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11 ways to rock Searchlight

Editorial Staff

By Mike Miner

Searchlight is back. CBC Music and CBC Radio One are teaming up to find Canada's best new musical act. Artists across the country will enter, and we'll be looking closely to find the best songs, the most exciting acts and the most interesting stories. And we have some tips for you on how you can make your entries stand out, and get the most out of the Searchlight experience.

1. Enter early

The earlier you enter, the fewer acts you're competing against for attention. By the end of the submission period, your entry will be one of thousands. But producers will be looking at the submissions from day one, so if you're in on that day it's far more likely your song gets a listen, and your bio gets read.

2. Don't underestimate your bio

Producers are going to be trying to find great stories to tell about emerging acts. Your CBC Music account's bio will be the easiest place for them to find it. Make sure your contact information is up to date, as well. Listing the proper pronunciation of your name can be a big help for radio.

And while we're talking about your CBC Music artist profile, having a nice picture in the proper dimensions for the site can help writers working on stories for the web. (We use photos that are 620 by 350 pixels.) We'll be making a lot of galleries to help promote Searchlight bands, and a great quality photo helps a lot. Uploading more than one photo is also a good idea.

3. Think carefully about which song you submit

Here are some things to think about when you're choosing a song to submit. First off, is it fewer than five minutes? That's pretty important for getting radio play. Also, it's worth considering the programs that are running this contest. Do you have a song that matches the style of music you hear on your Radio One afternoon program? How about Radio 2 or Radio 3? Something with a good hook, something accessible, something with an interesting story behind it — they all have an advantage in getting played and covered during this contest. That said, if it's really out there, that might get some attention as well.

4. Tell your story

Is there a human interest story behind your band, your song or yourself? Some weird twist of fate that happened along the way could make for a great story, so let us know about it. Include those stories in your bio. They are the types of things producers will be looking for, and can help get you on the radio or written about. Don't forget, local media outside the CBC will be looking at Searchlight, too.

5. Teamwork: it makes the dream work

This year, you can vote for up to 10 bands per region per day in the first few rounds of the regional and national competition. We hope this encourages bands and music scenes to work together to help promote each other. You might want to link to bands you support in your bio, or link to a playlist you create. If you do any special projects like this amazing video from last year made by contestants from Victoria, B.C., please make sure you let us know. We'd love to share it with our audience.

6. Think outside your region

You don't just have to team up with your friends and neighbours. You can reach out to bands in other parts of Canada to help promote one another. Knowing other bands in other places can help you set up gig exchanges and have other benefits outside of this contest. Searchlight helps make bands across the country more visible, and hopefully that can work to your advantage.

7. But also think inside your region

The CBC offices and stations that are hosting the regional rounds love local stories. What are you doing that's local? It could be the human interest story we mentioned earlier, but maybe you put on an event. Maybe you get involved in a local issue. If you do, let us know and we can make sure the local radio station knows about it. We're looking for great stories to tell during Searchlight, and those stories can be about you.

8. Variety and creativity when sharing

Driving a lot of votes is the best way to get attention in the early rounds, and votes are what will get you through to the national round. Social media is a great way to get out your vote (we have a few graphics to help you). But you should try a variety of approaches to getting people out to vote. If you're using Facebook, use fun images to make your posts shareable. Photos and hashtag games can help get people sharing your tweets. And video.

9. YouTube famous

Last year, Toronto's Dreamz managed to pull in a ton of support through their YouTube efforts. This year, Andrew Gunadie of Dreamz (a.k.a. Gunnarolla) has signed on to be our Searchlight YouTube correspondent. If you make an awesome video, he might use it in his update. Make sure you put "#Searchlight" in the title of your video so he can find it, and link to your video in the comments section of his videos on CBC Music's YouTube channel.

10. Find a champion

If you have someone with a big online following or a big platform to help share your music, that could be a big help. Maybe a famous musician can help — from a big musician to a local politician, a local celeb or maybe a concert venue. It worked for a lot of bands last year. Networking can be a big help outside of Searchlight as well. Please use us as an icebreaker.

11. Keep in touch

Whatever you decide to do to help get ears on your music and votes in support, let us know. Link to it on your profile page. Tweet us, or hit us up on Facebook. We're happy to hear what you're doing, and to support your efforts where we can. And sign up for our newsletter. It will help us provide you with useful updates. Good luck!