Getting Your Songs on College Radio – Interview with Calamity Jane (90.5 KSJS)

Calamity Jane at the microphone at KSJS in San Jose, CA.

Calamity Jane at the microphone at KSJS in San Jose, CA.

Calamity Jane is a radio DJ in California working for 90.5KSJS. She sees a lot of bands’ press packets come across her desk, so I wanted to ask her some questions about how bands can stand out and get their music heard by a college DJ so they can get some airplay. Calamity Jane was also recently a part of a “Local Band Workshop” hosted by Live 105 where music business professionals, musicians, and DJs all come together to discuss being a working band and what it takes to get ahead.

Would you mind introducing yourself and what you do?

My name is Chandler, I’m a junior at San Jose State University majoring in communications but my heart has always been music and supporting bands. I’ve been running my own radio show called Calamity Jane for about 3 years now. Basically, Calamity Jane is a weekly show that supports local bay area artists by playing and promoting their music. What I do is I go to local shows and find bands that I feel have potential and I offer to play their music on the air and help promote their shows because I believe that everyone has a voice and their voice should be heard. You wouldn’t believe all of the amazing local bands that are in your backyard, you just have to go out there and find them! I can’t even begin to tell you all of the rewarding experiences I have found by hosting Calamity Jane and how important each of the bands I promote are to me. Currently, Calamity Jane is streaming live on 90.5 KSJS out of San Jose, California and I can’t wait to see where my journey in radio will take me next.

How often does Live 105 host a music business panel for local musicians to come in and ask questions?

Live 105 hosts a local music panel where local musicians, experienced artists, DJ’s, record labels and sound engineers come together to discuss the current state of music about once or twice a year which provides a great opportunity to meet with professionals within the industry and answer any burning questions the community has.

In the panel, it was asked, “When does my band need a manager?.” What was the general takeaway conclusion? Is it possible to hire a manager too soon?

It’s absolutely possible to hire a manager too soon. First, it’s important to make sure that your band is dedicated to making music and not just fooling around. Then it’s important to decide who you want to be as a band, practice, play shows and create a local buzz. Show why your band is different from the 40 other bands in your area that play the same genre. What makes you special? The point when you need a manager comes later after these things are decided. According to Jordan Kurland from Zeitgeist Management, you’re ready for a manager when you’re selling 300-500 tickets to your shows in your hometown, selling a lot of records and you’ve caught the attention of a fair amount of people in your area because you are known for what you do.

Would you mind talking briefly about how bands can build a buzz for themselves locally to attract national representation?

Building a local buzz is different for every individual band. But basically creating a local buzz is something   that you do to create a certain mood or feeling in the music community. It’s that thing that everyone remembers you by. At the panel, The panelists gave examples of how two famous bay area bands did just this. The Matches went to other shows they felt their fans were at and passed out their CDs, stickers, flyers, played acoustically outside the venue in between bands and mingled with tons of people to grab their attention. This type of promotion was unique to the time and they ended up getting recognized for it later on. By passing out their promotional items and giving people a taste of what their music is like, The Matches planted the seed in peoples’ minds of who they were as a band and over time their fan base grew.
The second band talked about was The Trims. This band worked hard on being the whole package. They recruited their fans to post about them on social media, they created quality recordings and to top it all off they had a rad live performance. What made The Trims a stand out band of the time was their stage set up. The performers set up fog machines, banners and lights during their set. They physically changed the venue space and acted as an explosion attracting all kinds of the listener’s senses and when they were done, suddenly the props and The Trims were gone creating a void in the venue and leaving people wanting more.

There was also talk about releasing only your best work, not necessarily a concept album of 25 songs. As a radio station, do you find that to hold true?

Exactly. During the forum it was made very clear that since there is so much competition in the music industry especially around getting air time, there’s a bigger emphasis on singles and EP’s rather than a band’s full album. It’s important to get to the point as fast as you can and show who you are as an artist because you only have so long to grab a listener’s attention. Within the first 30 seconds, they’ve already decided whether or not they like your track. So I think it’s essential to make sure you send your golden “radio hit” songs to promoters because it’s those tracks that draw a listener in and if they like what they hear, chances are they will listen to the album later. It’s getting the attention of a stranger that’s the difficult part and radio is a great resource for bands to put them selves out there.

Transitioning from the music business panel, are there any tips you’d give to indie bands looking to get their songs played on the radio? Should they send in full press kits with free donuts for everyone in the office or will an MP3 link in an email suffice?

Haha. I don’t think bands necessarily need to send us full press kits or bribes to get air time. I let their music speak for itself. However, if the band wanted to include something tangible that gives the station or listener a better idea of who they are as an artist, that’s encouraged! For example: KSJS gets lots of CD’s for review every week and this week we received a cd with an army man figure that was also on the cover of the album. That kind of promotional item is cool and acceptable because it’s relevant to their music and it left us with something tangible to remember that specific artist by.

Are there any promotional techniques that bother you as a radio host that you’d like to see less of?

The main promotional techniques that bother me are when bands email a million links to every song they have ever recorded and expect all of them to get air time. It’s better to just send 1-2 of your best songs and include both the mp3 download and an online streaming link. Another is when bands are overly pushing when trying song to get played. There’s a line between following up with a radio host and being annoying. I really do listen to every song that gets sent my way, so if i think it has potential and would be a good fit for air time then I will play it! I try my best to give everyone the same opportunity to show me what they’re all about as an artist and being overly pushy won’t help.

Do you think bands should focus more on promoting on radio than they currently do? Often times radio play comes last on a laundry list of marketing ideas bands have (usually after show posters and stickers). Is this foolish?

Oh yeah, I strongly believe that bands should focus on radio promotion and make it a priority because most successful bands start their musical careers by getting played on college radio and gaining recognition of local fans in their area. It sounds like such a simple thing, but another person listening to your tracks, going to your shows and talking about your band helps expand your reach. Eventually the music of those same bands played on college radio move on to getting played on bigger radio stations and have a better chance of expanding their fan base. The more fans you have across the country or even state, the easier it is to get shows and tour.  Radio is a unique type of promotion that reaches a wider audience than the band could reach on their own. Even if you are handing out stickers or show posters in your town, will that really help you gain fans on a large scale? No. In order to truly succeed in the music industry, artists have to be skilled at networking with venues, other bands, radio stations and especially their fans to be respected and grow as an artist.


You can find Calamity Jane and her radio show below.
Twitter: @calamityradio
Instagram: calamityjaneradio

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