Indie Bands, Grassroots Fans, and Radio

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Radio.  Now there’s a topic that garners a lot of conversation and even more opinions.

I remember the glorious days of FM radio, the 70s and 80s, music pouring out of speakers the size of a Mini Cooper, each song better than the last. Those were the days of interesting artists, B-sides, and variety: British metal played beside 60s psychedelic, new wave was sandwiched between smooth Southern rock and a blues classic. It was a reason to go for a long ride in the car or stay awake beside the stereo light until 1:00 a.m.  It was a beautiful thing.

I know that some stations still cater to the radio listener’s desire for high quality music, but one of the biggest complaints I hear from music fans is their frustration that radio stations seem to play the same five songs over and over and over again.   “With all the music in the world, why do they want me to listen to the same stupid songs over and over again?”    I believe there are a lot of reasons, and over the next few posts, I’ll be looking at the mystery we call radio.

John Allen, frontman for the Baltimore-based rock band Charm City Devils*, caught my attention last week with his Facebook post asking CCD fans to reach out to SiriusXM’s Octane as well as two syndicated radio shows, Hard  Drive Radio and Loudwire Nights.  He asked fans to request their new single, “Karma.”  I’ve seen these requests from artists before, we all have, but just how important are fan requests in getting a song into the rotation on a radio station?  According to Allen, those requests are very important and may be what it takes to “move the needle” and put a great new single on the radio.

Allen emphasized that bands who want to break into radio must have strong, bullet-proof music to be successful.  True enough.  However, independent bands such as Charm City Devils must also have a smart publicity plan.  A publicity plan is designed to do a lot of things, but one of the major goals is generating a solid fan base.  Makes sense – bands need fans – but it is more than that.  Fans are the grassroots outreach machine that bands need to be successful.  Fans and radio essentially work in unison – radio provides a strong opportunity to build a fan base and fans can impact radio’s play list.  When fans request a band to be played on their favorite radio station, they are potentially putting that band in front of the gate keepers, the program directors, who decide which songs are included in rotation.  If the band is added to rotation, the potential for more fans grows.  Let’s call it Music’s Circle of Life. So the next time your favorite bands ask you to request their music get your grassroots tail in gear and do it!

*My many thanks to Charm City Devils’ John Allen for chatting with Maine Music News.  I’ll be using more from my conversation with Allen in the next few posts.  If you don’t know who this band is, let me introduce you to them.  As I wrote in my review of Battles, the newest release from Charm City Devils, “The CCD signature sound cleverly mixes classic hard rock and roll with a few well-placed effects to create a rawness, an edginess in the music that is both energizing and satisfying.”  This band is great in the studio and melts your face from the stage.  Check out “Karma” below and links to my reviews.

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Stay tuned.  Support Live Music!

Feel free to email us at with questions – I said questions, not ranting or bitching or complaining – and leave comments and ideas on Facebook.

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