Meet Michael Matthews - Australia's Premier Radio Plugger
In the landscape of emerging original music, it is becoming increasingly harder to cut through the noise. This is why an expert in Radio Plugging is a key component in your Release strategy. Manny and I have worked with Michael Matthews Media for the past 15 years. Michael is one man who has seen the industry through the eyes of a label, artist manager, musician and radio plugger. I recently had the opportunity to have a chat with him about his Media service and his thoughts about the music market in 2021 post pandemic.
Don't bore us, get to the chorus!
Nicki: Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat. Can you walk me through your initial approach with an Artist who wishes to hire you to plug their music to Radio.?
Michael: I start with the timing of the song. When we’re delivering music to radio, it’s got to be well below four minutes to give it a really good shot. The length of a song in 2021 is much shorter than it used to. Harking back to the days of the Beatles, releases averaged around 2.50 minutes. In today’s market, your song really should not be longer than 3.30 minutes. And the song needs to make its mark straight up. I like to say to Artists “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.” It’s not important how long the track is on the album. If you want me to plug your song successfully to radio, don’t give them another reason why they won’t play it. Get the timing right. You have maybe 20 seconds to connect and sell the song value. Don’t waste it on a long intro. If they cant hear the chorus by then, you’ve lost their attention.
Radio Plugging when I first started was very different to how it is today. I would actually go into the radio station, sit across the desk from the music director, play the song and get a reaction straightaway. You have to remember that these guys are inundated with music from all over the world. If they play your song, and they are not feeling it within the first 20 seconds, they will turn off. Its about business. Radio survives on selling advertisement. Music is simply the entertainment between the commercials. So programmers need songs that fit.
Top Three Tips
Nicki: What differences have you noticed with Radio Media and their requirements from the music market this year after we were locked down in 2020?
Michael: During the pandemic, the ABC particularly were fantastic. They were giving all their attention to Australian artists, which I thought was fantastic because it was genuinely so good. And I have noticed a great deal of compassion and empathy for local music artists this year. Understanding how live work drives recordings, there seems to be more of a community spirit emerging in the industry as a whole, with an objective of keeping the supply chains vital. When I first moved to Melbourne all those years ago, I loved the scene there because all the indie bands back then were actually really friendly and supportive of each other. It wasn’t about competition. It was more about community. It was about helping each other, sharing gigs and building a culture together. Now local councils are sponsoring street performances and shows. Smaller venues are embracing local talent creating incubator networks. It’s exciting to see. After lockdown, people seem to be more inclined to go and out seek good music and entertainment.
Nicki: So with all these music artists who have written and recorded in lockdown, can we look at their next steps in the release process. When an artist is planning a release, what are your top three tips that they need to consider before they even come to you for a Radio Plugging service?
Michael: Before we even begin, the Artist must have a realistic budget in place that is already fully funded. My work is the intense month prior to release so they need to be able to pay me up front.
The first step is for the record to be edited for Radio. All ownership issues need to be ironed out – who owns what is in writing.
The second step is for the artist to join an industry organisation like ARIA and AIR. It’s not expensive and important for you to have access to their networks and resources.
The third steps is for the Artist to sponsor and get involved with their local radio stations. Community Radio is a necessary component of the industry and needs the support of Artists as much as Artists need their support. Number one, advertising with Community Radio is inexpensive. You will have more chance of airplay. Without an active involvement, in most cases, you may hear your record played once. That’s it. You will never hear it played again. Rotation is not a given. By getting involved, sponsoring, paying for advertising and offering interviews, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. And if you book live shows in the local areas of those Community Radio stations who are playing your music, you will reach and build an audience. Remember that it’s free music to them. Community Radio gives good exposure to the arts. We would be dead in the water without public radio. We really need newer radio stations who want to play new music on rotation. The problem is that thanks to streaming, people expect everything for free these days.
Know your Target Market! Know your Story! Engage Daily!
Nicki: What value is a strong Social Media brand in the release trajectory?
Michael: Building an audience on your Social Media channels helps you to get your music played, streamed, downloaded and shared. To get radio airplay, you need to push up your Spotify plays. Your Social Media engagement drives your fans to your Spotify stream. Know your story. Develop your pitch. Know your target market. Engage and connect daily.
Nicki: How did lockdown impact the industry?
Michael: The lockdown helped music artists across the globe to communicate with their audiences on a digital stage far greater than ever before. A lot of a lot of good things came out of the lockdowns. There are a lot of records made that would not have been made under normal circumstances. Artists had more time to create and learned a lot more about building their brand to get their music out there.
Don't take no for an answer!
Nicki: Michael, if you could give your 25 year old self some advice about a career in this music industry? What would it be? If you could go back to when you were 25? What would you do?
Michael: I will just take my own advice. I never took NO for an answer. I believed in what I was doing. And basically I just persevered. Many music artists are put off when they submit their music and it is not played. They get very disparaged. But never forget how many big name acts were rejected early on and they just kept going. So many big names, who I wont mention here, couldn’t even get arrested. They were knocked back by every major label. But they persevered until the right label found them.
In the old days, we engaged with retail. These days we are streaming. Radio stations now look at your Spotify plays. So its harder for local artists to infiltrate the commercial charts because they’re up against established artists streaming millions. But the great news is, a lot of younger music fans are embracing vinyl and buying turntables driving all these little record and vinyl stores and popping up all of a sudden. That gives me hope.