Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to Get Your Music Played on NPR

I'll start this post by stating that I have absolutely no idea how to get your music played on NPR, or for that matter, on any national or syndicated radio services. It's a mystery to me.

So a few weeks ago, I was listening to the new podcast, "How to Do Everything", where they answer questions from listeners on their very entertaining show. They've answered everything from "How do you keep your macaroons from sticking to the pan?" to "How do you cure the hiccups?" (the latter involving a method I'm sure you haven't heard about). The hosts ask folks to email them with questions so that they have fodder for their future episodes.

Since this show is hosted by the producers of the fabulously funny NPR radio show and podcast, "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!", out of a bit of desperation, I wrote the following email to them:

"I'm stumped. How do I get my music played on NPR? I've tried, sent it to all the links on NPR sites, and to no avail. Do you know anyone else who can play 'Stairway to Heaven' on the Celtic harp

Amazingly, I heard back from Ian Chillag, one of the hosts, who asked me to send along an mp3 of my song. He liked it enough to include it in Episode 7: OMG, Cobra, Pandora. Ian was kind enough to send this glowing testimonial along to me:

"Anne plays what is without a doubt the finest Celtic harp version of 'Stairway to Heaven' ever made." 

Not that he's heard any other versions on the Celtic harp, but then I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially from a host from a "sort-of-NPR" podcast, which is what he called his show.

But the hosts never did answer my question, "How do I get my music on NPR?"

So, here are my theories:

1. You have to be newsworthy. Really really newsworthy. If Willie Nelson released a CD collaboration with Justin Bieber, that would be really really newsworthy, even if it might not be something you want to listen to. And I'd bet that NPR would want to interview either or both artists, just because they are already famous and doing something newfangled.

2. You have to be selling a bazillion CDs, have a bazillion downloads on YouTube, have a bazillion ratings from the latest TV reality show you've been on, have a bazillion fantastic reviews in popular magazines like "The Rolling Stone", suddenly made a bazillian dollars selling your song on iTunes. In other words, somehow, you are rich in fame by some quantitive factor.

3. The host fell in love with you and your music. Some the musicians receive very in-depth interviews and are featured performing live on NPR. They tend to be touring musicians, but other than that, I can discern no other common denominator. So, maybe the host of the show, or the producers, simply fell in love with them. Okay. I can buy that. Maybe this is how I got lucky with the hosts of "How to Do Everything" (or perhaps Ian is just a kind person and wanted to help me out. Thank you again, Ian!)

4. Maybe some hosts don't take unsolicited music. In other words, they don't want to hear from the artist, just their representative (publicist, manager, etc.). I often wonder about this.

5. Some shows only consider playing certain genres of music. Usually, you can tell that this is what they do...Like Marc Gunn's great Irish and Celtic Music Podcast--It's pretty obvious what kinds of music he'll be interested in playing. But for the general NPR shows, do they really consider all types of music all the time?

There is such a thing as payola, an illegal practice. Of course, NPR sticks by the letter of the law. However, there are many Internet radio stations that call it "paid advertising" to play music that people pay to have played. But do the announcers reveal to the listeners that the musicians have paid to have their music played? Where is the line? What is the rule for podcasts?

I'm just curious and really don't want to open up a can of worms about all of this. I'd just like to know if NPR, or other radio shows for that matter, publish how they go about deciding which musicians to interview and what music to play (yes, some do this, but many many do not). Then, I'd know how and where to submit my music.

What I learned is that you just need to ask. And don't stop asking! Some host or producer may just say, "Yes," for reasons totally unbeknownst to you :-)

I'm interested in your feedback and thoughts....


Marc Gunn said...

Good question. Wish I knew too. You ever check out "All Songs Considered"? There's another one. I've submitted several times. But they seem to have a specific "style" in their minds. It's pretty cool overall and all, but it doesn't seem to consider anything Celtic, that's for sure.

Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos said...

Yep, I have submitted to "All Songs Considered" several times. I don't think they like Celtic music, either, unless maybe Celtic Women (which in my mind is really pop music Celtic-ized). Wonder weather anyone at NPR has even read my post? Ah well. Let me know if you crack the secret code...

Hobby Bard said...

Doesn't Thistle and Shamrock have a few times a year when it's music from listeners? Might try the website. There's a link to it on the NPR site.

Nice blog by the way. :)

Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos said...

Yep, I've submitted to Thistle & Shamrock. No response and no airplay.

thanks for the nice comment about my blog, Hobby!