Listening to music, or any sound really, has the ability to transport people somewhere else; it can show you a new perspective, make you feel like you’re experiencing a different era or provide you with a release for your emotions. When I think about music and what makes it so appealing to so many, the first word that comes to mind is ‘freedom’. It can be anything, created by anyone.
But with the constant adaptation and creation of new sounds, ‘freedom’ is something that’s a little complicated. It might be a slightly cliché opinion, but it is hard to deny that a lot of the music on the radio sounds the same nowadays. And whilst that isn’t particularly a bad thing – music trends rise and fall and finding a formula that works is no small production feat – some question if it has an adverse effect on artists. With mainstream music favouring electronic sounds, R&B influence and, in some instances, South American sampling or remixes, how difficult is it to break the norm?
With alternative bands like Fall Out Boy, 5 Seconds of Summer, Panic! At The Disco, and Bastille having their new songs played on the radio it’s difficult to argue that there’s no coverage for bands or musicians that aren’t mainstream. But, when only bands with established fan bases are given airtime, it can be difficult for new bands to get exposure. Moving from harsher unrefined roots to manufactured sounds and a safe style is one option but some artists feel as if their freedom to create the content that they want whilst also getting airtime is becoming more and more difficult. Are they right or are they disillusioned? How difficult is it to find the balance between compromise and complete style change?
We spoke to Loose Tooth, a grunge-tinged alt-rock band from the East Midlands and asked their lead vocalist, Oli, what he thinks.
You recently got given airtime on Kerrang! Fresh Blood – but do you think that radio stations, in general, need to do more for alternative music and up and coming bands?
Oli: ‘I think the answer isn’t a simple one. Just because you and some buddies got together and wrote a banging tune, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to get played. A DJ has his own tastes and opinions and you’re not owed airtime because you put in effort… you have to learn to toughen your skin to rejection. This isn’t an industry that rewards participation.’
This, coming from a band who work hard to produce music whilst still working low paying jobs, is a sign of how grounded you have to be to make it in the industry. Loose Tooth are a band with no management but who are arguably successful. The lack of mainstream airplay doesn’t seem to have bothered them and here’s why:
‘The factors that go into radio play are numerous… that doesn’t mean you should compromise your awesome 12 minute prog epic, but you also shouldn’t be disheartened when Radio One turns it down. Consider writing a big radio friendly crowd pleaser, a track that still represents you but has a singalong chorus maybe?’
And with that he seems to have hit the nail on the head. The music industry is a money making one and, as much as we hate to admit it, one that requires compromise. To get acknowledged by the masses you need to be able to appeal to them and if your sound doesn’t quite get you there, adapt it. Keep your integrity but don’t be too proud to make changes.
But what do you do if you aren’t an artist with a PR team working to get you out there?
‘PR firms have connections with DJ’s and it moves your new single from the ‘maybe I’ll listen pile’ to the ‘I’ll definitely listen’ pile. Unfortunately that still doesn’t guarantee you’re gonna get played. If the DJ doesn’t like it, that’s the end of the line. You have to put time, money and patience in to get your new tune out there. It’s not easy but if you save up and budget there’s no reason you can’t spread your music around. We’re only a three piece band without management and financial backing – we work to pay for this so we save and go without everyone once in a while to get our music where we want it to be.
If you’re serious about radio play and spreading your message you owe it to yourself to pay for some PR and get that sick new track you’ve been writing out there.’
To sum up his views on whether or not DJ’s could, or should, do more Oli had this to say:
“Perhaps DJ’s could be more open minded to more challenging stuff but that’s not their job. Plus, there’s tonnes of great internet radio that does go in for the weird and wonderful. Ultimately, as soulless as it sounds you’re creating a product. If it’s not marketable it’s not going to get Prime Time play. That being said, that’s why BBC Introducing, Daniel P. Carters Rock Show, and Kerrang! Fresh Blood are so great.
There’s a station for whatever it is you’re writing out there, you’ve just got to get that track recorded well and pair it with a great PR campaign to give it the best chance possible.
So there it is, folks. For fans feeling as if their music taste isn’t represented on the radio- maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. Support bands locally, support internet radio and help it grow and use your own words. Social media is a great medium for spreading news, and sharing content.
And for up and coming bands or any artist, alternative or not, compromise and work hard and keep working hard – it’ll pay off.
To hear more about Loose Tooth check out our other articles on them here, and search their Facebook page for news on their upcoming shows.