Spinning Some Time with Radio Disc Jockey, Aaron Childs
Mr. Aaron Childs is a disc jockey, producer, and host of a
musical presentation program on radio stations WCSR-AM and
WCSR-FM (1340 and 92.1, respectively) based in Jackson,
Michigan. He shares some general insight with us on the
process of obtaining radio airplay.
[Kenny Love] Okay...here we go. How long have you been working in
[Aaron Childs] 7 years. I started at WSHE/WSRF in Fort Lauderdale,
[Love] What are some of the positions you have held in radio during
[Childs] Oh goodness...News Anchor, Technical Engineer...part-time
DJ, and On-Air Producer.
[Love] And, what is your current position at WCSR?
[Childs] Currently, I'm a part-time jock. I work weekends and fillers
during the weekdays. Mostly evenings and holidays, though.
[Love] As you are aware, what brought us to this interview is that I saw your post on an online list in response to, what I
believe...correct me if I'm wrong...musicians who were
questioning you regarding adding their record to your station's
roster...is that an accurate assumption?
[Childs] That would be correct.
[Love] Care to elaborate for our readers further, as I believe they
would be interested in the etiquette required in order to
effectively and successfully promote their recordings to radio?
[Childs] I had a few artists that had received some airplay, but hadn't
received it in a while. It's not that I've yanked their material from
my show, but that I'm trying to give more artists airplay and I just
can't play their CD week after week. It's not fair to those who
have been waiting for their chance to get aired.
[Love] I understand. Is it safe to say that you have what is known
as a "specialty program?"
[Childs] Hmm...yes and no. When I and/or most people think
"specialty programs," I think the first image that comes to mind
are programs on college and community radio stations that
specialize in one genre or style in music. In a sense, I do, but
not really. WCSR is a CHR/AC station, but I have a tendency of
tossing in a lot of mainstream rock, classic rock, college music
(i.e. They Might Be Giants, 10,000 Maniacs, Kate Bush, etc)
Blues, and Indie music into the mix. A little too broad to be
considered specialty, but at the same time it fits the term.
[Love] Oh, okay...so please explain the process of how an artist
should go about submitting a product to you for airplay
[Childs] I go about it a TOTALLY different way than most radio
stations, so I do not want people to think that my way is the
industry standard. I accept unsolicited material. Basically, if an
artist has a product that they feel is marketable for airplay, then
they can mail me a CD copy of it along with a promo kit. The
promo kit should contain a little info on the band, some contact
info (e-mail address, phone number, mailing address, web-site,
etc.) and a bio. That's really all that I require. Most stations will
NOT accept unsolicited material. At least, most commercial
radio stations. I really can't say on the college and community
radio ranks, but I can say that most artists that I work with say
that they've had little problem giving college stations unsolicited
[Love] Yes, that seems to be true. After a product is submitted,
what are the general steps or criteria it must pass in order to get
consideration of making the station's roster?
[Childs] First off, it must fit the form, and must be airable!!! You'd be
amazed at the stuff I get that either doesn't fit my format, or has
language that is not suitable for airplay. I recently received a CD
that had more profanity in it that a gangsta rap CD! And it was
country music! So I'd make sure that your CD fits the format of
the station, AND has content/language that is airable.
[Love] Oh, my God! American Heartland's music? Surely, thou
doth jest, Sir!
[Childs] I jest not! The second thing I look for/listen for is the product
itself. Out of every 20 CDs I get, maybe 5 or 7 will get aired
more than once. Most do not get aired bacause the CD is, let
me think of how to phrase it, lacking in talent somewhere down
the line. I also get CDs that are a great act, but the production is
horrible, or I get a band with a singer that would clear out a
kareoke bar! And, I know a thing or two about clearing out a
kareoke bar, believe me!
[Love] Well, "jest" a cotton-pickin' minute...what's next for Country?
Rappers in Country songs? Now, there's an idea...hmmm...
[Childs] Why not.. the big thing right now in Rock is this Rap-Core.
Why not Honky-Tonk-Core or Hip- Hop Tonk? By the way.. I'm
going to go copyright those names after this interview!
[Love] Aaron, I truly shudder to think...
[Childs] Hey.. the way the music world is evolving, you never know.
Look for Puff Daddy to team up with Alan Jackson on his next
[Love] (frowns) So, you're capitalizing and expanding on the Cyber-Squatting craze, ha? You know...where someone buys a
famous name, then sells it back to the rightful owner?
[Childs] The next thing is the "15 second" test. This is an industry
standard, and here's where a song lives or dies. Basically, I
listen to the first 15 seconds of a song. If I think there is a hook,
or something catchy in it, then I'll listen to the song all the way
through. If not, off to the next song. Sometimes, it's also the first
15 seconds that decides whether I listen to the whole CD or not.
[Love] Like the "Make It or Break It" programs many stations have
for new artists?
[Childs] You mean, where the listeners decide whether it goes or
[Childs] Nah, but I do take any feedback from callers into account.
[Love] Oh, okay...so, what percentage of recordings pass your test?
[Childs] Goodness... I'd say about 35-45% get played once. Maybe
half of those make it into my rotation.
[Love] So, the fact that today, it is mostly an independent
environment, yet, only 15-20% are making it into regular rotation,
seems a bit controversial, doesn't it? I mean, what aspects do
independents need to improve upon in order to increase this
[Childs] I think the problem with most of the material I get is that
there is a lacking in vocal talent. The music is wonderful, the
production is good, and the group sounds tight. Then, when the
singer opens his/her mouth, the whole thing goes up like the
Hindenberg. There is also the case of the material lacking a
'groove', or something that "hooks" the listener and keeps him
listening. Another huge factor is that I get material that is just not
appropriate for my format. Remember, I'm on an Adult
Cotemporary/Contemporary Hits Radio format...a COMMERCIAL
radio station. It's not College, where I would have a lot of leeway
to play a wider range of material, say for instance, play a Ministry
song back to back with something by Mel Torme...don't laugh, I
heard it done once!
[Love] (Laughs) Oops, you asked me not to laugh, didn't you?
[Childs] Keep in mind that I am in Jackson, Michigan,
probably one of the most conservative towns in the U.S.
For people to get an idea of what Jackson is like, I
suggest they alternate between watching episodes of
'The Red Green Show' and 'The Dukes Of Hazards',
then occasionally throwing in the movie, "Deliverance."
What I am trying to convey is that people here are more
interested in mainstream radio than, say, people in
Seattle, New York, or even a College town like Ann
Arbor or Berkley.
[Love] So, if it is narrowed down to vocals, would you say that vocal
training is what is missing, and that artists should concentrate
more on it before releasing recordings?
[Childs] I wouldn't narrow it down to JUST vocals, though, I'd say
that is half the reason. And yeah, vocal training would help. But,
I'd say the MAIN thing is to make sure that their CD is going to a
station with the appropriate format for their music. I cannot
stress that enough!
[Love] What about follow-up? There seems to be a degree of
confusion on how to go about that...just how much is too much,
and how little is not enough? Know what I mean?
[Childs] Okay...Follow up.. the big thing to keep in mind is this. Most
program managers are actually busy people with a million things
going on. I'd say first that follow up should be done about a
week after you send the CD out. Ask them if they got it, ask if
they have had the chance to listen to it, and if so, what they
thought of it, etc.
If they haven't had the chance to listen, ask them if they have the
time to do so, and once they have listened to it, to let you know what
they think. Some may while some may not. I honestly can't tell
you if they will or won't. I recently had a band ask me if they
should contact a station every week after they mail out their CD.
No! BAD idea! Radio people hate to be pestered...me included.
Once or twice is enough. Again, during your call, ask them if they
can notify you if/when your recording is played. I post my playlists
on several e-mail groups, and will soon be posting them on
newsgroups. Plus, I e-mail the artists themselves a playlist from
that night so that they know what was played, when it was played,
and so they can also see what else was played by other artists.
[Love] How great of an influence does a local record pool and local
press play on a local radio station's decision to air an artist?
[Childs] That depends on the market. Every city and market is
different. In Jackson, there is very little say. Since I'm the only
one at WCSR that is willing to play indie and local artists, I do
depend on local reviews to get info on bands. But, I never
depend solely on the review of a band/act as a guide.
[Love] What independent artists do you see coming up that other
Indies should watch in order to compare with their own marketing
campaigns in attempting to gain exposure? Who's gotten YOUR
[Childs] That's a TOUGH one! The band that has my eye right now
is a Blues band from Laramie, Wyoming called Blinddog
Smokin. VERY talented, very professional, and very business-
like. They've been making waves in the Blues scene for the past
year or two, and 2000 will be a good year for them.
Antigone Rising is another act that I think is on the verge of
doing something huge. They're currently looking for a new
vocalist, but this all-female band got a break by playing Lillith Fair,
and it won't be long before they get signed.
[Love] You do realize that this interview goes out to almost (100)
publications, and will do absolutely nothing to decrease your
incoming supply of independent product, don't you?
[Childs] Right now, I've got a month and a half worth of CDs sitting
on the kitchen table waiting for review. If I get a ton or more of
material, I would be delighted. When I first started my program
back in January, I had no idea the amount of material out there,
and some of the incredible talent out there. There is stuff out
there that's decent, and then there is stuff that just floors me!
[Love] Aaron, this has been extremely informative and a delight to
get some further insight into the actual mechanics of the
industry...thank you so very much for your time.
[Childs] Thank you, and I hope that this has helped your readers.