Andrea Morris, Radio Promoter, AM to FM Promotions
Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 002
For 15 years, Andrea Morris has run her own independent radio promotions company, AM to FM Promotions. Andrea’s years as a music director makes her a natural promo person, as she has a keen understanding of what life is like on “the other side.” With more than 30 years in radio, she has worked in the music industry in the US, UK, and Canada. Along the way, she has worked with artists such as Sting, Bernie Taupin, The Buzzcocks, Bif Naked, Karl Wolf and Serena Ryder.
Her career started as a radio personality in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She quickly moved from the midnight shift to mid-days and the job of music director. It was the first of several music director positions she held before moving to Los Angeles, the UK and then Cleveland, Ohio where she was the afternoon drive announcer and music director at WNWV. She re-established valuable industry contacts, which eventually led to her being offered the job as regional radio promotions manager for IRS Records. She also worked for Discovery and Sire Records before moving to Canada. She knows how to get the job done, and has a track record to prove it. https://amtofm.com/
Radio Promoter/ AM to FM Promotions Andrea Morris
Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 002
Diane Foy: Welcome to Sing Dance Act Thrive featuring conversations with performing artists and industry influencers on what it takes to succeed in the arts. I am your host, Diane Foy, and I believe that you really can make a living from your creative talents. As a publicist, podcaster and coach, my mission is to educate, motivate, and empower you to thrive with authenticity, creativity, and purpose.
Diane Foy: Hello and welcome to episode number two of Sing Dance Act Thrive. My guest today is Andrea Morris. She has run her own independent radio promotions company, AM to FM Promotions for 15 years. Andrea’s years as a music director makes her a natural promo person. She has a key understanding of what life is like on the other side with more than 30 years in radio. She has worked in the music industry in the US, UK and Canada. Along the way, she has worked with artists such as Sting, Bernie Taupin, the Buzzcocks, Bif Naked, Karl Wolf and Serena Rider. During the interview we will get into her journey in the music industry and for musicians, it’s a valuable opportunity to hear what exactly goes on in promoting a record to radio for other performing artists and industry influencers. We talk a lot about entrepreneurship and what it takes to succeed in a creative industry. Hello, Andrea. Welcome to the show.
Andrea Morris: Thank You.
Diane Foy: You have more than 30 years in working in radio. What are some of the highlights that stand out for you?
Andrea Morris: Well in my radio career I think one I was working at a station in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Which was my first radio job and I got promoted to music director and that was that was a real turning point in my career too. You know, to go from starting on overnight to moving up to mid days and then becoming a music director. And it really fueled a lot of my passion for the music industry. And then being a music director in Cleveland Ohio at WMWV was also a big highlight. When I worked in the UK I was not you know in any position of authority yet at stations. I was just a host. I had amazing opportunities to interview some incredible artists and I think the standout of my career it was probably interviewing Sir George Martin.
Diane Foy: Wow.
Andrea Morris: Which was pretty freaking amazing.
Diane Foy: What was that like?
Andrea Morris: He is the epitome or was I should say he was the epitome of the word gentleman. He was kind and incredibly well spoken and just a really wonderful man. I was supposed to have a 15 minute interview with him which turned into a half an hour. And when I said that I was apologizing for interviewing him for so long and he was like, well, must you leave? And so he made me tea and we sat and talked for another half hour just about life and about the business and it was just absolutely delightful. He was just so amazing to talk to.
Diane Foy: Was there any other big names that stand out for you?
Andrea Morris: Well when I was in Vancouver, once I had the opportunity to have lunch with Andrew Loog Oldham, who was the first manager of The Rolling Stones which was an amazing experience. I mean when you’re sitting there with people who you know, worked with icons and from the very beginning and just develop them. It was like an absolutely incredible luncheon because just sitting there and listening to him tell stories after stories was great. I mean, I was on the road at one point when I worked for a record label with Bernie Taupin you know Elton John’s lyricist and Bernie also had amazing stories. And it’s just when you’re on the road with people that have like so much you know, like basically have shaped music as we know it today. It’s just so amazing to hear their stories and to just even share you know, the same room with them is absolutely incredible.
Diane Foy: Wow. That’s great. So let’s talk about how did you get into this? Was it something that you wanted to do as a young kid?
Andrea Morris: Well, I got into radio by accident actually. I always loved music. I remember I bought my first album when I was six years old, but when I was going to college, I put was putting myself through college. I just didn’t feel like I was learning anything. So I dropped out for a bit. And went to work in an office and I really hated that. So it’s kind of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And then I heard this commercial, I grew up in Cleveland I heard this commercial on the air for the for the Ohio School of broadcast technique. And I thought hey, you know what? I’m going to go and check this out because my plan was that I wanted to get a license to operate television cameras so that I could always go to football games for free.
Diane Foy: That’s a good plan.
Andrea Morris: Yeah. But then at that time this was in the late seventies that you have to have a first class license to operate some cameras. And at that time you actually had to have a third class license to actually even be on the radio to be on the air at the radio station. So I had to start doing the class first for the third class license which was the radio class. And so when I started taking that class I found out that I was actually really good at the on air stuff. That like kind of changed the direction of my career.
Diane Foy: So how did you first get your start in radio?
Andrea Morris: Yeah. My first job at WXQR I just sent in a demo tape basically. And I applied for a position as the overnight announcer and they liked my tape. So that was my first radio job. I started doing midnight to six. I had to read. I also had to read and write the news for the 11:45 PM newscast and the 6:45 AM newscasts. And then you also had to write and produce commercials. It was like you know did working at a very small station was a really great way to learn how to do everything because you just got thrown in trial by fire. And you know, like the guy that was the head of our sales department would come in and say, I need this spot written and produced and on the air in 30 minutes. And he would, the only copy he gave you was an ad from the newspaper. So you’d basically have to write it yourself, produce it, voice it, and get that ready in half an hour. And there’s no better way to learn how to do things and meet a deadline then to actually have to do it.
Diane Foy: And then you went off to the UK and worked in radio there?
Andrea Morris: Well yeah. I took a little of a break from radio. I left my job in North Carolina and I moved out to Los Angeles and worked in market research there for a few years. And then I moved to the UK and somehow got back into radio. It was actually I was working for a label at that time. And I was having a meeting with a music director at a radio station and he said you know you have a great voice and you have the same ideas about music that I do. Why don’t you do my shift when I’m on vacation? And I said no I really don’t have any interest in doing radio again. And they kept bugging me and bugging me and they finally they called me one day and said we’d really like you to work on Bank Holiday Monday and we’ll give you four hours and you can play whatever you want. And I went what? That just does not happen. So for me that was absolutely amazing. And I got really I spent a lot of time putting together a four hour show. And after that happened you know then the program director called me and said like, that was one of the best shows I’ve ever heard. And then I filled in for this guy Robin when he went on holiday. And then when he came back they actually fired him and hired me to take his job which I felt really bad about. But I did say repeatedly that I didn’t want to do it.
Diane Foy: What do you transition from being on air and then you were also a music director and then what made you kind of go to the other side and start doing radio promotions?
Andrea Morris: Well I was, when I left the UK and I moved back to Cleveland, I actually, when I moved back to Cleveland, my first job was doing traffic reporting. So like one day I was on the I was on the radio control room there and I got a call that answered the phone and it was the program director of the Smooth Jazz Station in town who said you know you had a great voice and we’ve got an opening. Why don’t you come in for an interview? I went in for an interview and I got the job doing the mid days at a WMWV in Cleveland. And I became music director there and I knew everybody in the music industry like you know because your reps would be your you know like I knew the reps from all the major labels. And so I went to tons of different shows because I would get tickets for not just the smooth jazz shows but for you know all of the alternative bands in the rock bands that I liked. So I consequently got to know like every record rep that was around. And then I started working at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I worked at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the gift shop at the HMV when the rock and roll hall of fame first opened. And then one day I was just in the office there again the phone rings. It was a friend of mine who I knew when she worked for IRS records and she called me to say, Hey I just got promoted. I’m the head of Radio Promotions that IRS records and I need somebody in Cleveland. And when I think of Cleveland, I think of you, she’s like, you’re the mayor of the city. You know everybody I want you for this job. And so she flew me out to L.A. I went out to L.A. for a weekend, met everybody in the company and they’re like the, basically the job is yours. And they’re like you don’t know this but this is the job you were born to do. And I’m like okay I’ll try it.
Diane Foy: I love how other people decided, you know, what you’re meant to do.
Andrea Morris: Well it was interesting. Yeah. And you know and because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing now fortunately I had been friends with with so many people. Like I would say my biggest mentor was my friend Mark Diller who worked with, who I met when I was living in North Carolina. And he was my rep for Atlantic records and I’ve met him over the years. He worked for a bunch of different labels and I would like hang out with him and watching him do business and watching how charismatic he was and how great he was at meet and greets with artists and just hearing him on the phone and the way he did his job was a real inspiration to me. And he taught me unwittingly a lot about the business. And so when I first started with IRS records on January 2nd 1996, I didn’t have any training. Like they basically sent me a laptop, they sent me a list of stations they sent me, all of the records would be working and I just had to go. Like there was no office and they I was working at my house and I called up and I was like. Well is someone going to train me? And they’re like no because you know exactly what you’re doing just do it.
Diane Foy: Figure it out.
Andrea Morris: Yeah. So it was very much like okay well I had having been a music director, I knew you know basically how it went because I knew what people would call me and talk to me about. And so I just kind of like channeled all that energy and I just started making phone calls to people and got to know them. And in those days nothing was digital, so you actually had to go in and make you know your rotations go in and visit all the stations and you know, you would set up your weekly visits with all the stations in town. You’d go in every week you’d go you know we’d go on road trips. I mean I spent I logged so much time in my car just visiting stations because I had a six station state territory. So I did Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Western New York. And that was and I was constantly on the road. Then they added Michigan into my territory and then I got busier. Yeah it was pretty crazy.
Diane Foy: And what are some of the artists that you worked with at this time?
Andrea Morris: The biggest band I worked with at IRS records was the Buzzcocks. I worked with them actually. I was on the road with the Buzzcocks when the label went under, but most of it was like small indie bands. Although I did work a record for Sting with the Leaving Las Vegas Soundtrack. And then I worked when I worked for Discovery Records, again not a lot of huge names but you know, like baby bands that you’re building and there was a, there was an artist named Corey Stevens who was a blues guitarist that we got to number eight on the chart. Which was pretty, which is pretty amazing. And then we also, and then when I worked at when Discovery got merged in with Sire, that’s when I worked with Bernie Taupin and Farm Dogs and like Spacehog and bands like that.
Diane Foy: You were in UK, then you went to back to the States and then you moved to Canada. What do you find is the major differences in the music industry? Not necessarily just radio, but radio too. Like how does it work differently in the UK, US and Canada?
Andrea Morris: Well when I first lived in the UK in the 80’s there weren’t very many radio stations. Like I remember there were, when I moved to Manchester, there was the CBC, the BBC Rather, radio station in Manchester, BBC, Manchester. And then there was another there was like an am station and they were just starting to Piccadilly Q103 which is the station I was working at which is an FM station. And then there was another station that applied to go on the air and they were like oh, we don’t know if we can actually have like four stations in Manchester. Manchester is a huge city. But the BBC was at that point like the most important radio in the country. And you would have people who like the pluggers, what they call the radio trackers. Radio promoters in the UK is Pluggers. And they would have people that their job was just to work Radio One in London because you had to know every producer and getting a record getting your song played on radio one was massive. So the difference there was there was no satellite radio at that point. And there were very few stations so it really was, the BBC was very influential when it came to breaking records. In the State, there are a lot more varieties of formats and there are a lot more stations, you know because you have a bigger population density. So your charts are completely different because like you know you will have it’s broken down more into more like specialized areas. You know, like they say they have like here we have like alternative radio, but there there’s alternative, then there’s AAA, which is adult album alternative. There’s the American stations. So you have like, you have much more genre specific and like we don’t have smooth jazz stations in Canada. They have tons of them in the U.S. and they do also have like straight ahead jazz stations. So it’s incredibly, I think it’s incredibly different but I think it also it also helps promote a wider variety of music which I wish that we had more of those formats in Canada because so many things just kind of fall through the craps and just go to campus radio because there’s no stations, there’s no mainstream stations that will play them.
Diane Foy: Right, right. There’s no home for them.
Andrea Morris: No and radios evolved so much over the years too. Like when I first started there were so many like independently owned radio stations and now there are so very very few of them and everything’s become very corporate.
Diane Foy: And the playlists have shrunk.
Andrea Morris: Yeah. And it’s become it’s much harder but it’s not impossible for indie artists to actually break it. It’s just a matter of you like I think nothing’s impossible. And every day when I start, when I start my job and I get on the phone, I start calling to people like my mantra over and over is you know, today is the day that you’re going to get that top 40 record. Today is the day that these people are going to add your tracks. And if I didn’t go in it with that attitude, I would probably be like really depressed.
Diane Foy: So after you were in Canada for a while, then what made you go out on your own and start your own company?
Andrea Morris: I had worked for a series of labels that consistently independent labels that, that went out of business and it got really frustrating. And and so I was working for another smaller company. And one day I was at Corus Entertainment and I was talking with Jay J Johnston who was then the head of course in Toronto. And he was like Andrea you’re the most well connected person I know. He goes start your own company. He goes, you can do it and you don’t know that you can do it but you should. He goes because you’re too good to keep going through this. So I thought a lot about what he said. And that summer I worked five different jobs and just worked as much as I could so that I had a little bit of a nest egg so I could go on my own and start my own company. And it was October of 2004 that I launched them to FM promotions.
Diane Foy: What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Andrea Morris: I think you have to really know what your market is. You have to know what it is that you want to do and you have to like I always said I’m going to do one thing and I’m going to do it well. I know radio promotions, I know how to do that. I know how to make those context and I know how to make things happen. So I didn’t want to branch out and do publicity or do like other things because I thought that would take the focus away from what I knew I was really good at. And I also found that a lot, the key in like when things first started was actually changing my attitude about things because initially when I started people would ask me how it was and I’d go, oh my God, it’s so hard. Like you know trying to get clients and you know I’d be like that’s really tough, but I’m making it. And then when I saw I said to myself wait a minute like you need people want to hire a winner. So I just started projecting when people ask me how it was I go it’s fantastic. Like I’m doing so well and everything is so great. And all of a sudden it became that. Like all of a sudden I started getting more clients. I started people who were like, we’re like more attracted to me. And I think a lot of that is the energy that you put out. Like when you go you put you say in your mind this is what I’m going to do. I would have very specific goals that I would write down every year. On January 1st I’d be like, here’s what I’m going to achieve this year. Here’s what here are my goals and here’s the things that I need to reach. And I think if you and I also had a five year plan where like in five years I want this to happen. I want to be able to hire an assistant. I want to be able to do this. I want, I want this many people in my roster. I’d like to make this amount of money per year. And I achieved every single one of those goals. I achieve.
Diane Foy: That’s amazing. Since this show is geared towards performing artists and we both know performing artists sometimes are reluctant to think of themselves as a business. So what skills or knowledge should be a priority for artists to acquire?
Andrea Morris: I think everybody should take an accounting class because it’s really important to know what your own personal finances are. I’ve been around this music industry for a long time and I’ve had way too many artists I know that have trusted somebody with their finances and then I found out later that they have nothing. You should always keep an eye on what you’re making and always have a budget in mind whenever you start anything have a budget in mind like you know write down here’s how much money I plan on spending. Particularly when you go into a studio, because when you go into a studio people get all and like fall in love with that time that during the studio and I’ve seen way too many artists that that’s been like a year two years as independent artists working on a project, which is dumb. Like you know by the time you’re done with that, you have no money to promote it. So you’ve got this really great record that nobody can hear because you don’t have the money. You don’t have the funding to go out and actually promote it. To hire a radio tracker to hire a publicist to get out there on the road and do what you need to do. And I think that that’s one of the biggest things. It’s understanding budgets but you can understand if you do accounting. Like I had had artists in the UK that always said to me when I would ask them that question, they would say take business courses, like understand what the business is because the business is you and you. If you don’t understand how business works and you don’t understand anything like that you’re not going to be able to succeed and always have a team around you as well. Like don’t be afraid. I would say that the other thing would be like learn how to learn how to read a contract.
Diane Foy: Yeah. Very important.
Andrea Morris: I would also maybe recommend taking a writing course because it’s important to be able to write well you know even with thank you notes to people grammar is incredibly important.
Diane Foy: Right. Communication skills.
Andrea Morris: Yeah.
Diane Foy: What do you consider your strengths as a business owner?
Andrea Morris: Well, particularly for doing my job. I think it’s a personality thing. Being able to actually connect with somebody and get somebody to like you that you’ve never met. It’s like being able to have a conversation also involves being a, being a good speaker, but also being a good listener because people will start to talk to you and then you remember things about them. And I think that that’s part of what is great about my job is that I actually do build relationships with people and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t have the ability to connect with somebody. And that’s one of the things I think is definitely a strength is being able to connect with people. I think also being a strong, being, having a sense of what I’m worth. This gives me the ability to do my job better because I’ve had people that have said to me, no, I’m not paying you this. You’re going to work free for me and prove yourself. I’m like, no, I’m not. You know, I’ve had my own company for 14 years now. I don’t have to prove anything to you. I’m good at what I do. And if you don’t think I’m good at what I do then don’t hire me. When I first started, I know that I didn’t work for free. I did that a lot to try to you know, like I’ll work a month for free and then let’s go from there. Well guess what, when you work a month for free, you’re never getting paid for a second month.
Diane Foy: One of the questions I was going to have for you is you know telling about certain failures that you’ve encountered while you were building your business and what you learned from it. And that’s a big one.
Andrea Morris: I think the big one and initially starting a business for anybody is and I think a lot of it is when you’re a woman as well is knowing that you it’s okay to stand up for yourself. There was there was a really pivotal point in my when I first started I think it was maybe within a year of having my company. I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a lawyer and I said oh yeah I got to go be a bitch and collect money now. And he goes no Andrea he was like I never want to hear you talk about yourself like that. He goes because you are not being a bitch when you want to get paid. He goes you’re being a smart businessperson and if you were a man people would say you were tough. He goes never put that. He goes never put that label on yourself and never let other people put that label on you. And it’s something that that I really took to heart. And so when I want to be paid I’m not I don’t go to get all like hard ass about it,but I’m like you know this is a business. I’m doing a service and I expect to be paid for it.
Diane Foy: Yeah. Because you set out what they agreed to in your contract. When you first take that job it’s like you set out what they can expect from you but also when the payment is due.
Andrea Morris: Yes, and I also like I’ll be honest I also many times tried to dissuade people from working with me because I say listen there are no guarantees and you’re not going to chart on your first single and you’re probably you can’t expect that you’re going to get the major radio stations in major markets on your first single. That doesn’t normally happen. If you’re not signed to a major label then guess what? You’re going to have to treat this as is this a career? If this is a career, you start out and you do your stepping stones. And here to help you I’m here to help you to build your career. I’m here to make sure that radio gets to know you, that you go that you do have a presence and things start to work for you and we’ll build a career and we’ll make things happen. But don’t expect that on your first record. It’s going to be a sensation and you’re going to be like you know opening up for all the big names because that’s not going to happen.
Diane Foy: What is the importance of managing an artist’s expectations when it comes to desired results of any given career?
Andrea Morris: Do you have to do that? Because you can’t promise things that you can’t deliver. You have to tell someone when they hire you. Be honest about what it is you’re going to do and what goals you can achieve for them and what other things you can do on the side. If you’re honest upfront, constantly, you’ll be successful. Because you just have to manage people. You get up, somebody says to me like, well I, if I work with you, I want to be on stage in the ACC in a year. Well guess what? That’s probably not going to happen. And you don’t deserve it because you have to as a baby artist someone who’s just starting out you’re not ready for that. And that takes a lot of work to be able to get to that point where you can get on the big stage like that and actually hold the crowd in your hands. It’s not just about you being on that stage you’re a performer you’re an entertainer. You have to have a show and enough repertoire developed. To be able to entertain those people and make them want to come back and see you and not boo you.
Diane Foy: And I find like a lot of artists they see you know the big names doing that but they don’t see all those you know what the work that took in that they did to get to that point and you just see the oh, this artist came out of nowhere and has hits and he videos and they’re selling out and it’s like but you don’t see the 10 years of struggle that led up to that moment.
Andrea Morris: Exactly. I mean it’s really easy to go like go I want to be as big as the Beatles were. Why are you going to go to Hamburg and are you going to play 70 hours? Like you know in a week? Are you gonna go on stage for like you know four or five hours a night and play covers? You know and work your ass off to get your stage routine to where it needs to be? You know nothing ever happens overnight. But everybody has that. Everybody always thinks that it does and it never does.
Diane Foy: Especially in Canada and like touring the country is very difficult because all the main cities that you would play are so far apart. And, but that’s what most bands have to do to succeed and build that following. And you’re not going to make money on your first couple tours. Probably. You’re going to spend a lot of it.
Andrea Morris: Yeah. But people also forget that there’s this really wonderful country well not maybe the country is not as wonderful now but there’s you know you can cross the border get a P one go to the U. S. and you can do a ton of shows and make money. You know like when I used to live in Cleveland, I remember one summer every festival that we went to in Cleveland like beer fest, rib fest, you know waterfront festival, the bare naked ladies were playing. And this was before their album was out. Their first album was ever released and they were playing so often in Cleveland that by the time they actually released the single all the radio stations picked up on it because they had a history. They knew who this band was. You don’t have to limit yourself to just Canada be smart. There’s like, you know, like look across the border. You could go play New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and do a nice little run where you come back through Detroit and come back in a tour through Ontario go down again start touring again and you can actually build a really solid fan base.
Diane Foy: And also build social media in those areas.
Andrea Morris: Yes, exactly. And then you also look sexier to Canadian labels and Canadian radio because you’ve got U.S. numbers too.
Diane Foy: So what would you say is the biggest challenge in being a radio promoter?
Andrea Morris: Getting program music directors to listen to music? I think. It’s like you know just because you send out a track it doesn’t mean it’s going to be listened to and sometimes you have to nag and nag. Particularly if there’s a week when there’s been a lot that’s been released. It’s like nagging and nagging and nagging them to actually listen. When you finally get them to listen, then you can sell them on the track. But it’s hard to sell somebody on something they haven’t heard and it’s like getting them to that point where they actually do listen. That’s difficult. And then managing expectations of artists is another difficult thing at times because it’s not so much the artist. A lot of times it might be their parents if they’re a younger artist where their parents have unrealistic expectations you know and then it comes into when you start doing other things too like you know wake up routing radio tours and the like when you’re doing a radio tour with an artist you’re basically, you dig and you’re trying to get the radio stations to agree to see somebody and you’re trying to do it on a timeline that makes sense and send things in so that driving wise that makes sense, and you’re not knocking yourself out. So then you become a bit of a road manager at those points as well.
Diane Foy: What is the purpose of a radio promo tour for those that might not know?
Andrea Morris: To really to make a face to face connection with radio when someone actually has met you they have a much more vested interest in your career and it’s a really great way for them to see what you’re capable of as an artist. If you can sing and perform your song acoustically. They hear your voice they see they get to know you as a person and when you have a personal connection with somebody that elevates you from being at the bottom of pile to the middle of the pile and then to the top of the pile. And you just get out there and you slog away. And that is an incredibly valuable thing. A lot of the radio stations now do like Facebook live performances as well. So you’re opening yourself up to having a whole another group of people that actually can see you there that didn’t know anything about you before that. So it’s a really great way to open up your audience and to actually start getting yourself more known with radio.
Diane Foy: When you go on a radio tour and you set up the station visits. Is that always that the artist is going to be on air? Or is it more they’re going to play for the staff in the office and you know, now you say that they do Facebook lives. That’s fantastic.
Andrea Morris: Yeah, most of the time it depends. It’s seriously depends on the format as well. Like if a station is playing you they’ll put you on the air. If it isn’t playing you, then you’ll do a boardroom performance for usually the staff sometimes it’s just the music director. Sometimes they’ll Facebook live. A lot of times they’ll record interviews and they’ll have they’ll keep them on file in case you do like gets in the next level. Then they can say, oh we have this interview that we recorded with this person way back when. So you get a lot of that going on as well. And then a lot of times I’ve done with I’ve done with artists on several occasions where the music director has been you know taping them and taping the interview and then he’s like know what? Screw it. Let’s put you on the air live This is great. So it’s all up to you as to how well you perform and what you do. But you know, you can’t, you can’t dismiss just going to a radio station and performing for the staff because again, you don’t know who those people, who these people are, where they’re going to be tomorrow. And it’s also very, very valuable as it’s great experience. And you know, the next time you go in you might be just on, you might be on the air.
Diane Foy: And that also goes down to the importance of communication skills and your personality and really making those personal connections when you aren’t there.
Andrea Morris: It’s also like I always I offer my artists a chance if they want me to go with them I’ll go. But I do charge a fee for that because I I’m not at the office and you get better social media because I’m taking photos I’m tagging everybody you know? And I have also you end up getting more time at the station because I know everybody and we’ll have conversations and you know I can take an artist and guide them through where they should say what they shouldn’t say give them a little pep talk on the way there. Give them a hint into the personality of who they’re going to see and then you know give him pointers afterwards. Like okay this was good. Build on that on the next thing do this when to do that. And it’s a great way to like you know shape somebody and help them to get to the point where they can be really professional about what they’re doing.
Diane Foy: Right. With all the changes in the way people consume music these days, do you believe that radio is still a key factor in success of an artist?
Andrea Morris: Yes, I do. But the reality is that booking agents and the like look at your radio at your chart numbers people look at that for like you know, for festivals they look at what your radio numbers are what your followers are as well. And it is a very valuable medium. You know, I think that there are a lot of different choices, but when I get in my car, I usually have the radio on and you know, and I’m listening to new music and it’s for me, I mean it is my business. So I do, you know, I do flip around a lot and listen to a lot of different formats so I can kind of keep track of what’s popular at different formats. But I think it’s always their radio when there’s something going on you know, you’re not if you’re listening to your own music on your phone and listen to Spotify, you’re not going to know like the weather’s bad or you know like there’s this going on or there’s this that happened. And I think radio is always there and we’ll always be there for your you know, it’s kind of like a friend kind of thing you know what I mean?
Diane Foy: Right. So what role do you think radio will play in the music industry 5, 10 years from now?
Andrea Morris: I don’t know. Like it depends on how things evolve more like you know with the satellite radio. Everybody thought satellite radio was going to kill terrestrial radio and it didn’t. I think terrestrial radio will still be important but I think that has to shift slightly. It’s gotten a way a lot of the personal flavor and gone more to like kind of a strip mall mentality. And I think in order for radio to still be relevant and be vibrant in the next 15 years, I think it has to go back to being more local. Because people want to know what’s going on in their own communities as opposed to hearing one voice that’s doing a radio show for like you know five different markets and then you lose your local flavor. And I think the local flavor is what keeps radio really relevant.
Diane Foy: Right. Do you include satellite radio and Internet radio, podcasts? There’s so many different avenues now. Do you include those kinds of things in your promotions?
Andrea Morris: We do satellite radio and we do key internet stations, I can’t like there’s a lot of internet stations out there and it’s really hard to find it. I kind of sift through and do the ones that I know are reputable you know, and actually do a good job of promoting the artists that they work with. There’s a lot of internet stations that approach us that they want us to pay them. Like, you know for free $500 for you know for $40 for you’ll get your artists played, one artist played for a month. You know or we will do a package deal where it’s this. It’s like no, you know who listens to your station what are your numbers.
Diane Foy: Yeah. As to say, I find that a lot of times, the outlets that do that are not outlets that are, you know, high listeners.
Andrea Morris: Yes, Exactly. And so you just have to have to kind of know what the parameters are and who’s reputable. And so I don’t deal with a lot of podcasts at the moment either because again, it’s like heart finding the ones that you know that will actually be valuable to the artists that I work with. And at the end of the day, there really aren’t enough hours in the day to keep trying to like do all the research.
Diane Foy: Also Spotify playlist is a huge avenue now. Do you get involved on that?
Andrea Morris: Not at the moment, but it’s something that we’re working on. But we do the Quebec market too. So like we’re one of the few independence radio promotion companies that actually also target Quebec. And Quebec is great for artists because they love music and they’re really loyal to artists in Quebec and it’s great. It’s a great place to you know, to get your music heard and to you know, pop up your sales up as well.
Diane Foy: What does an artist need to have in order for you to consider working with them?
Andrea Morris: They need to have that at least three to four tracks recorded. And I need to see bio, photos, a game plan. I like to see that somebody, I’m working with somebody I want to know that their career artists. And I don’t want to just work somebody who this is a hobby and they’re going t0 you know go to radio for a month and then bug you out of the contract because they’re not number one at a radio station. It’s like I want to know that somebody wants to build their career that somebody wants to work with us they continue to grow and then we’ll make that happen. You know I’ll record I recommend publicists all the time. I recommend you know like going on tour I tried to get gigs for my artists. I work with my liquor sponsor as well to try to create events and Niagara Falls Craft Distillers by the way, that’s who we’re partnered with. Working with them has given us adhere the ability to host parties at events that, that we wouldn’t be able to do. It’s gone and it opens up that for them as well like a whole new audience and a foot in the door in music industry events which is really great for them and it’s great for us too. So you know if I have an artist that wants to do a CD release party, I can find you know find a spot for them and then bring in alcohol and it makes it a really cool experience. And it gives a lot more for that. So I mean I want to work with artists that actually want to see that happen in their lives and then keep growing and not just put a record out and sit back and not do anything and then wonder why it wasn’t number one.
Diane Foy: Yeah. And it’s important to have a team in the sense like can’t save all your money up and just hire a radio promoter and that’s it. You need to have you know plans of touring and publicity and social media marketing. It just goes on and and you need someone that’s serious enough to put that team together and have a game plan.
Andrea Morris: Yeah, exactly. And you know the other thing I would say to artists when they’re looking for that is like understand that you’re dealing with professionals so treat them in the professional manner as well and value someone’s time. You know the number of times that people call me or send me emails and say I’m interested in hiring you. How much do you charge? Well, I can’t quote you unless I hear your music. Like I need to know what format it’s going to go to. Is it even viable? Like I turned things down a lot and say no this isn’t ready because you haven’t met you know your production isn’t there. You know musically your songs aren’t there. Here’s what you need to do in order to get to a point that I can work with you. And you know I’ll send them back to the drawing board. But you know, again it’s like I’m more than happy to listen to demos to in order to make sure that people aren’t spending a ton of money producing tracks that aren’t ready perhaps lyrically or musically for radio.
Diane Foy: Right. And what kind of things should a musician be thinking about during the recording and production process? If they’re planning to actively pursue radio.
Andrea Morris: I think you have to listen to the radio station that you perceive that you want to be played on. If you’re saying to me like I want to be played on this you know, and this radio station but your music doesn’t actually fit that then that’s a pipe dream. Like if you really want your songs to be played on the radio then listen to the radio. Have an understanding about where radio is playing and the type of music they’re playing. Which might not be the type of music going we’ll be playing six months down the road but you just need to have an understanding of the production values and what it actually takes to have a hit single. And if you listen to the radio, you’ll know what that is and it makes my job easier than rather than having to tell somebody like it’s kind of between formats. It’s kind of this it’s kind of that like. If you have a clear vision of where you want to go. I say this to artists a lot like have a five year map. You can’t if you’re getting in the car to drive somewhere and you don’t know where you’re going you’re not going to get there. It should be same with your career. If you don’t know where you want to be you’re not going to get there.
Diane Foy: That’s a lot that I’ve been teaching artists lately too is how to goal set. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? What’s your life like? Where do you live? What’s your lifestyle? Then, okay, to get there. Where will you be at five years?
Andrea Morris: But you can use that in every avenue of your life. I mean like I just recently had to move and I knew exactly what I wanted and I wrote down on a piece of paper what I wanted and I completely visualized it and I got exactly what I want it you know? So if you don’t know what you want you can’t get it.
Diane Foy: That’s a big thing. I think a lot of artists, they know they want to do music, but then, and they have this dream of playing the ACC and touring in these big stadiums. But then, when I talked to them about their values, sometimes they’re like but it’s family and you know, the things that wouldn’t be suitable for a life on the road.
Andrea Morris: Yeah, exactly. If you really want to life on the road, then don’t put family as a priority unless the band is your family.
Diane Foy: So how far in advance should a potential client be contacting you?
Andrea Morris: I like to work with people that are like in the stages, it varies. I mean like sometimes I’ll get someone that says that it will call me and go like okay I want to go like next week. I usually want two weeks to set things up. But if it’s really good and it’s something I’m really passionate about yeah, I can go within a week. But I think that if you’re going into the studio and you’re just beginning the recording process contact somebody like you know, contact a publicist, contact a radio tracker. Let them listen to your material and kind of guide you and go like okay. Here’s what you should be doing. Here’s the timeline and here’s one a good time to release this. Like you don’t want us a lot of mistakes people make is they go into studio and they’re like, I’m going to release in September. Well, September’s a really hard time because that’s like the fall book and radio stations are basing what they’re playing and all of their promotions on their advertising, what they’re advertising rates are for the ratings for the next few months. So their intent on playing only familiar things and trying to get the most listeners and you’re not going to get a lot more listeners, their logic by playing unknown artist. So September’s not the best time to go to radio but if you’ve already had singles at radio, then you can go in September. No problem. Because you’re not an unfamiliar name. It’s just, it’s about how you build things up and you need to have that game plan and actually in place before you start throwing things. You know like throwing spaghetti to the wall and seeing if it sticks.
Diane Foy: Yeah. So it like that’s why it’s important to have that three or four singles lined up so that you know if you are going to radio in September by that time it’s your third, fourth single.
Andrea Morris: Yeah. And you know it’s like respect the time of people that you know that you’re speaking with as well.I don’t expect that I’m going to listen to it in a full album without some compensation and you know, it’s like it’s my pet peeve of people that will come to me and go like I need you to write a letter from me for factor and then they don’t hire you. Then they do everything themselves. It’s like that’s disrespectful. Now I charge money to write letters because it’s like if you want me to take my time then you’re going to pay me for my time.
Diane Foy: Right. I was going to ask that as well. About when your helping an artist in the recording phase, they’re not yet your radio client. Do you charge them for that advice?
Andrea Morris: It depends on the client. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It depends on like you can kind of get a feel right away if someone’s actually going to hire you. I mean, I’ve been doing this for a long enough time that I can sense somebody out right away. And that’s why I think that somebody, I can tell somebody is like for real and they’re going to work with me, then I’ll give them all the advice that I can because I want a quality product to work.
Diane Foy: Yeah. And you want to be successful just as much as they want to be successful. In Canadian radio, is there opportunities for international artists to get played on Canadian radio when you’re an indie and not with a major?
Andrea Morris: Yeah, but you start off, you know you have to do it kind of strategically. A lot of times we start off with campus campaigns and build an audience because, you know it’s harder in a format like say country where country is so competitive. And if you’re, I just had this conversation with an artist. Now I’m like you know, if you’re hiring the people in the States, I’m like before you come to Canada, get some numbers get me something I can talk about in Canada before you spend money here. Like I’m not going to waste your money. So yeah, there are definitely ways that you can do it. And a lot of the you know, the lot of the things are coming up here and doing shows. Like if you’re an international artist yeah, you can get airplay but you got to come up here and do some shows too. It’s harder for sure. But it’s not to say that it’s impossible, but it’s all about your mindset as well.
Diane Foy: And what about the other way around, like Canadian artists getting American radio play?
Andrea Morris: Well, again, it’s like getting people to know you. Like case in point, the example I cited earlier with the Bare Naked Ladies, they had been down there before, their records were released, playing constantly. And then once their records came out, everyone knew who they were. Like, you can’t expect someone to just like hear your music and fall down and you know, start praying to God that this is the best thing that ever happened to them. Well you need to do is go down and build an audience. So if your dream is to really get on American radio, know what formats do you want to get on and go down there and play.
Diane Foy: How important is securing interviews to what you do? Our stations still doing phone interviews or do musicians need to be out on the road to get interviews?
Andrea Morris: Yeah, stations still do phone interviews for sure. If you speak French, it’s very helpful because we did a lot, we do a lot of interviews up in Quebec radio, but n country radio. Sure. They do a lot of interviews. It’s countries, probably the format that does the most interviews I would say. You can get interviews with rock radio too. But it’s harder at top 40 because the focus is mostly on music and they really don’t take a lot of time out for interviews unless you’re a huge artist. It’s harder for upcoming artists, but again you have the other opportunities of going into the station of doing Facebook live. There’s other things that in Instagram live there’s other opportunities that open up that ways of via social media that still get you a fan base and still let people hear you and know what you’re about without actually being on the air. So they are very important because it’s all about, you know, it’s being articulate, it’s about being able to talk about your music and a lot of times when people hear something and here you talk about something they formed this personal connection with you.
Diane Foy: Social media has opened up a whole new world for everyone and you have an assistant that works with a lot of artists in their social media and giving advice. What are some strategies that artists can take from and implement in social media?
Andrea Morris: What I would say with social media is remember look at other artist’s social media sites and look at like your favorite artists. Most of them aren’t just posting like we’re in the studio, we’re in a gig, we’re here. It’s like people kind of want to get to know you and kind of know about your personal life as well. So you know, a lot of the artists I follow their post things about, you know, here we are in a tour bus or we’re doing this, we’re doing that are, you know, there’s like little tidbits about their lives. So like we’re eating this at a restaurant. It’s like you kind of, you kind of get to know them and their, their lifestyle and you’re more likely to follow them and keep following them. It’s like you want to keep active followers and the way you do that is by being interesting.
Diane Foy: Yeah. And it lets people in to your world. You get more invested and a lot of people don’t get to experience what it’s like to be on the road or all the behind the scenes stuff that, you know, we take for granted. It’s like this is just what we do. But you know, a lot of people don’t get to see that. And it’s really interesting, like if you’re doing a little video from your tour bus, you know, on social media or from the studio, it’s this little behind the scenes stuff that like totally engages people.
Andrea Morris: Exactly. But it’s also you have to be engaging in those videos as well.
Diane Foy: Yeah, for sure.
Andrea Morris: You won’t just be like yo, man, studio and pan around, whatever. Yeah.
Diane Foy: Yeah. No one cares.
Andrea Morris: Yeah, exactly. That’s a pet peeve of mine, people that start out their video and going, Yo, what’s up? We’re in the studio. It’s like.
Diane Foy: The advice I give a lot of artists is when trying to figure out their target market is really think about who is your ideal fan? How old are they? Are they men or women? If you just have that one or two people in mind, then you talk directly to them. Other people will come on board too, but if you know the majority of your audience is 16 year old girls, you talk directly to that van. They feel so engaged.
Andrea Morris: Well, and also design your merch for those fans. You know who your fan base is. You design your logo, you design your merch to attract those people to you as well. And that’s another thing. Don’t skip money on that. Like you know your logo and the way you represent yourself is really important.
Diane Foy: How do you balance your projects when you may have a few tracks at radio that you’re working, but then also you have to go out with one artist on a radio tour?
Andrea Morris: Being self employed. It’s easy for me to go on the road because I run my own company. I don’t have to ask anybody for permission, but it does become somewhat complicated when I’m on the road with an artist because then I have Jessica in the office and you know, there’s only so much you can do and when someone’s paying you to be on the road with them, you don’t, you don’t want your attention to be on another artist that does not paying you to be on the road with them. You know what I mean? So you have to find that give and take as well between like the, you know, being with the person that you’re with but also serving your other clients as well. And how do you find that? How do you find that? That balance. But when I’m out there at radio with artists, it also benefits the other artists that I’m worth because it’s cementing my relationship with radio, which also makes it easier for them the next time they want to go. Or when I’m presenting something, I usually have a few moments with the music director aside that I can talk about, about all the projects that I’m working.
Diane Foy: Yeah. Again, you get that face to face time.
Andrea Morris: Yeah, exactly. And you know like when you’re on the road doing a radio tour you can post, we get great, we get so much great content because you know like I’m sitting there snapping pictures away of a million different things going wait, stand in front of this, this is a great photo. Wait do this, this is a great photo. And it really makes it really makes a much more personal content on your, on your social media.
Diane Foy: When you think about you know, back to entrepreneurship, what areas are you still working on becoming better at? As a business owner, as a creative individual or even just in your life to create life balance?
Andrea Morris: While I’m working on expansion, I’d like to make my company bigger but not lose the personal flavor of it, which is an interesting kind of balance there because Jessica is going to be opening up our Montreal branch of our office in the, in 2019 which will be great because we do have a lot of clients based out of Montreal. So to have someone actually there being able to service them and to you know, go with our artists on radio tours in Quebec is going to be really valuable. I’m in talks with people in the States to maybe expand well not maybe I’m definitely but something I want to do by the end of 2019 mid 2019 is have an office in Cleveland, which is my hometown. I’ve got a lot of connections there. Cleveland’s a really great hub. And I want to be able to like work with artists in Cleveland to open up opportunities for artists in Canada to go down there and play and vice versa. So kind of like opens up like an international trade is saying that’s my goal for the next few years is to expand the company and grow, but doing in a way that’s very smart because realistically I’m still the voice of my company and you know what I do I’m the one that makes the phone calls to radio. Jessica calls the Quebec stations. I call the rest of them. And it’s, you know, I have relationships. I’ve been talking to these people for like 20 years. So I think we all know each other pretty well by now.
Diane Foy: Will you ever hire other people to do that and maybe you take a step back? Is that anything in your plans?
Andrea Morris: If I could find the right person, then I could travel more. But it’s, again, it’s difficult because this isn’t the job that I’m good at teaching it because no one taught me. And it’s really difficult to teach somebody how to be personable because you either can do it or you can’t. And you know, just to be able to learn how to tip start a conversation, how to be able to, to have that mix that’s just right of business and being professional and yet being personable. It’s that something that really I find hard to teach because it’s hard to explain. I’m proud of the growth that I have in my company that, you know, like our social media is spot on. The website is great. My logos fantastic. I have amazing clients that I’m also proud to work with. Like my goal is also to, you know, have the top 40 record and eventually have that number one. Those are goals that are, that are definitely reachable and that I, I’m seeing, I think will attain in 2019.
Diane Foy: Right. That’s amazing. Any other final words of wisdom to pass on to either artists, performers, entrepreneurs?
Andrea Morris: I would say for artist. When you’re speaking with professionals and you’re looking at hiring somebody, one of the things that I always recommend is do your research like looking at people’s website. Go on there go and look who they’re working with and talk to those people. Find out like you know, are they happy? What are their recommendations? What did they what person that they’re working with? And that’s a good way to know if you’re a fit if you have with the person that you’re talking to is going to be a fit for you on a business level because not everybody’s going to work well together. And you want to know that if you’re hiring someone it’s going to be someone that you can trust, someone that’s going to do the job for you and also someone that you’re kind of in that you’re compatible with on different levels. And so that’s a really important thing for anybody. And I would also say be professional when you speak to people and when you contact them like don’t. And if you reach out to somebody and want a quote and somebody takes the time to listen to your music writes you back, and then you never even respond with a thank you that sends a red flag. And keep in mind that all of this is not really a huge industry and we all talk. There are people sending out warnings about people and go like this guy contacted me repeatedly or whatever. You know we talk about that too. So, I would do I would say understand that understand that about the business. For entrepreneurs. I think you know, I think it’s like you have to really believe in yourself and you have to really believe in what you’re doing and you to have goals and you have to have a vision for your future. And I would say that with artists as well, you have to have goals and you have to have realistic goals.
Diane Foy: A lot of times artists, because I know I’m the way that way too. We kind of work with the go with the flow attitude. And I’ve been working hard on doing the goal setting this year and definitely seeing the progress. So, and part of that is coaching artists to be able to set goals like that and work towards them and kind of break it down to make it a little bit simpler to understand. So one final question is what is your big picture? Why, why do you do what you do?
Andrea Morris: I do what I do because I love music. I’ve always loved music, but I have no creative talent whatsoever. And so, I mean, I can like, you know, I can sing well in my car when I’m alone. I write my own songs that are, you know, just for me, but you know, I don’t have the talent to be up on the big stage. I’m a great appreciator and I’m a great encourager and those are my strengths. And that’s why I do what I do because I’m in the music industry and I’ve had a long career in the music industry by being a great appreciator and be a great encourager and I can recognize talent, I can watch, I can recognize how talent can be better and how to like kind of calm somebody down or talk to them off the ledge. So it’s kinda like the years of experience and you know, the mistakes that you make all come back to all be a learning experience.
Diane Foy: Yeah, for sure. So where can people find you online?
Andrea Morris: Well, my website is AM to FM.com and those are all the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is all @Am to FM we’re on everybody’s all social media platforms. So check us out, see what we do and you know, send us your music. We’d love to work with you.
Diane Foy: Wonderful. Well thank you so much for your time and wisdom.
Andrea Morris: Fantastic.
Diane Foy: It was great. Talking to Andrea. Some of the main takeaways from the interview would be the importance of building and maintaining relationships. In addition to commitment and hard work, all her success involves having good relationships with people. Success is also dependent on your attitude towards circumstances and Andrea mentioned that when she started her company and people would ask how things were going, she would answer a bit defeated, about much of a struggle. And she realized that people want to hire a winner, so she changed her mindset and her answer turned into it’s fantastic. I’m doing so well and everything is so great and all of a sudden it became that she got more clients, people who are more attracted to her and a lot of that is the energy that you put out. She’s stressed that goal setting, standing up for yourself and taking care of business aspects of your career are very important. She pointed out that having accounting and communication skills are highly valuable to have when building a career in the arts. Of course, we’ve got an extensive insider’s look on how radio works or on-air talent as a music director and as a radio promoter, musicians listening may want to take another listen to all that great advice that she offered on succeeding in the music industry as an artist for links and more detailed show notes. Visit dianefoy.com/002 and remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast and share it with your fellow artists.
Diane Foy: Thanks for listening to Sing, Dance, Act, Thrive. Be sure to join the mailing list at dianefoy.com to gain access to exclusive bonus content, a weekly newsletter, and an invitation to our private Facebook group of purpose-driven performing artists and industry influencers.