This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity. You can watch/listen to the full interview with Rida.
Joey: What’s up guys? Today I’m having a chat with Rida Naser from Sirius XM!
Rida: Thank you for having me!
Joey: It’s actually funny how this happened. To give the listeners some context around the whole story, we’ve actually never met before. I had never heard of your name until one of my clients reached out to me and said, hey, I’m getting these messages from Rida, and she says she’s playing my remix and people are requesting it on Sirius XM.
Rida: Yeah, it’s crazy.
Joey: Yeah. And then I started looking you up and checking if everything was legit. We started connecting and I noticed that you were the Program Director at Sirius XM. What does your day to day look like?
Rida: So my day to day is a lot of listening, choosing music, and a lot of figuring out which songs are doing well, which songs aren’t, and connecting with artists we’re passionate about. So a lot of my day is dedicated to music. I’m also a host, so I get to talk on the radio every day Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm Eastern, and I get to talk about dance music. It’s great!
Joey: How did your passion for dance music start?
Rida: It’s actually a little crazy. I was 19 years old in college and kind of lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I ended up getting introduced to radio through a local radio contest in my area which I won to see Selena Gomez. So I went to this radio station with my sister and walked in and I was like, wow. This is so cool. I saw people around my age of 19, 20 walking around working. And they got to have first hand experiences with, like Selena Gomez, and I’m sure other artists as well. And then after a lot of persistence I ended up getting a few part time jobs at radio shows. A friend later recommended I should try interning at Sirius XM. At the time, I had no idea what it was.
Joey: Yeah, for our audience, could you tell us what’s the difference between Sirius and conventional stations?
Rida: So first of all, there’s a big difference between terrestrial radio and satellite (XM) radio. One of the biggest things is that there are no commercials. It’s a subscription, you have to pay.
Joey: So this is on the internet?
Rida: No, it’s in a lot of cars. So when you first buy a car, they give you like three months free and then people start listening to it and fall in love with it. Another plus is that you have a lot more freedom and creativity within the station. It’s also uncensored; you can curse, say whatever you want.
Yeah. And then on top of that, the number one thing out of all of this is that it’s national. It’s a national broadcast and service, meaning you can hear it all throughout the states. We have a massive audience. We just acquired Pandora as well. So now we kind of work hand in hand with Pandora. So now all together, we have 100 million subscribers, which is really cool.
It’s been three years since I’ve been on the air. Now I live and breathe dance music. I just got promoted to program director a few months ago, so now I have more of a hand in the music.
Joey: As Program Director, you can you can pick the music. I was wondering how you were able to play Josh’s bootleg on the radio?
Rida: To be honest, I don’t think we can. If they wanted to, the label could take it down. We also have a relationship with that record label. And again, at the end of the day, its exposure for their artists. I don’t see why they would want to take it down.
Joey: And you found this remix through SoundCloud? Is that like one of the main places where radio people discover new talent?
Rida: I mean, I always keep an eye on all the other playlists. There’s not many dance stations here. It’s not like the Netherlands where you go into the car and dance music is playing. So I kind of have to keep an eye out on playlists, whether it’s Apple or Spotify. I get music sent to me a lot as well. I have a folder that I fill up every week. And then once a week, I go through that folder.
Joey: So you do actually check them? That’s one of the biggest questions that I get from artists: can I send my music to radio programmers or other DJ’s? It seems like nobody’s listening.
Rida: I listen. Yeah, it is overwhelming because I can get up to up to like 100 emails a day with music. It has to make an impact on you right away. I know it’s really frustrating for artists but like, if I don’t like a song, I’m just gonna move on. I’ve worked on the channel for three years now. I know what the audience likes, and I know what kind of sound they’re looking for. And then I also know what kind of sound is good to experiment with. So within that time, I’ve kind of just figured out like, what works and what doesn’t, and when people send me music, of course I’ll listen, but I can’t respond to every single one. A lot of people then come back saying they’ve fixed something, and I’m like, please stop. So I’m really careful with what advice I give. Sometimes it’s hard because I don’t want to put their hopes up. Every week, I only get to choose like three or four songs to add to the playlist and it needs to outdo every single other song that I’m looking at. And that’s tough.
I get a lot of backlash and people say I’m picking favorites. And then I’m like, I promise you I’m listening. I just I can’t get back to every single person. I really can’t unless I hear the song and I’m like, it has just blown me away. It’s like a lottery ticket as in it doesn’t happen a lot. But sometimes you have one of those tracks where you just instantly feel like WOW.
I don’t want artists to feel discouraged when they send music to a program director. But they also need to be careful about rubbing a program director the wrong way. There’s actually some guy who sent me like four emails in one day. Then just kept replying to those emails being like, okay, here’s a radio edit. Okay, here’s an extended mix. Okay, here’s a remix. I’m like, calm down. I haven’t even listened to the original yet. And then he somehow found my desk phone number and called me and then texted me and I was like, stop, stop. Now I don’t want to listen to your like. There comes a certain point where you have to be professional. I understand consistency but like you have to do it in a professional way.
Joey: What is the right amount of persistence in your opinion? Like how many times should people email you?
Rida: Email me a song, and email me a follow up. Most likely, if they follow up, I will reply. And maybe, if you have a remix that comes out two weeks later that’s fine. Definitely don’t call my personal phone or text me. It’s really easy to know where the line is. The connection that you have with your relationships is really important in the music industry. And in the end, it’s a human business.
I want to organically enjoy the song. In my head, if you’ve rubbed me the wrong way, like a million times, then I probably won’t play your track. At the end of the day, I see people like Josh who have passion and potential to be professional in the industry. If you can’t talk to a radio program, how are you going to play festivals? How are you going to play massive shows? How are you going to deal with fans? The power of the favor is a big thing in the music industry. And that’s where the personal aspect comes in.
Joey: Well, thank you for giving some insights about the world of radio in the world of SiriusXM. I think a lot of artists will get some value out of this episode as in having a deeper look into the radio world since a lot of us don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes.