Artist developmentExpert TalkMusic Business

How to get your songs on the radio! Expert Talk with radio/podcast host Sarah Scott

Getting your music on the radio and podcasts

Sarah Scott is a Calgary based radio host, podcast creator and music industry professional.

For those of you, who do not know where Calgary is located, it is the biggest city of the province of Alberta in Canada, home to legendary songwriters such as Jenna Andrews and guitar goddess and singer/songwriter Lindsay Ell, as well as classical pianist Marylou Dawes. It is also where the National Music Centre is located, which makes Calgary quite a musical hotpot in Canada.

Sarah hosts the 99.7 Sun Country Drive Home Show (which I already love for its title), 104.5 More Country Afternoon Show as well as Made in Alberta and One to Watch Wednesday.

She is also the founder and operator of Studio B. podcast, which focusses on music industry topics and provides helpful resources and tips to emerging, independent artists!

The podcast is a monthly project and can be found on Spotify.

We talked to Sarah about the power of traditional radio placements and the benefits of Podcasts and new Media as well.

Sarah, thank you so much for agreeing to do this expert talk and welcome to the Song Brewery Community! Tell us, how did you get started in the music industry? What is your background?

Thank you!!! This is so cool! Well, I have always been involved in music – through singing lessons, music theory, local musical theatre, school choir, dram and well, if I could perform in it or for it, I was a part of it! My career goals always leaned towards the entertainment industry in some way. In April 2007 (I was in high school,) a peer told me the local radio station (99.7 Sun Country/AM1140 – the one I currently work at) was hiring board operators (they monitor the station to keep the programming running on time, do the weather throughout the day and some recording of audio). Being 17 and working in radio? Yes please! Within a couple of months they added to my duties such as hosting the evening show through the summer, “The High School Show” on Sundays, and other casual on-air shifts. I loved it and knew this was what I needed to do! I went to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) for “Broadcast News” and continued onto the University of Calgary for my Bachelor of Communication Studies. In between those times, I was let go from the radio station (I don’t know why, I was just let go – they stopped adding me to the schedule and then told me I wasn’t a good fit for the radio station anymore). Fast forward through numerous jobs, the LSAT (Law School Acceptance Test) and almost going back to school…one March morning my mom called saying Sun Country/AM1140 was hiring. I reluctantly applied because I didn’t want to move back to a small town or be any part of that because I was a big city slicker now and I wasn’t going back there – but within 15 minutes of sending in my resume and cover letter, I got an email back from (my now) program director asking me to come in for a meeting – then six weeks later I got the job and the rest is history and I love it!

How does a typical day at a radio station look like for you and what do you love the most about your job?

It looks a little different every day, but the standard day starts at 11am for me with a team content meeting with on-airs, news, and program directors/content directors and discuss our shows and stories. At 11:30am we have a local promo meeting to talk about contests and promotions and current events. Between 12 and 2, it’s blogging, show prep, interviews/setting up interviews, ‘Made in Alberta’ production, other production I’m responsible for, or finding the song for ‘One to Watch Wednesday. From 2-4pm is VTing from 3-4pm and 6-9pm. Between 4-6pm, I’m live for the Drive Home Show. Usually after 6pm, if I have everything done for the day, I do leave. Also, after 6pm, is when I set up interviews for my podcast or edit my podcast/prep it or finish projects I wasn’t able to do during the day.

Wow, sounds like you are quite busy! You were recently nominated for “Country Personalies of the Year” by Canadian Country Music Association Awards! Congrats on that! What does this nomination mean to you?

To be nominated is very very humbling. It was completely unexpected! We are building such a strong music community in Canada and I’m so proud to be a part of it, and to have them consider me for this… I’m still speechless. I couldn’t have gotten this consideration without them – from radio trackers sending me sweet tunes, to the artists reaching out and sharing their sweet tunes, to fellow industry people telling me I need to listen to a song/artist, to my Program Director and company for allowing me to create (and then continue to revamp) a platform to allow for more diversity in the music we play. The artists truly make it so easy to want to support them – I’ve seen their hard work and dedication and passion! They’ve supported my radio station just as much – so it’s a real pleasure to be able to showcase their talent when I can. It also means that I’ve been able to provide them with a strong platform for their music and a trustworthy platform to put their music in a good light.

source: Instagram

Were you always a Country Music enthusiast or did you discover a passion for it on the job? What makes country music good music to you?

I grew up a dedicated country fan, but then in the early 2000’s I started to go through music phases and I still do! As for what makes a good country song to me… it’s all about the story in the song. These artists can turn anything into a beautiful, fun, wild, great song! Whether it was straight from the farm/ranch/backwoods or from the heart of a big city or from their childhood or from someone else’s story or whatever, I can always count on a country song to be relatable and bring out all the feels – and most country has a cool, unique way of doing that!

As a radio host, you probably get a lot of song pitches. What are some pitching tips that you can give young artist with little to no experience in the radio domain?

I will repeat this: I didn’t say this, but Robb Angus of The Dungarees mentioned this and it was perfectly said and I agree with him, you have to bring us something undeniably great! Something we can’t turn down! HAVE GREAT SONG PRODUCTION! It shows dedication, professionalism, and that you actually want to pursue this – which shows us you’re worth taking a shot at! It’s expensive, but it’s an investment. Also, make connections early on with your local radio hosts. It’s all about who you know. Add us on social media, add us to LinkedIn; add us where you can! Hire a radio tracker for your first radio song. They have already made a connection with music directors, program directors and on-airs…etc. to ask or to get you considered to be featured/played.

Tell us, for songs to be played on the radio, what are the formats/technical requirements (WAV, MP3 etc) that are required these days?

Not really. We use a digital download system called DMDS here and it usually downloads to WAV, but you can send us the song in any format – as long as the file works, we have converters. When you’re emailing us a pitch though, please attach the song to the email – don’t tell us to go to Spotify or Apple or give us links to DropBox. Make it as easy as possible to get listened too!

Do you accept pitches from artists, or do you mainly work with radio song pluggers and industry professionals?

I accept all three! A lot of people always do. I’ll admit, if a radio tracker/plugger emails us or calls us about a brand new artist we don’t know about (yet), there is a better chance we will take notice, but in all honesty, if the artist approaching us is professional, personal and sends me something, I will give them a listen. Once again though – it’s all about creating a connection and building a relationship.

Who are your current favorite artists?

The artists I have on extensive repeat right now are Dirty Honey, W3apons, The Prairie States, Bree Taylor, JJ Wilde, Payale Royale, Clayton Bellamy, Kelsi Mayne and there are more – I listen to a lot of music haha!

What is a big benefit of having your songs played on the radio as opposed to streaming platforms like Spotify and the likes?

Answer: It pays more per spin. It’s a great marketing tool!

What´s the best thing about working in the music business?

Answer: There are so many things! The best thing about it, I can’t even pinpoint it. I just love being able to see artists have their first song on the radio or helping them break into a fairly competitive industry.

In your opinion, what are things that still need improvement in the music industry?

I actually had to talk this question through with a friend because I feel like there are a few things, but I couldn’t put my finger on them. There are still some cliques and some parts of the industry feels like it’s an ol’ boys club sometimes. Although we have started to see the community come together more and be very supportive in Canada, it’s still slow to change. I wish some artists would understand that, when we all work together, we make the music community stronger. It creates amazing collaborations and projects, diversity, and it benefits everyone because sharing knowledge and wisdom (and music) – it octopuses and branches off and there are so many (way too many) reasons why it’s amazing, and why it’s a really cool thing – it can be a really cool thing and will create more opportunities for everyone!

You launched the Studio B podcast a little over year ago. What has been the biggest challenge in building this project up from scratch so far?

I started talking about it in February of 2019 and didn’t get the official ball rolling till October of 2019. The hardest thing was having the guts to actually do it and also, is anyone actually going to listen to it? Also, setting up the interviews – these industry professionals are busy people and I was nervous to ask them to talk for two plus hours! It took me so long to actually get my first episode out (after talking about it) because I wanted to prepare topics, set up interviews, get equipment, look like I have my crap together and like this was going to be a success so that people would want to be a part of it and listen to it.

Well, that definitely paid off! I love your monthly episodes! On the podcast you discuss music business topics and targeting emerging artists, that often have to handle all aspects of their career themselves. What would you say are the most important things to focus on, when releasing a record?

Always the songs. Always the music.  Always the production! You can have the best album cover, best marketing tactics, best connections, best promo’s…etc. but if the songs don’t stand up in comparison, well, you just wasted a lot on what should have been the songs and music.

How do you select music for your radio shows? Which criteria must they match?

The song has to have radio quality production. No matter what. Even if you won’t be played alongside, Shawn Mendez, Luke Bryan, Halsey or Lindsay Ell, it has to sound like it can be and like it will be. We also look for good lyrics, if it suits our sound as a station and even look at their relationship with me/us as a station or company.

And what about your podcast? How far ahead do you plan episodes and guests in?

I can’t really play music because I don’t have the rights/SOCAN licensing yet. I will play an artist’s song if they are on it, but with their permission. It comes out every 2-4 weeks. I choose guests based on their expertise and their industry background. Also, it comes down to who is going to share the best non-biased information and the various levels, types and genres of artists they’ve worked with. I want well rounded answers that can suit any genre, male or female artist, band or duo..etc for an emerging artist to understand the industry better in a well rounded way. I usually plan interviews 2-3 weeks in advance to prepare an outline to work off with and the topic(s) we’re discussing.

Everybody seems to love podcasts these days. What do you think makes the format so appealing to listeners?

Ooooh that’s a good question. I think because you can take them anywhere at any time – you don’t have to tune it at a certain time to listen for it. Also, it allows people to get real indepth, uncensored, real talk about anything! It allows the listener to get real, honest information or entertainment at a push of “play,” anywhere at any time.

If you could say one sentence / one piece of advice to young artist, what would it be?

It’s kind of the typical advice, but it’s true. Everyone has their own timeline, so focus on yours and your career and work hard, and always have a good attitude, respect and support others.

Thank you very much for the interview Sarah and best of success with all your ventures!

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