Interview with Radio DJ and presenter Adam "Onslaught" Hayward
Warning: this interview contains seriously practical tips on how to get your band noticed on the radio.
Photo by Mark Lloyd of Amplified Gig Photograph
“If you cut me in half, there are musical notes in between. I just live and breathe music.” says Adam “Onslaught” Hayward, radio DJ and presenter on Midlands Metalhead Radio.
Adam’s journey into the world of radio started almost 30 years ago as a mobile DJ. Skip forwards to the present time and he has earned the solid reputation of being a new and unsigned bands enabler.
In September, Adam will be doing a Masters Degree through WaterBear College Brighton. His case study is the relationship between artists and radio presenters/DJ’s. He is also hoping to apply everything he’s learnt through his experience into coaching bands.
Before he embarks on this new chapter of his career, Adam kindly agreed to share some of his knowledge with musicngear. If you’ve ever wondered how to get your band on the radio, this interview was made just for you!
Katia Filipovic (Musicngear): How important is the relationship between DJ’s and bands?
It is extremely important. Some people can be great at doing interviews but as soon as the mike’s off, everybody just walks their separate ways and never speaks again. Be a good listener and ask the DJ some questions off mike, such as: “ What's the station called? What sort of stuff do you play on your show?” Show an interest in them. DJ's have huge egos, they are performers too, just like musicians. We love sharing what we do and create. We all hunger for that praise and bands are exactly the same. We’ve got a lot in common. So explore that commonality.
You want the DJ to like what you do, but you really need them to like you more than your music.
Because God forbid, if you release a single that's not that great, that DJ will still support you.
If you know that a DJ's prepared to invest in you, then it pays dividends.
Musicngear: What are the essential qualities of a band interview?
It involves a band that knows what they are doing. Obvious things like knowing their tour dates, current album, singles from that album, what's coming up, recording plans for the future, interesting side projects, funny anecdotes, publishable ones!…relationship with the support band etc.
Have all of that information about yourself in mind when you speak to the media because it will ask you this very important question: who are you? That's a genuine question to a stranger.
Don’t go off on long-winded tangents because it doesn't make for an interesting interview unless it’s relevant to the conversation or it’s a funny one. Keep it interesting.
Make sure everything is covered because any press agent worth their salt will tell you that this is very important.
Get your information to the presenter, even if they are not a good interviewer. If the DJ doesn't ask you the questions he/she should be asking then change the question. Start off with what they want to hear and then say “oh, by the way, we've got an album out on the 13th of May via such and such record company and it will be available on Spotify, Apple music etc.”
Musicngear: Do social media numbers matter for air play?
No is the short answer to that. They really don’t matter. I play bands with half a million likes on Facebook or with 150 likes. I don't gravitate towards bands because they're popular but because they're good. Yes, it is quite important to have likes because likes generate an algorithm, so you'll be seen more on social media. But a good DJ will not look at how many likes you have and play your music or not just on that basis.
It can be a bit disheartening at first, when you start promoting your band on social media, but keep posting stuff. Photographs, links to music, gigs, any pictures you've got with famous people, positive things. Don't put anything on your Facebook wall that is negative. Unless it's something you're super passionate about but then have the courtesy to discuss it with your band. Don’t just do stuff on behalf of the band. It's rude and a band is supposed to be like a brother or sister hood.
So discuss it like you would do as a family. Make sure everybody's on board.
Oh, and another thing: Don’t mock somebody who's just died. It’s not funny at all, especially when it’s someone like Chester Bennington, people who have mental health issues. In recent years, we’ve lost a lot of people in music. That social media thing about jumping on the bandwagon to berate them when they're not even cold in the grave, well, that just distasteful to me and to a lot of people.
Musicngear: What about bands who can’t afford PR’s? How should they approach DJ’s?
They should make sure that their music is targeted. With any kind of advertising campaign, it’s important as the budget is tight. You’re doing it yourself and have less knowledge of how to spin that press. Everything must be right to begin with.
Get your EPK (electronic press kit) spot on. It is absolutely key because I get hundreds of them a week. I cannot spend time reading them all word for word. Get your bullet points right, as well as your information. Don’t waffle on. You’re talking to a press person who's got very little time to put a show together and wants to play the freshest music.
There's one niggle and I want to get off my chest: when bands send MP3 or WAV music files and don't tag them properly. Or they underscore the name of the song but don't say what the band's name is.
Put the name of the band then a hyphen and then the name of the track. Do it grammatically correct as well and in lowercase. It makes life easier.
Images are important. Get you photography right. Don’t misrepresent yourself to something that you're not. Just a good honest photography, good quality too. When that package comes to the DJ and he opens it up, it should go straight into one folder, not dozens of them. Include all your links to different interviews. It demonstrates to the DJ that you're willing to put the effort in. It's not all just about the performance on the night. It's what you do in the background. Make sure there's a copy of the album in the EPK as well and tell them if you don't want certain tracks to be played on the radio.
And remember: every time you give physical copies of your album away, it's eating into your profit margin. You’ve got to run your band like a business. That is difficult because it goes against everything that an artist is.
Let's look back at Van Gogh for a second. He was as poor as a church mouse for most of his life and his art is more valuable now that he's dead then when he was alive. Young bands really need to think that they need to get the most out of their careers right at the beginning. It will define their future.
The bond between bands and DJ’s is very important. There is a trust that must be maintained.
Musicngear: Have you ever come across brilliant bands who were terrible at advertising their talent? If so, were you tempted to take them under your wing?
Yeah, I’ve done it. I was a band manager for a while. I was a terrible one because I couldn't tell people off. I’ve had bands come to me over the years and ask for advice on varying things, on venues, or I’ve been sent record contracts to look. I'm not a lawyer, but they've been nervous about signing. So they ask for my opinion. I’m flattered but they need to get proper legal advice. Or people have asked me if they should leave the band or not…
Being privy to that is quite special and shouldn't be taken for granted. I certainly never will.
The bond between bands and DJ’s is very important. There is a trust that must be maintained.
Everybody talks to each other. If you upset a journalist, punch or shatter them, your cards are marked in more ways than one not only because of the physical assault but then the ripple effect that has around . No one will want to know you no one will want to interview you, apart maybe from a maverick interviewer who will want to write that article about why you misbehaved.
(Photo by Rob Billingham of Billibee Creative)
Musicngear: Have you got in mind a particular interview that went horribly wrong due to a band’s behaviour?
Oh yes, I’ve got an absolute prime example. It taught me an awful lot in a very short period of time and gave me a greater appreciation of what is required from a band in an interview.
This band was headlining a festival and when they turned up, they were completely drunk.
During the interview, the band were playing with the microphone, rubbing the top of it. I asked them to stop but they carried on. A member of the band started touching my face and I just said: get your hands off me now. Then they admitted to drug use the night before.
When I tried to get the interview out of them, they were very secretive about what they were up to because they felt hey, I've got a big surprise here that I'm not going to tell you because like, you know, we're not going to say just yet. We haven't decided when we're going to let this information out and it's like come on. You're not super stars. Superstars don't even behave like that. If you're on the radio and you've got information that's time-sensitive just don't say just don't look at it. Don't tell me that you've got a secret and then not tell me, now I want to know what the secret is and then I'll be disappointed because it's not that interesting in the first place and this interview went on for about seven or eight minutes and everybody was trying to make a point, some of them were burping on air and you know, and I'm not saying anything.
So I cut it short. They just walked off. I’ll never air this interview or share it with anybody else.
That’s in my reference library right there as to what a band shouldn’t do.
Musicngear: Tell us about the most memorable interview you’ve ever conducted.
It was the one I did with Devin Townsend.
I was a little bit nervous because I had preconceptions that he's quite an eccentric guy. He can either shut you down and then have a very closed interview or he's quite open.
So I interviewed him at Download. We had 12 minutes in the garden on our own. The sun was blaring. I looked him in the face and said: ”Lovely to meet you Devin, it’s a real pleasure to speak to you. I'm going to take my sunglasses off because I really think it's important in a conversation to have eye contact.” And that broke his barrier down. We had a tremendous interview and I came away like I just met the Dalai Lama. I‘ve never felt that in an interview. I’ve enjoyed a lot of interviews and made some wonderful friends over the years in bands, but this particular interview changed my life forever. It blew my mind. He was interesting, engaging and asked questions too. A really nice man.
You don’t want to be writing stuff because you think the fans will like it. You need to love your own work first.
Musicngear: What's the importance of subgenres in an age of sub genre streaming habits?
Wow, that's quite a tough question. I try not to pay too much attention to sub genres. For example, I don't have much time for pirate metal. I have played it on my show and I'll probably play it again because I know that some of my audience really enjoy it. I think it would be wrong of me not to play it.
Going back to the original question. Don't pay too much attention to putting yourself into a pigeon hole that you can't get out of because it may restrict your creativity. If you get known as a black metal band, you'll always be a black metal band and if you're happy to be there then so be it. But if you're a metal band or a rock band, that opens up so many avenues for you to explore. You don’t want to be writing stuff because you think the fans will like it. You need to love your own work first.
The only time you might want to use subgenres is if you're hashtagging, so people at the other end of the spectrum will pick that up as well.
Musicngear: How do you choose the right press agent for your band?
Look at their previous work. Don’t be too surprised if you see an artist swap press agents for different campaigns because once you're in the game yourself eventually, you’ll be that attuned to what a particular press agent can do for you at a certain point in time.
One of the best PR agents that I've come across will look at a band first. He will do his homework on them before he even has a conversation with them. He won't offer his services to them unless he thinks that they're going the right way about it and have the right attitude towards their career.
A good press agent will be very calm and very aware of their reputation and won't take you on unless you align with that reputation or supersede it.
Get the right match as a mismatch is a poor poor thing. It can be a money pit because good press is expensive. If you pay your press agent 50 quid a quarter, don't expect to be on the front of Classic Rock.
And make sure that they are able to evidence their work so they should provide you with an agreed amount of time before having reports. You should have a report back from your press agent saying this week, we targeted radio X. We will have a meeting with such and such which may get you played on Planet Rock…
A book that I’ll highly recommend to new bands is the one written by Emma Scott, If It Was My Band. It’s all about how to get the band played on radio. She's a former Kerrang! presenter and has been a broadcaster for many years. And now she's a radio plugger. So…get reading!
You can listen to previous podcasts from Adam’s radio show here
Adam’s interview with Devin Townsend here
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