Dear Musician’s Help Desk,
My awesome new band has been invited to a radio station to play a live session. They’ll be interviewing us and filming the set as well. How the heck should I prepare? What should I do and not do at the session to win friends and gain influence?
Well hey Macon!
First off, congrats on the invite! Live radio sessions are a great way to introduce your band to new listeners, and it allows you to delve deeper into your songs. On the radio end, we love hosting bands because we get to see the other side of you and your music. It’s a great partnership to form within your music community.
Once you’ve been invited, be super communicative to the person working with you to book your visit. Let them know what your set up looks like, and, honestly, the reason why you’re going in (new release? Upcoming show? New line up? The more the station knows, the better your interview will be – and you’ll be better prepared for that interview by setting up the research points, taking some stress off you). Also, ask a lot of questions! You need to know how many songs they expect you to play, how long you have to load in, warm up, and prep, and what your itinerary looks like. Is this pre-recorded? Will you be doing all of your performance at once, or will the interview be held between songs? Is there a backline? Where the heck is the station anyways? All valid questions, and all information they should be able to let you know.
In prepping your set, pick the songs that will resonate most with new listeners. Do you have a new single? Definitely include that. Is there a song you wrote with an interesting or memorable story? Use that one and talk about it. How about one with a catchy hook or call and response? Perfect. I always remember bands that come in with strong stories about their songs (sad, angry, funny – whatever it is, I want to know) or with some sort of earworm.
With the video aspect, dress as you would for your live performances on stage. Do you and your band have matching outfits usually? Great – wear that. Be sure to check out what the studio looks like from prior videos, as well – if there’s a black background, just try to ensure you won’t be lost in that. One thing that most bands overlook is the rest of a visual aspect for video, but if you have a stage set up with rope lights or fun props, bring them in. This personalizes the video and truly makes it your own, and as long as it’s an easy set up that’s not in the way of the recording, you should be able to add that element.
As for the interview portion – it’s the part that usually makes most new bands super nervous, because, hey, bearing your soul is easier when it’s drenched in sound and metaphor and is super poetic. That’s why you’re a musician, right? I’d suggest prepping a few answers for each song – just some bullet points you can pull out of your pocket when asked (if you’re not comfortable talking about the content of the song, then maybe the process for writing it with your band, or the first time you played it live). Again, tell your host what you do and don’t want to talk about.
And remember, ask all the questions you need leading up to your visit!
So now it’s day of session. You should be armed with the knowledge of what you’re playing and what your day looks like. Show up on time – but if you’re going to be late, call. If you’re going to be early, relax before you go in. If you’re bringing extra guests, let them know. Don’t get drunk and don’t get (too) high – you still need to make a good impression! That being said, be yourself. Get loaded in and set up as you would for a show, and ask the sound engineer all the questions you can. They’re there to work with you and make you sound radio ready (you already sound good, that’s why you’re there).
A few last things to remember before the performance – the station is there for you. You’re making the music! We simply get to enjoy it and show you off. However, remember that it isn’t a professional recording; the session is there to capture your live essence, so no need to worry about getting things just perfect – you can relax and have fun. Oh, and try not to cuss.
If your session is pre-recorded, make sure you know when it’s going to air – and share the hell outta that thing! Ask for video links, web story, and photos (be sure to credit the station once you get them), and make sure your mom is listening. Thank the people you worked with (a follow up email is always great), and keep that relationship open.
Sessions are super fun and generally easy – you’re gonna do a great job, Macon!
Bruce Trujillo has been with Colorado Public Radio’s OpenAir since 2016 to share her passion for new and local music, and works to book local and touring bands in the CPR Performance Studio for studio sessions, guest DJ appearances, as well as onsite interviews and features with musicians, athletes, and other outstanding members of the community. She’s also a host on air, has been featured in NPR Music’s “Turning The Tables” series, and curates a weekly feature on her Instagram called “Band Shirt of the Week.”
Bruce previously worked at KGNU in Boulder, where she served as Music Director, hosting interviews and live performances with on-air talent and reporting on new musical trends in Colorado communities. Prior to KGNU, Bruce spent three years directing music, production and web content for KAFM in Grand Junction. During that time, she hosted new alternative music and weekly charts shows. She began her career in radio as Music Director and General Manager for the college radio station KMSA in 2006, and later interned with Townsquare Media Group before landing at KAFM in 2012.
Her biggest radio accomplishment is either repeatedly interviewing Ben Nichols of Lucero, or 3 time MLB All-Star and Colorado Rockies starter, Charlie Blackmon – either way, total babes.