The commercial radio industry, at this time in history, couldn't be less friendly to the independent musician. However, that doesn't mean there isn't some significant radio airplay available to you if you know what to do. Listed below are three ingredients necessary for working your record to radio.
1) The money to fund the campaign
2) The time to spend working all the stations consistently
3) A product that is ready for national airplay
When it comes to commercial radio, the chances of getting significant national airplay for your independent record are next to none. We live in an era when a small group of powerful media conglomerates owns and control the most important radio stations in the land. Unless you are connected to a major label or are independently wealthy, the costs of promoting your songs to radio have spiraled out of sight.
If you have money to invest in radio promotion, it will prove easier and more beneficial to hire an independent promoter who should be able to open doors to radio for you.
One of the most misunderstood facts of marketing a record is that you should promote it on the radio. Notice I did not say SEND it to the radio; I said promote it. Sending your release to radio and getting them to play it is two different things. The biggest misconception of everyone releasing music is this: They think if you mail it to the radio and if everyone starts playing it, then it's a hit, and if they don't start playing it, then it's no good. This is NOT how radio works. Even the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) says on its own website, "When you hear a song on the radio, this didn't just happen! Labels make investments in artists by paying for both the production and the promotion of the album, and promotion is very expensive."
A radio manager/ program director receives hundreds of albums, Singles, and everything else in between each and every week from that next big artist. And they should play yours because? They need a good reason to even listen to it, let alone play it on the air. These records are considered unsolicited material. Most radio stations will only listen to your music if they are asked to by a reputable Radio Promoter that they have had good luck dealing with in the past. And in most cases will only play it if your promoter does a good enough job selling them on the importance of your music.
Some promoters are always there when you call, and others are never there. The ones who never answer will invariably tell you, "I spend all of my time on the phone talking with stations… Isn't that what you want me to do with your project?
What these non-contactable promoters are actually doing is spending "some" time on the phone with "some" stations and spending a lot more time dining at restaurants and seeing friends. And if you thought it was difficult reaching them before you hired them, just wait until after they get your money. If you think about it, the most important aspect of a radio promoter's job is to talk on the phone. Why then, if they were there by the phone, did they not answer when you called?
A true Radio Promoter is a non-stop call center, which gives top priority to all calls. Giving incoming calls as much precedence as outgoing. Remember, incoming calls are very important, it could be a station calling with a request for information in relation to you, or it could be you. If you are unable to get your promoter on the phone when you need them, you need to get another promoter.
Radio promoters are people who call radio and give them the information they need to play your song. The main thing that your promoter should do is try to make it appear that, in reference to you, a big picture is developing: Ads are happening, spins are increasing, interviews are occurring, great comments are being made, and if pertinent… sales are occurring, shows are selling, and the press is printing. All of this is updated and repeated every week to every station.
Does your promoter actually like your music, or are you just a dollar sign to them? Quiz them on a few of your songs from time to time. Watch their body movements and facial expressions when they hear your song for the first time. Are they anxiously looking forward to hearing it, or do they seem to be acting as such? Do they attend your shows and sing along? Is this person someone who will do their best for you because they believe in you?
This is one radio marketing tool that sparks a lot of interest in the new artist that can manage it. Station Visits or Radio Tours. What makes them so useful? To start with, radio stations can see for themselves that the artist is for real and that they love their music and that the artist believes in themselves enough to make the trip. It's very rare for a non-local artist to come by the station for a visit because of the costs and time involved in doing so. And it's of no use doing just one or two, and you need to do the whole state or region in your format in just a short period of time, or else it's just not effective. Pay particular attention to the small markets where visits from "A" List performers are rare. You find that you will feel more welcomed in the small and small-medium markets, and these stations will remember the visits more when they happen.
These Radio Tours would be better suited to being set up and scheduled by your promoter (if that service is offered). They know the days and times these stations would allow time for a visit and can set up interviews and meets and greets and, on a rare occasion, a live performance on air.
We know that independent musicians don't have a lot of money. We are hoping that you will use our services and then come back to us for more products and services. We look at this as the beginning of a long-term business relationship, not a single transaction. It is your career, and we want to be along for the entire journey.