Country Music promotion 101

Thursday, 28 Feb 2019

Melanie Dyer at Tamworth Country Music Festival 2019 (official photo)

The country music scene in Australia is undoubtedly a very strong and broad one - from the grassroots to the big time. So, how are songwriters and artists cracking the local market and making career inroads? Who needs to hear your music, who should you work with? 

We asked an expert to help with a lesson in Country Music 101. Tom Inglis of HSF Artist Services (it stands for 'Helping Songs Fly') specialises in country music and guiding country artists on their career path - from artist development, publicity and promo, radio servicing, marketing and more.

1. What kinds of trends (music and music business) are emerging in country music in Australia in 2019?

Everyone has witnessed the success of country artists and country songs on contemporary radio and I don’t see that support changing from those formats. We have seen US-based Aussie artists Keith Urban and Morgan Evans cross-over and I can definitely see that trend continuing.

There is a huge opportunity for not just local label artists but also some strong independents in the contemporary country genre. But they must have the right song. Young, signed and unsigned artists are heading on writing trips to the US and writing great songs with hit writers: Melanie Dyer, Caitlyn Shadbolt, Kaylee Bell, and Missy Lancaster, to name a few.

It’s only a matter of time we see crossover success from locally-based artists.

Similarly, in the alternative sub-genre, young artists such as Tori Forsyth, Brad Butcher, Imogen Clark and Andrew Swift are building a great live following and helping create a really strong artist community around them. This community is helping build a stronger live scene. 

Although crowds were down in Tamworth this year due largely to drought and heat, the vibe I came away with was, while some bigger gigs were down, there was definitely really good growth at ticketed shows from young emerging artists across contemporary and alternative sub-genres. 

It was incredible to see 2018 Toyota Star Maker winner Brad Cox on his second visit to TCMF play a packed ticketed show. I can’t recall ever seeing such a strong reaction to an emerging Australian country artist with a debut release like it.

2. You offer music services ‘from the studio to the radio to release’. What kind of single release strategy/timeline do you advise?

It’s still a very niche market and it's horses-for-courses, but it’s still great artists with great songs cutting through.

Young artists need to create anticipation and make a whole lot of noise to stand out and they can’t be too driven by temptation that gives short term ‘feel good’.

They need to create opportunities with songs that give them a get, to get their next get. Know if your song fits on a particular country radio outlet as there are only a few 24/7 stations and they are all very different from one another. Strategy needs to be different between hit artists and emerging artists and also different between the sub-genres of contemporary, alternative and traditional. 

3. Can you share tips for getting music onto the radio? Or onto DSPs?  

Be awesome, have awesome songs and back it up with an awesome stage show. These things are all key for not just getting on a playlist but getting up the top of playlists and get the spins to get heard.

Have a great plan and one that can deviate. Here's an example:

Alternative country artist Brad Butcher released his third album last year and we went out with the first two singles that appealed to his audience. We held back the up-tempo song Crawl Beg & Cry as the third radio single to go after 2018 Tamworth Country Music Festival, where Brad had picked up the Golden Guitar for New Talent. Brad had a strong story to tell and the best song for radio from the album still to come. We hit radio a couple of weeks after TCMF and the single peaked at #2 on the country chart behind Keith Urban's Parallel Line, which was receiving massive airplay on contemporary radio. “Crawl Beg & Cry” held firm in the chart for about six months.

4. Tamworth is a given, but what are some regional hot spots and burgeoning scenes for country music?

Outside of Tamworth the scenes are strong in Newcastle, Brisbane/Sunshine Coast and Melbourne but there is a bundle of new talent popping up all over Australia.

5. What kind of songwriting is connecting with country music fans and tastemakers?

Great stories are king as always. Young artists such as Brad Cox and Kaylee Bell together with The Wolfe Brothers are killing it with strong personal stories and contemporary country sounds, while Fanny Lumsden and Brad Butcher are connecting with great songs that are very much Australian stories. The likes of Tori Forsyth and Imogen Clark are connecting with their own unique songwriting.

6. When is it time to go from DIY and self-management to working with a team for publicity, management etc?

I think from the get-go, young artists need to head to the CMAA Academy in Tamworth. It’s a great starting point to see what is happening and get involved in the country music community. Also The DAG Songwriters Retreat in Nundle in July is a great weekend to experience.

I don’t feel it’s important to be in a rush to have management. I think it's more important, when at the right age, to ditch Mum-anager and do it yourself and be prepared to work hard.

A good publicist is great to pick up about three months out from release but also think about development and mentoring before heading to the studio and choosing a producer. Have a look at the great local artists you love and connect with and see who they are working with and reach out to them for advice. There are plenty of good people willing to help. Unfortunately there are ill-informed ones also.

7. Three tips for emerging country music songwriters/performers:

Buy the book Tom Jackson’s Live Music Method, get a quality mentor, be awesome.

About Tom Inglis, HSF Artist Services:
Since 2012 Tom has been guiding country artists on their career path. Prior to that, he worked at record labels across sales, promotion,digital and marketing.


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