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Radio: A fickle beast

It’s all about the music.

At least it used to be. These days, bands are fooling themselves if they think they can get by on good tunes alone.

“Sometimes there needs to be something more than ‘Here’s the song,’” says Dale Kotyk, Warner Music’s vice-president of marketing.

Kotyk and a slew of other industry professionals and experts will be doling out some of their hard fought knowledge Saturday at the Toronto International Music Summit, a conference geared towards independent artists and labels.

While social media’s role in band branding and media plans will certainly play a large role at the Music Marketing and Branding panel, where Kotyk will speak, he says that radio will undoubtedly take up a significant portion of the time.

“Radio can still play a very important role,” he says. “It’s something we all go after if we can possibly get it.”

Yet radio is a fickle beast and trying to get song placement on increasingly constrictive and formatted playlists is akin to fitting a square peg into a round hole.

He points to indie pop band Fun and their bombastic single We are Young as a prime example.

“When we first heard that song we thought ‘I don’t know if this is going to work for radio,’” he says.

It took weeks for Warner’s promotion’s team to convince radio programmers the song was a good fit.

Kotyk says a breakthrough event like the Sheepdogs winning Rolling Stone’s Choose the Cover contest is often what it takes to change programmer’s perception of a band.

The Saskatoon rockers worked their album Learn and Burn for a year to no avail. But after landing on the magazine’s front page, radio was suddenly more than happy to spin their music.

“Radio is funny,” he says. “That’s the frustration we live with on a daily basis.”

As important as radio play can be, it’s not the be all and end all. “Every artist is unique and demands a different approach,” says Kotyk.

Similarly, not every artist writes music geared toward radio. For these artists, Kotyk and his staff take a different approach, eschewing long and costly radio campaigns and six figure video budgets. “Unless there’s a mainstream radio opportunity,” he says, “the first step is looking at increasing their social media presences, get them out on the road playing live shows and grow it organically.”

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