs I want to play every night. It's always more than I can play. It's a list of 25 songs, and I'll get half of those played.

So, if I have a guest in who leans more Folk, let's say, when I'm making a decision about what song I'm going to play next, [I think] "okay the people who are listening who like this artist are going to like that artist as well." It doesn't mean I'm going to play all Folk for two hours.

It doesn't sound like you have any horror stories from your shows.

Thankfully not.

Are there any conversation-killers a band can bring up? You mentioned politics earlier.

It's a wide audience, and I try to not be edgy. It's not an edgy radio station. But, if someone starts to skew that way, I'll try to steer away from that. I know how the station is in general, and it's also not my personality. It's not a killer per se, but as a host, I have to be aware of what's going out over the airways.

So, were there any interviews where you thought, "wow, they knocked it out of the park?"

The most memorable ones for me were with the ones where I followed the musicians long before they came on the show. Like, I've had two of the Hooters come on, David Uosikkinen, and John Lilley. I've had them on at different times. It was great having them on. Jeffrey Gaines was another one, I've been listening to him since the early 90's.

Richard Bush, who used to be in the A's in the late 70's, early 80's, a really nice guy. One of the best frontmen, even beyond Philadelphia. When he came on, he did an acoustic song, and he says he never does that. So, I felt really honored. And that's part of the fun of the show, is having people come on and perform live, acoustic, or sort of acoustic. I think that shows the true talent in all of this.

You pretty much expect everyone to play at least one live song?

I try to. There's been a couple artists who weren't feeling well, and you can't make them sing. Or, you'll get an artist who's a very electronic artist, that it's tough for them to reproduce that in the studio. Although, I've had artists who have done a live acoustic thing, and it's not at all what they normally do, and it's really good, because it shows a whole different side of them.

I started [the live performances] because the program director who hired me voiced that as something that he wanted on the show. Prior to my taking over, the show had been largely pre-recorded because the DJ that did it was also the morning show DJ, so it was hard for him to be on Sunday nights and get up early Monday mornings.

So, having the live element again, once I got into it, it became one of the hallmarks of the show. Some artists want to do all of their songs live, which is great. But, I only ask guests to do one or two live.

With live on-air performances, the fear for me as an artist is everything that can go wrong, all the variables. Have you ever had things go wrong with that kind of thing?

There's been things like, one artist, her keyboard didn't work. She figured that out after she got to the station. She came back the next week and we squeezed her in with someone else. No one went down in flames. There's been some artists that their performance wasn't necessarily the best. By and large, it's really great seeing these artists shine, and for many of them, it's a different setting than they're used to.

Is there anything you have to prepare the artists for when it comes to logistics?

Something I learned early on was to encourage the artist to scale back their performance. I remember having a band on in that first year, and they were kind of a hard Rock-leaning band, and they wanted to put on a full-fledged performance, and they did, but it just didn't come through well.

The lead singer has this powerful voice, and she's singing in this full range, and actually the mic was, I guess it was clipping. The guitarists were all plugged in, and they're wailing, and that just doesn't translate well in that little studio. That's why I always tell people, you can bring your drummers, bring your guitars, that's fine, but you've got to scale it back from a Rock show at a regular venue.

Have you ever considered doing a larger scale show, like broadcasting from a venue?

People have asked me that before, like once we started doing the Homey Awards, like, "oh you should broadcast the whole show live." There's a lot of logistical things that go into that which I haven't even looked into. The station does live [remote] broadcasts, but to have the right quality for the live performances, I would definitely have to have an engineer there to keep track of making sure everything sounds right and all, and that adds time and expense and all that. I've done plenty of events, but not live broadcast ones.

Have you ever encountered anyone that's gone through stage fright, where they clammed up? What did you do to work through it?

I do my best to deflect the awkwardness, change the subject quickly, jump in. Every once in a while you get someone with the "deer in the headlights" look, and it's like, "all right, I can't ask them any questions that will throw them even vaguely off track."

So, what kind of questions do you ask in that situation?

Very, very simple ones.

[We both laugh.]

"What is the name of the fourth track on your album?"

Sometimes, it's tougher for the solo artist, because they don't have anyone else. If you have a band there, chances are, someone in the band will have something to say, and they play off each other and all. But, the solo artist, if that's not their thing, then there's less options.

Referring back to the "too cool for school" band that was on before me, one of their things was that there was four of them, and sometimes you'd ask them a question, and all four of them would respond at once. I had no idea who was talking. It was sort of cacophony.

Interesting to find that out eight years later! [laughs] I think what happens more often is you get one person in the band who is the talkative one, and then you get one person that you have to really pull things out of. I don't think you get a whole lot of the cacophony. I'll have to go back and listen. I don't think that happens a lot.

My response to that was to tell my band, "look, my lead guitar player and I are doing the majority of the talking. Everyone is welcome to throw things in, but I don't want this situation where no one knows who's talking." Some of our voices sound somewhat similar, especially with the way our voices come across the radio, so people might think it's Frank talking, but it's Tim, so I said, "say, 'this is Tim' when you chime in, identify yourselves," and that kind of thing.

Huh, that's a good suggestion.

I noticed that a lot of pro bands, when they're doing publicity, those early morning radio shows, or World Cafe, or on NPR, whatever, even if they're doing live performances, it'll be one or two guys, and the rest of the band is in the other room. They all play the live piece, but it's only the lead singer and guitarist doing the interview.

There's certainly merit to that, I guess. But then you lose the ability to play off of each other, and fill the awkward pauses.

Do you do any of the mixing for the live performance, or is that all on the band?

Just because of my own limitations, and the limitations of the studio, that's one of the reasons I tell bands to keep it simple. I am not a sound guy. If there's one or two things plugged into the mixing board, I can handle that. That's why I lean toward acoustic stuff. I know how to handle the volumes, and get it working, but if you get complicated...

You're not EQ'ing or panning, etc.

I would need more training or need an engineer in there to do all that. It's just me, as-is.

Whatever the band sounds like in the room is what they're going to sound like on the show.

Pretty much. I like it that way. It's more organic.

Is there anything you've ever wanted to tell musicians, "hey, could you have thought of this before you came on the show?"

Update your web pages. That's the most frequent frustration when I'm putting the show together. It's like, if you're going to have a web page, update it. I know it takes time, but if you want people to come to your shows or to find your music... you never know who's looking for it. It could be someone who has a Sunday night music show, it could be someone who wants to book you, it could be another band who wants someone to play with. In this internet age we live in, keep stuff up-to-date.

So, do you pull bio information from band's websites?

Yeah, definitely. Like I said earlier, if it doesn't look like someone's gigging, I'm probably not going to play them. It happens all the time. My show's on Sunday, then on Monday or Tuesday I'll see an email or a facebook post that says, "hey, we have a show on Friday," and it's like "really? You're just letting people know this now?"

It gets back to the recurring theme of goals, and what do you want to get out of this? Maybe that's all you want, is to play gigs on Friday night and have your friends come out. But, if you want to "go somewhere," you've got to put some time into it.

Have you ever gotten feedback from listeners, especially non-musicians about, "this is what I like about the show, this is what I don't. I liked this musician, I didn't like that one."

I do get that sometimes on a specific musician. Like, if I have a friend who isn't a musician, sometimes, they'll chime in and say, "wow I really liked that singer," or, I have had people say, "I really didn't like that artist." That's good to hear. It's interesting. I kind of wish I would get more feedback just in general on things I could be doing better or differently, but you know, if there's something I've been doing wrong for nine years, I want to know what it is.

What does radio look like in the world of Spotify and that kind of thing?

It's interesting, last week, I was talking about that with an artist I just played. They were saying there's certainly a lot more ways to get your music heard now. At least for now, radio still reaches a larger audience than most of the other outlets. Even on a Sunday, if you get a spin on Hometown Heroes at 9 o'clock at night, you're still reaching more listeners than the typical podcast or internet radio show.

I don't mean that as a dig on them at all. There's some great shows out there that I listen to. But, it's both a blessing and a curse that there's so many options now. The curse is that the audience is so fractured. There's satellite radio, Spotify, people who still listen on their iPods, or on their phones.

Giving your music away for free, I don't necessarily understand it, because I'm not a musician. Having heard you say that earlier, you're not looking to make money that way, or even recoup your costs, I guess that's something I'd want to ask musicians about. A lot of artists will give away free downloads, or give away CDs. Does that devalue the music in any way, because it's free? Because, obviously, some people are used to, whether legally or illegally, getting music for free now.

I don't pirate music at all. I pay for all the music I get, beyond the stuff I get for the show. I never used any of the pirate websites, or peer-to-peer stuff. I've never used Spotify. I have so much music to listen to on my computer, with my CDs, I don't need Spotify. That's because I'm a freak who has so much music... I've spent so much money on it, it's an investment, darn it! [laughs]

-----

There was more to our conversation, but I removed some of the tangents we branched into in favor of the content I thought would be most valuable to musicians who are interested in radio airplay.

Many thanks to Mark for his time and insights, as well as his support of local, original music.

"Hometown Heroes" airs every Sunday from 8-10pm, and can be heard live on the radio in the Delaware Valley, or online at wstw.com.

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