Radio experts offer tips to ambitious musicians

William James Gerlich

Industry insiders revealed the secrets of how to make it big as a recording artist during a talk Tuesday night.

Panelists Zannie K. of Clear Channel’s The Beat, Leah Manners of KOOP and KAZI’s Marion Nickerson and Steve Savage offered tips, tools and instructions on how to jump-start a career on the airwaves.

About 30 striving hip-hop and R&B musicians took rapid notes and hung on the panelists’ every word, asking for the name and telephone number of each radio station’s music director and seeking do-it-yourself tips.

Three of the four panelists work at community radio stations based in Austin, and they encouraged artists to send local DJs MP3 formats of their singles, giving artists hope for airtime within the Austin city limits. Zannie K. said the process for local artists to be picked up by the commercial industry is difficult because of the harsh competition and the limited available airtime.

“Commercial radio is like a science project; the music is scrutinized, then scrutinized some more, then scrutinized some more, resulting in only 150 songs within the station’s playlist,” Zannie K. said.

Though Clear Channel offers little hope for local artists to get played on air, Zannie K. said a successful musical artist is one that starts from the ground up, self-promotes one’s own music to local club DJs and gets his or her “story” out to various radio stations.

Rapper and recording artist Tee-Double — a native to the Austin music scene and dubbed “Cultural Ambassador for Austin Hip-Hop” last year by music magazine INSite — discussed his new album The Soul Traveling Experience. He said he wants the album to receive more publicity within Austin local news and hopes exposure could lead to stardom.

Pia Siaotong, programming director for UT’s 91.7 KVRX said it is much easier to get picked up by community radio because songs are chosen at the DJ’s discretion.

“The [Federal Communications Commission] requires KVRX to only play non-mainstream bands and at least two Texas artists per hour,” Siaotong said.

She said the chances for a band to make it big after being played from community radio are slim, but with the advancement of new media and the downfall of record labels, do-it-yourself artists have many more opportunities to get their big break.