Words by Alana Mitchelson
PBS 106.7FM’s music and interviews coordinator, Chelsea Wilson, has seen and received it all. Boxes of chocolate, merchandise yo-yos, wine and even messages in a bottle with a USB stick included.
Despite the niceties, Wilson urges musicians to keep press kits as simple as possible when approaching radio.
“Please do not send in any folders, boxes or any sort of stationery – it’s just absolute junk. None of that impresses me,” she laughs.
“Once we had someone come to the office in a bunny suit and hand my colleague a carrot and there was a tag hanging off the carrot with a download card.”
While Wilson is all for quirkiness, these fancy press kits go overboard and sometimes fail to even contain the basic necessities among the absurd paraphernalia. All she requires are five to six CDs (burns are fine) and a one page information sheet enclosed in a paper envelope.
Artists should also email through a press release with a download link so she can send all broadcasters a digital link, with the physical copies distributed to only the most suitable programs.
Essentials which are all too commonly forgotten include simple things such as checking for faulty discs or failing to provide contact details.
Wilson stresses the importance of always touching base with the music coordinator, even if the band knows one of the broadcasters personally. Drop a release off directly to the coordinator’s pigeon hole, otherwise the artist may miss other opportunities such as receiving Album of the Week or a top 10 listing.
At PBS, there are roughly five or six programs designated to each genre, so submitting a number of physical copies gives the release its best chance of receiving optimal air time.
With 86 programs and over 100 broadcasters, PBS 106.7 is one of the few stations in Australia with a music-specific community broadcasting licence. It plays a range of diverse and underrepresented music and while that is somewhat reflected in the way the music is played in the studios – be it through vinyl, 45s, CDs, iPads or laptops – CDs are still dominant in radio.
“If the announcers haven’t heard of you and you just coldly email them out of the blue with a download link, maybe they’ll download it and maybe they won’t. Who knows?
“But if there’s a CD sitting in their pigeon hole, they kind of have to deal with it and there’s probably more of a chance they’ll listen to it,” Wilson says.
Wilson acts as a ‘middleman’ between the artists and broadcasters and passes on every release she deems appropriate for airplay on PBS to the most suitable person at the best time slot. It is then left solely up to the announcers to choose which songs will be played throughout their show.
Another aspect of her role involves booking on-air interviews. Wilson’s advice for emerging musicians is to come in prepared and role-play a few mock interviews with family or friends in the days leading up to the interview. Think about who is the best speaker in the band and record the practice-run to be conscious of minimising umming and arring.
“Musicians should keep in mind that radio is something that’s meant to be entertaining to listen to and if it starts getting boring, people just tune in to a different station. When bands come in for an interview, it’s good if the musicians have got some funny stories or interesting anecdotes to tell, rather than just listing their influences.”
Timing becomes a crucial factor when approaching the station with an interview pitch. Artists are more likely to be interviewed if they time their interview to coincide with an album release or tour. PBS also has a policy which restricts the station to interviewing an artist no more than once in a three-month period to promote diversity.
Wilson’s advice to emerging artists specifically is to remain realistic when it comes to their goals and expectations.
“We get between 400 to 500 new titles a month and there are some bands who want to get an interview on our breakfast show for their first single.
“You also don’t want to burn out all your possible media outlets in the first month. Wait for the right time to maximise your exposure.”