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How do you get your songs on the radio  PART II



Radio Airplay 101 - Best Time of the Year to Push to Radio

Many people, when planning the date that their radio campaign will start, think that starting the campaign at
a certain time of the year will make a huge difference in the outcome of the project. It won't. There are many other factors which are far more important, and these factors will determine what happens with your release... Things like sequentially pushing a second and third release from the same artist; not abandoning a campaign until awareness has been built; providing the proper packaging; and properly choosing "album vs. single".

That being said, there are some good things which can be had from different times of the year, which will give slight improvements in campaign performance, BUT, this technique will backfire if any ONE of the above mentioned points are not already taken care of. The following are the points to consider for the different calendar times:

JANUARY THROUGH APRIL: Many folks think that this is the best time for indie releases. Advertising on commercial radio certainly is cheapest, and most major labels are taking a short break before starting heavy promotion again (but you won't be able to tell this by listening to the radio... you'll just hear the same number of songs. What you don't hear is how many releases are being PUSHED to radio.) Advertising in most trades is also cheapest at this time. So commercial regular rotation, or commercial specialty/mix show, is a favourite at this time.

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For college radio, obviously, most stations are in session during this period. Don't worry about spring break; there is no national "one week" that every school is closed. Instead, spring break varies from school to school, with some doing it in mid February, and others doing it as late as mid May.

MAY THROUGH AUGUST: For both commercial and college radio, this is a good time to use your radio campaign to help you set up a tour.

For college radio, this the easiest time to chart, since college stations are getting the fewest number of releases. Many people think you can't work a record to college during the summer... not true. You do lose about 150 stations during the summer, but about 650 of them stay on (many of them the bigger ones which broadcast to the whole town), and thus a favour is almost being done for you since many of the smaller ones have been removed.

Also with college, when the kids go home for summer, they still want to hear non-commercial radio; so they simply tune into the college station that is in their hometown.

The biggest advantage of summer college radio is that the CMJ charting is easiest here, due to the lower amount of competition from real labels.

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SEPTEMBER THROUGH DECEMBER: For commercial radio, this is the time to work radio in order to sell lots of records. (That is, provided you are set-up and experienced enough, and have enough of a sales staff, to sell twenty or thirty thousand records.) This is the technique used by larger labels to sell most of their product.

For college, they are of course back in session, so for many artists that is all that needs to be said... college it's going to be! Even though college radio receives many times more CDs in the fall than it does during the summer, many folks are going to push here nevertheless.

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is actually a great time to start your college project, because the bulk of CDs have already arrived and passed, and for about three weeks there is very little competition again. You simply carry your project through the holiday, and start back up after the new year.

Bottom line: You can find something good about any time of the year to start your project.



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Commercial Radio Charts

We've talked a lot so far about CMJ magazine/charts for college radio, since CMJ is a good starting place for most bands (and should be included even if you attempt commercial campaigns, GENRE PERMITTING.) We now progress on to the commercial radio charts. (Billboard is best not attempted at this point in your career, for reasons covered before. And Gavin, unfortunately, is gone.) There are other charts/magazines besides the ones listed below, but they are more non-commercial, and will be covered later.

If you are just moving into commercial radio for the first time (and all you've done so far is non-commercial radio,) then you need to start off with the specialty/mixshow charts first. Then if successful, you can proceed to the regular rotation charts (at a much higher cost.) You do not need to subscribe to these chart magazines, since your promoter will give you the pertinent information you need each week. You WILL need a promoter, however, since charting in these charts (regular rotation) is beyond the scope of the do-it-yourself artist/label.

FMQB: The name stands for Friday Morning Quarter Back, and it is available by subscription only. FMQB is a nice starting point for commercial radio for, since the specialty/mixshow charts and regular rotation charts use stations which, on the average, are smaller than those the other charts use (but by smaller, don't think they'll be easy.) Advertising in FMQB is reasonably priced and not over crowded. If all you do is chart in FMQB, then you have accomplished more than 99.9 percent of all artists out there. FMQB has an AC, a AAA, and a pop-mixshow chart in the printed magazine; an alternative-specialty chart available by email; and a metal-specialty chart available on their site.

HITS: It's available on many newsstands and by subscription, and since it sometimes includes specialty charts for alt, rock and urban, it is kind of a good all-in-one. Hits includes some of the larger stations that R&R includes (which makes it more difficult), along with some of the smaller stations that FMQB include (which makes it easier.) But make no mistake: It is difficult and very expensive to chart regular rotation in Hits.

RADIO & RECORDS: This is the biggie for commercial radio. This magazine does not include small stations in their charts; Therefore, you will have charted in all the other charts before you get into R&R. (This makes R&R almost as difficult and expensive to work as Billboard.) R&R is available at bigger newsstands in NY and LA, and of course by subscription. While it is possible to chart in R&R's specialty/mixshow charts, an indie band has very little chance of charting regular rotation in R&R without spending enough to buy an new house; competition is too fierce, and you are battling all the major labels. The only exception to this would be the Christian and Spanish charts.

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- What is "Successful"?

The first question people have when they want to hire a promoter (provided that they have never done an airplay campaign before) is "What airplay campaign do I need in order to be successful?" There couldn't be a more misplaced question. It's like when a cab driver asks you "Where to?" and you say "Well, where would I need to go in order to be successful?" Where you need to go depends on a million things, not to mention what your definition of "successful" might be.

For some people, a successful radio campaign is getting one spin on one small college station. For others, it is getting 60+ spins per week on each CHR station in the top 100 markets... thus charting #1 in Billboard & R&R... which then produces a major label deal... which then scans 10,000 units per week in the U.S... which results in a 300-date U.S. stadium tour, not to mention all major magazines and TV covering the artist. And this is in just the first month. (This is not an exaggeration of what some artists want with their first release.)

So instead of seeking out a "successful" radio campaign, look at what you have to spend on radio, and then decide:

(1) What hard-core radio results are worth this money.

(2) What you (not us, but you) are going to do with these radio results in the rest of your music campaign. This is where your "success" comes from.

The above two ideas are entirely different. The first point, "Radio results", are what we are hired to produce: Spins, charting, station IDs, station interviews, station visits, and possibly... reviews in the radio airplay magazines. That's it. It's the most difficult aspect of the music business... airplay... but it's the one thing a promoter focuses on. The second point, "what you do with these radio results", is what will determine your "success".

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Here are some starting points where you can use your radio results:

TRADITIONAL (NON-WEB) DISTRIBUTION: You can start by getting consignment in select stores. You do this by telling the consignment manager that "you're currently spinning on the WXYZ station down the street." Next you try to get a simple distribution deal through a small independent distributor, which will require more airplay results than "just one station." Finally, you try to get a good-sized P&D distro deal, which in itself could be considered "successful". To impress these distro

people, you need significant airplay results that will be quite costly. And keep in mind that no matter how good the radio results are that your promoter hands you, you have to take them and use them properly to make your distribution "successful". And if retail SALES are your final measure of success, then it will be up to your salesperson (who is calling/visiting the stores) to create the sales.

GIGS: Start by showing the bookers your airplay report. Even if a station is not near the clubs, just the fact you have some spins occurring in other places will help you get booked. On the next level, start talking to booking agents... they will need some bigger airplay results to work with... but they will be able to book you into 200-500 seat clubs (with bigger bands) that you could never get yourself. Finally, with commercial regular rotation, you can work with large agents to get 1000 to 5000 seat venues, with or without other acts.

IMPRESSING OTHERS: The final use of your airplay results can be to attract and/or impress others who can help your career. Labels, newspapers, magazines, TV/film producers, managers, law firms, and (especially) investors all know and understand the fundamental value of airplay, and they will see from your airplay results that: (1) Your material is worthwhile; (2) There now is an audience waiting for your next release; (3) You understand how the radio system works; (4) You agree to work with this system; and most important, (5) You already have paid for a certain level of radio, and thus anyone who would be backing you would have to contribute less in order to get you to the next level.

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 Radio Cost Sheet

Below are several example levels of the costs of taking a project to radio. Real costs vary greatly depending on genre (one genre can be 10 times more than another,) and these costs assume you already have manufactured at least 1000 CDs. If you require vinyl, costs will be more. (Note: These are not our costs; these are typical costs that you can use to show investors.)

Level 1 (grass roots)

Independent promoter for non-commercial radio: $3000
Postage: $500
Mailers: $100
Total: $3600

Level 2 (grass roots)

Independent promoter for non-commercial radio: $4000
Independent promoter for specialty/mixshow: $4000
Single (or promo-only EP) just for radio: $2000
Postage: $1000
Mailers: $100
Total: $11,100


Level 3 (small label)

Independent promoter for non-commercial radio: $8000
Independent promoter for specialty/ mixshow: $4000
Ads in radio trade papers: $2000

Single (or promo-only EP) just for radio: $2000
Postage: $1000
Mailers: $100
Total: $17,100

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Level 4 (small-medium label)

Independent promoter for non-commercial radio: $8000
Independent promoter for specialty/ mixshow: $4000
Independent promoter for
small-market commercial regular rotation: $10000
Ads in radio trade papers: $5000
Single (or promo-only EP) just for radio: $2500
Postage: $1200
Mailers: $150
Total: $31,200


Level 5 (small-medium label)

Independent promoter for non-commercial radio: $8000
Independent promoter for specialty/ mixshow: $15000
Two independent promoters for
small-market commercial regular rotation: $20000
Ads in radio trade papers: $10000
Single (or promo-only EP) just for radio: $2500
Postage: $1200
Mailers: $150

Total: $57,200





Level 6 (medium label)

Independent promoter for non-commercial radio: $8000
Independent promoter for specialty/ mixshow: $30000
Five independent promoters for small and
medium-market commercial regular rotation: $70000
Ads in radio trade papers: $20000
Single (or promo-only EP) just for radio: $2500
Postage: $1200
Mailers: $150
Quarterback to run campaign: $10000
Consultants: $5000
Total: $147,200


Level 7 (medium and major label)

Independent promoter for non-commercial radio: $8000
Independent promoter for specialty/mixshow: $30000
Eight independent promoters for sm all and
medium-market commercial regular rotation: $150000
Ads in radio trade papers: $40000
Promo item: $10000
Single (or promo-only EP) just for radio: $2500
CD Postage: $1200
Promo Item Postage: $2500
Mailers: $150


Quarterback to run campaign: $10000
On-air ads: $20000
Consultants: $10000
Total: $284,700


Level 8 (major label)

Independent promoter for non-commercial radio: $8000



Independent promoter for specialty/ mixshow: $30000
Fifteen independent promoters for small,
medium, and major-market commercial
regular rotation: $250000
Ads in radio trade papers: $50000
Promo item: $10000
Single (or promo-only EP) just for radio: $2500
CD Postage: $1200
Promo Item Postage: $2500
Mailers: $150
Quarterback to run campaign: $20000
On-air ads: $50000
Consultants: $50000
Total: $474,350


 Reporting vs. Charting

As you start doing more radio, you'll get more opportunity to choose between "reporting" and "non-reporting" stations, and also between "charting" and "non-charting" campaigns. One is not better than the other; they are just meant for different purposes... like a car versus a bus.

"Reporting" is when a station fills out a form (or an email), and sends it to a chart magazine... telling the magazine that the station is adding or playing your record. "Charting", on the other hand, is either (1) when you appear in that station's "most-added" or "most-played" chart, or (2) when you appear in a MAGAZINE'S "most-added" or "most-played" chart. The station's chart is only for that ONE station; the magazine's chart is an average of all similarly-formatted stations across the country.

The advantage of a station reporting you is this: People will SEE your name. And the people who see your name will be the same people in the music/radio business that you need to impress, such as labels, managers, booking agents, music writers, club DJs, retail buyers, and (especially) other stations who will not add your record until they see that other stations have done so first.

The disadvantage of trying for a reporting station is that they are much more difficult to get (compared to non-reporting stations), due to the increased competition these stations garner because of their (generally) larger listenerships. Everyone wants to show up in the trade magazines (the "trades"), and thus these reporting stations are the first ones that people select, including every major label. So in the car-versus-bus comparison, reporting stations are the bus... they carry many more results, and the cost to get them is proportionately higher. Non-reporting stations, however, are much easier (and thus lower cost) and are more suitable for the beginner. The largest labels, however, will work both the reporting and non-reporting stations together.

Now let's talk about "campaigns". A radio campaign is when you work a large group of similar stations at the same time, so as to create a "hit". A hit is simply a particular artist that is being played on a large number of stations AT THE SAME TIME. If half the stations play it now, and the other half play it a year from now, you do not have a hit. Hits have to be on all pertinent stations at the same time. On top of this, the stations that are chosen for charting campaigns HAVE to be reporting stations, even if you also have chosen non-reporting stations.

And thus the difficulty. When you work a charting campaign, you not only have to work all reporting stations at the same time, but the stations that you are working are the more difficult ones. So in terms of money, a charting campaign (say, for non-commercial radio) is going to cost about twice what a non-charting campaign would cost. And for commercial radio, a charting campaign... even in small markets only... is going to cost twice to ten times that of a non-charting campaign, and in medium markets, charting is going to cost five to one hundred times that of non-charting.

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Finally, there is the regional option. Many times, people will want to go after just a few stations in their own city or state, and this "regional" effort does have some merit... mainly lower cost... but it is not referred to so much as a "campaign", as it is just a "push". Regional is useful since all the stations are selected to be close to the artist, but the push is not very impressive to other stations because (1) most of the stations will be small, (2) there will be no chart action, (3) there will be no trade reviews, (4) there will be no stations near other stations in the rest of the country, and (5) you will have very few station-success stories to tell. But considering the cost, many smaller projects will have no choice but to opt for a regional effort.                     TOP of Page

- BDS / Mediabase / Soundscan

We've covered "reporting", as it is done manually by a person filling out a fax or email and sending it to a radio magazine. This is how non-commercial stations, and commercial stations in small and non-rated markets, do their reporting. But the larger commercial stations (the ones with the most listeners) have their reporting taken care of automatically, through a system called "monitoring".

Monitoring is a system that does not rely on what the PD/MD says is playing... instead it listens to what the station actually plays. It is a high-level system, and due to it's cost it is used mostly by medium and large labels... but it definitely is something you should know about.

BDS (BROADCAST DATA SYSTEMS): This system uses computers to listen to the large stations throughout the country. The information is tabulated and sold to subscribing customers... most of which are medium and large labels, management, radio group owners, and others which absolutely have to know where a record is playing, because the decisions that need to be made are going to cost thousands of dollars per market. Subscribers can log on at any time and find out exactly where and how many spins any record is playing, and what time of day it played.

MEDIABASE: This system is similar in concept to BDS, but instead of using computers to listen, it uses people. Also, since a human is actually doing the listening, that person can make notes of special things, like if the music was heard in a advertisement, or if the artist was talked about by DJs, or other things that a computer would miss.

BDS is used to make all the Billboard airplay charts. MediaBase is used to make many of the charts in Radio & Records (except for the specialty and "indicator" charts, which are still done manually.) I should repeat this one point about specialty: Although MediaBase does detect specialty spins on the stations it monitors, this info is not used for the specialty charts in R&R... instead the specialty charts are made using manual reporting. MediaBase subscribers could still, however, search for and find a specialty spin if they wanted to.

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MediaBase and BDS monitor about 80% of the same stations; therefore you may need to get both in order to get proper coverage.

The other major charts, FMQB and CMJ, use manual reporting for both the specialty and regular-rotation charts, and thus they are more suited to the beginning label.

Larger labels that have several projects going at once (and who are already selling 200 to 300 albums per week) might want to take a look at a BDS overall-package that let's them log on at any time to check spins. Smaller labels will have to get the limited one-title package that just emails you the results every Monday. Mediabase, since it can be accessed at any time with even it's smallest package, is a good starting point for smaller labels.

Mediabase has a special section for the indicator stations, called R&R Tracking. This sub-section of Mediabase is good if your genre has a lot of indicator stations, but, it's non-real time; the results can only be had once a week.

SOUNDSCAN: This system should not be confused with BDS or MediaBase. Soundscan is not for radio... it is for retail sales. It is the system that is connected to the barcode scanners at retail stores; it tabulates the sales data, and sells it to subscribers at a lofty price.

A note about who owns whom: Soundscan and Billboard and BDS are all owned by the same company. MediaBase, on the other hand, is owned by Clear Channel, the largest owner of radio stations (1200) in the world.

- Commercial Ratings

Commercial Radio Ratings

When working a record to commercial regular-rotation radio, one thing and one thing only will help your career move forward: Helping the stations get ratings. Stations are not in the music business... they are in the ratings business... they get paid to have higher ratings. Whether they play a great song or a crappy song, if their ratings stay the same, then they will make the same money and nothing more. So song quality is not the issue to them. Here's what is the issue: GETTING MORE LISTENERS. Here's how to do it for them:


GIGS: While commercial stations do all they can to build station awareness in their city (using vans, billboards, bus-sides, benches, t-shirts, etc.), the station that impacts the most people will get the most listeners, and thus will win. So stations will accept help wherever they can get it. Their preference of which records to play in regular rotation will greatly be based on which artist is performing in their city, and how many people attend those performances, because if these people want to hear the artist's music after the show, they HAVE to tune in to the station that plays it. For a new indie act, ten people at a gig is irrelevant; a hundred is decent for a small market; three hundred is decent for a medium market; five hundred is jammin' for any market. There are many reasons to do gigs, but if you are going to do them to impress radio, you need LOTS of people. The notion of small "cozy" gigs does not fly with radio.

DISTRIBUTION (OR, SALES): Next up on the difficulty ladder is on-the-shelf (not "in-the-system") distribution in the cities where you are seeking commercial regular rotation. A major peeve of commercial stations is that the listeners complain when they hear a song that they can't find in the stores. After your product is on the shelf, the next thing a station will want to know is how many units have moved... and by moved I mean Sound Scanned. This is a level or two above the mom-and-pop store situation, and is thus more difficult. To impress a typical commercial station, you would need to be scanning 200 or 300 units per week in THAT station's market alone. Sales like this means that listeners are diggin' an artist, and the listeners are just waiting to tune in to the first station that plays the tune. Note: For new artists, we recommend forgetting stores entirely, and focusing instead on tour distribution.

PRESS: Finally, and probably most difficult for most indie bands, is extensive press IN THE CITIES where the stations are. Except for trade press, if your press does not impact a station's listeners, then the stations do not care. However, if you can show the stations that you were covered in the local (regular or alternative) city paper, or the arts paper, or a regional arts magazine, or (of course) a national music magazine, then you are well on your way, since a lot of a station's listenership will have seen it. Even

local cable and TV applies. Trade press, on the other hand, impacts only stations, labels, management, bookers, retail, and other critical people in the music chain. Even though it does not hit the public, however, trade press is still extremely important.

A problem arises when brand new under-funded bands try to get commercial regular rotation airplay: They cannot afford to do all the above things at once. So they have to choose what to attempt, and the proper choice (for most situations) should be: Gigs. Gigs are something that the average band can handle; bands can still invite the press, and bands can still sell CDs there (i.e., tour distribution.)

If any of this seems un-doable, then it is time to look at non-commercial radio, and/or, commercial specialty/mixshow radio, since these can be worked without any gigs, retail or press whatsoever


- Commercial Airplay Myths

When talking to people who are launching their first couple of projects, invariably the same misunderstood points come up concerning commercial regular- rotation airplay. Here they are:

DJs PLAY THE RECORDS: DJs only do this on non-commercial radio, and specialty/ mixshow radio. The majority of people in the U.S., however, listen to commercial regular- rotation radio, and on these stations, the DJs have no say at all in what is going to be played (unless, in the case of a smaller station, the DJ is also the PD). So, the biggest pitfall to avoid is asking a DJ at a commercial station "Can I give you my CD for possible rotation?". The DJ is not allowed to say "No", and he/she is probably not going to explain that only the PD can approve regular rotation. The DJ is just going to say "OK".

GOOD SONGS SPREAD TO OTHER STATIONS: Good songs (or for that matter, good programs) do not mysteriously spread to other stations. Every single song you hear (or every syndicated program you hear) on commercial regular-rotation radio is on that station because of layers of promotion and marketing. The song you heard was the one that made it... it beat out the other 300 songs that were going for adds that week. What you don't hear are the endless phone calls, faxes, trade ads, personal meetings, consultant recommendations, call-out research, and other things which went into getting the station to add the record. All you heard was the record itself. And station owners make it a requirement that the DJs make it sound like they picked the music themselves.


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COLLEGE OR SPECIALTY/ MIXSHOW WILL EXPAND TO COMMERCIAL: Just because you do well on non-commercial or specialty/ mixshow radio, it does not mean anything will happen on commercial regular- rotation radio. Matter of fact, nothing at all will happen at commercial unless a separate, higher-level campaign is put into place to take the record into regular rotation. The pitfall here is that a listener will hear something on college, and then a month later hear it on commercial, and conclude that the college caused the commercial to happen. The listener did not know that both campaigns were in place simultaneously, and the college simply went for adds a month earlier.

YOU HAVE TO BE SIGNED: Untrue. Being singed is only a signal to the stations that the basic marketing practices are going to be done right. If you have the budget, you can duplicate the marketing practices of larger labels, provided you know how. The band Creed set a good example, by putting their $5 million marketing dollars into the right place.

REQUEST CALLS WILL HELP: Not really. They won't hurt, but your time is better spent doing other things, like inviting people to your gigs. Stations know which calls are real, and which are bands and their friends. Stations have consultants and seminars which cover only this one topic.

I SHOULDN'T TRY FOR AIRPLAY WITHOUT DISTRIBUTION: The reverse is actually the situation... you should get the airplay first, and use it to get your distribution. But even with airplay, we still recommend that new acts use tour-distribution only, and forget about stores.

I CAN'T GET AIRPLAY WITHOUT GIGS: Again, you should do the reverse... get the airplay first, and use it to get gigs. Not being able to gig is a serious handicap for any artist, but you can overcome it with intense radio promo, press, and other marketing.

NON-MONITORED STATIONS ARE OF NO USE: Non-monitored stations are of no use only on the Billboard and R&R charts. But FMQB, CMJ, and all specialty/mixshow charts found in magazines are compiled manually; since you need to start off on these smaller charts first, this works out just fine.

- How to Use Videos for Airplay

Many times, beginning bands that get a hold of some money ($50,000+) try to put out a video. There is nothing wrong with the intent, it's just that their timing is off. What these bands will do is put all their money into the making of their CD and video, and have nothing left for promotion. I've already heavily covered how the promotion of a CD is more important than having the CD in the first place; now I'll say the same thing about the video: Having a video (or even 1000 copies of that video) is irrelevant if it does not get promoted onto music channels. Having the video... but only having it on your CDrom or on the web... is of no use at all, for radio.


Why? Because no one will see it. The few people that do see it (less than a couple hundred people) is not enough to cause anything to happen. Widespread awareness requires that several hundred thousand viewers see it, and this can only be accomplished by having a video on several local cable music channels; the web just can't do it for you. The video channels I'm referring to are the local cable music channels/shows that most cities have, as opposed to MTV and their ilk.

And this is where the "timing" issue arises. It costs a lot to promote a video, and putting that promotion money into the video BEFORE you put it into radio is the mistake that some bands make. Remember, only commercial regular-rotation radio sells large quantities of CDs... even major labels concede that videos don't make any money... they just help build awareness through the cable video channels. So if you are going to make a video, only do it if you have enough budget left over to promote to radio first, and video second. Video promotion costs about the same as non-commercial radio or specialty/mixshow radio.

If you are going to go the video route, there are some additional things the video can be used for in addition to the cable video channels. The first use is to send a VHS copy to each radio station that you are promoting the CD to (yes, you MUST use a VHS copy... CDrom copies are not taken seriously). A good time to do this is when your video is airing on the local cable channel in the same city of that radio station. This is because you not only interest the station more, but it gives them more to talk about on the air since they know the video is available for their listeners to view at that moment.

The second (more obvious) use of a video is to send it to the press, to give them an idea of what your show is all about. A third use is to send it to clubs when attempting to book.

A fourth use is to offer it for sale at your gigs... keeping in mind it will be tough to sell (much harder than selling CDs) if it is not currently on the local cable channel. You are only really doing this because you already have the video in your other promotions.

So if you do have the budget, and if you handle your timing right (by starting with radio and then pushing video,) you will have a very strong case for good sales and gigs in the particular markets that you are airing in       TOP of Page

- Merchandise

Merchandise has a definite place in the marketing of any artist or band, and it is usually the first thing a band puts together, sometimes even before they have a CD. What I'll cover here is how the merch can be used for radio, which is entirely different from how it can be used for other things like gigs; these items COULD be sold at gigs, and indeed should be, but by itself, merch won't do anything for your radio... merch has to be used with a promotion campaign to be effective.

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COLLEGE RADIO: The idea with college is that you are trying to impress the people at the station; not the audience. And there are a lots of people at a lot of stations, so the items have to be cheap, and lightweight to mail.

When doing a college radio promotion, stickers are your first merch choice. You send them right along with the CD to the stations. Stickers are cheap, universally accepted, and they don't add much to the postage. The idea is to get them stuck around the station.

Next up on the college list is shirts, which most bands make anyway if they have the money. But you don't send them with the CDs... you offer them to stations who are charting you. Often this will be incentive enough for a poor college student to dig up your CD and check it out; which is why you don't send the shirts at first... the kids would just keep the shirt and forget the CD. They have to do something for you first.

Posters don't have as much use for radio as you might think. Nobody at the station cares about your poster unless they already like the music; so it defeats the purpose of using a poster to get played. And there is little room at college stations to put up any more posters on the walls... they are already packed floor-to-ceiling. Plus, the shipping cost is high because of the shipping tubes. So posters really fall short of what other items can do for you.

Heat transfers, magnets and tattoos are useful for college, but are more difficult to get people to use, and thus should only be done only if you already have stickers and shirts.

SPECIALTY/ MIXSHOW: For these, you want to give items that are of interest to the listeners... not the station people (the more and better the items are that the station can give away, the more listeners the station will get.) And there are far fewer stations to deal with compared to college, so we can now start looking at meatier items.

Shirts still apply, but now you can now consider antenna balls (in quantity), bandannas (for rock, rap), coolies, coasters, dog tags (for rap), foam guitars (for rock), pens, gum (printed wrappers), key chains, rubber stampers, and even rock-paperweights. With specialty/ mixshow, you can send one of your items with the CD, but the real value of the items is in quantity (10, 20, or 30 pieces per station) for stations that are playing you.

COMMERCIAL REGULAR ROTATION: Truth is, no band/artist merch is going to affect your regular rotation. Only if you are already in a hefty rotation would a station care to give-away your stuff. If regular rotation is really what you are after, and you have the money, stick to standard promotion practices... they're going to cost far more than any merch items you could make anyway, and you'll need all the push you can get.

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- Billboard Magazine

Billboard is the one industry magazine that most non-music-biz folks about; with it's colorful logo, it is probably the first industry magazine that you remember reading. It has many uses, but unfortunately, being useful to indie bands and indie labels is not one of them. You will have charted in every other chart magazine before you ever show up in Billboard. 95 percent of everything in the Billboard charts is major label, and the remaining 5 percent is major-indie (major-indies have a marketing budget of $50,000 minimum per release, and this does not include making the CD.)

Note: If you are a new artist or a new "small" indie label with your first release, you cannot compare your marketing expense to an established indie's. You have to compare your marketing expense for your ONE release to their total marketing expenses for ALL their releases since they went into business. This is because they have built up their radio / retail / press / venue marketing channels over the year, and you have not. So their radio/retail marketing dollars get put right into motion, whereas marketing efforts from a new artist/label just try to make it over the brick wall (exactly the way the first release from those established indies did when they first began.) Thus, longevity in the business is more important than song quality.

I have written other articles which cover the non-Billboard charts; those charts are much more useful to indie artists and labels. Nevertheless, due to the endless inquiries we get about Billboard, here is what it offers, insofar as song airplay charts for the United States is concerned...

TOP R&B/HIP-HOP ALBUMS: This chart gives sales results only. Sales results (especially in Billboard) are less useful to small indies than airplay charts are, since you need to make the airplay happen before the sales can really get moving. And you need to have very good sales before you ever show up in Billboard (about 1000 soundscans per week.)

HOT RAP SINGLES: Sales results only.

HOT R&B/HIP-HOP SINGLES: BDS monitored airplay results combined with sales results. Since sales are included in the results, you end up with the same problem as a sales-only chart.

HOT R&B/HIP-HOP AIRPLAY: BDS monitored airplay only. This is the first airplay-only chart in Billboard, but since the stations are all large regular-rotation BDS, this will be the last airplay chart you will show up on. It's basically major label only, with a few major-indies, and no small indies at all.


HOT R&B/HIP-HOP SINGLES SALES: Sales results only.


..CLUB PLAY: Club play only (not radio).

...MAXI-SINGLES SALES: Sales results only.

...HOT DANCE BREAKOUTS: One chart for club play, one for sales results only.

...TOP ELECTRONIC ALBUMS: Sales results only.

HOT COUNTRY SINGLES & TRACKS: BDS monitored airplay only. Mostly majors and major-indies, and a few small indies.

TOP COUNTRY SINGLES SALES: Sales results only.

TOP COUNTRY ALBUMS: Sales results only.


HOT LATIN TRACKS (overall, plus 3 variations): BDS monitored airplay only. Mostly majors, with a few indies.

TOP LATIN ALBUMS: Sales results only.

THE BILLBOARD 200: Sales results only.


TOP BLUES ALBUMS: Sales results only.

TOP REGGAE ALBUMS: Sales results only.

TOP WORLD ALBUMS: Sales results only.


TOP GOSPEL ALBUMS: Sales results only.

HEATSEEKERS: Sales results only.

TOP INDEPENDENT ALBUMS: Sales results only. A few small indies; mostly major indies.

TOP INTERNET ALBUM SALES: Sales results only.

TOP SOUNDTRACKS: Sales results only.

TOP POP CATALOG: Sales results only.

MODERN ROCK TRACKS: BDS monitored airplay only. Majors and major-indies. No small indies.

MAINSTREAM ROCK TRACKS: BDS monitored airplay only. Majors and major-indies. No small indies.

ADULT CONTEMPORARY: BDS monitored airplay only. Majors and major-indies. No small indies.

ADULT TOP 40 TRACKS: BDS monitored airplay only. Majors and major-indies. No small indies.

TOP 40 TRACKS: BDS monitored airplay only. Majors and major-indies. No small indies.

HOT 100 AIRPLAY: BDS monitored airplay only. Majors and major-indies. No small indies.

HOT 100 SINGLES SALES: Sales results only.

HOT 100: BDS monitored airplay results combined with sales results.

- Radio and Records Magazine

You won't be in the music or radio biz long before you hear about R&R... it's a very widely used magazine/newspaper in both the radio and music businesses. If you "show up in R&R" in almost any way... you are doing good. R&R has been around since the early '70s, and many people in music and radio have literally grown up with it. R&R comes out weekly, and it is very expensive. It's available by subscription, and also on newsstands in NY and LA.

Most of the main charts in R&R are top-level... meaning that an indie band with their first release is going to have a tough time charting on these charts. There are some other charts in R&R, however, which are achievable (although not easily) by an indie band... and they are called Indicator charts. We'll focus on these. Indicator charts are made up of the smaller non-monitored stations.

Overall, here is what is available in R&R each week...

CHR/POP (contemporary hit radio): Also known as "pop" or "top 40", this is your basic Britney Spears chart. This is a big category for R&R, and this section includes the CHR/Pop Top 50 airplay chart, the Callout America research chart (derived from calling thousands of people at home and asking them what songs are on their mind,) the Rate The Music research chart (derived from questioning people on the web,) and finally, the Top 50 Indicator chart.

This CHR/Pop Top 50 Indicator chart is made up of under 50 stations. This is not an easy chart, but an indie act with a good promo push has at least a chance of charting. Compare this to the main CHR/Pop Top 50 chart, which is all monitored medium-and-large market stations, with no indies on it, at all.

CHR/RHYTHMIC: Also known as "crossover", "rhythmic top 40" or "dance". CHR/rhythmic is also a big category in R&R, and some people consider the stations which report to it to be almost regular pop stations. Janet Jackson is your best example of a crossover artist. The MediaBase monitored CHR/Rhythmic chart is made up of less than 100 stations, again, all major regular rotation stations in good-sized cities. Also again, there are no indies on this chart. This section also has Rate The Music, an Indicator chart (about 10 stations... the only rotational chance for an indie), and something which will be of real interest to new bands... the Mixshow chart. The mixshow chart is one place that an indie act (with a dance / urban feel) has at least a chance of charting for less than $5,000.


URBAN & URBAN AC: Once you eliminate the pop artists from the playlist and stick to Motown-type material, you get the urban chart. It's less than 100 stations, all major, all regular rotation, with no indie artists. The Urban AC chart (in the same section as urban) is a smaller chart... the "AC" stands for adult contemporary. This MediaBase chart is about 50 stations, all major, all regular rotation, but it does have a few indies on it (big indies, not small).

COUNTRY: Another big chart, about 100 stations, with only a few major-indies on it (no small indies). Also has a Callout chart, a Rate The Music chart, and an Indicator chart that is made up of about 50 stations. This Indicator chart has quite a few indies on it... some big, some small.

AC and HOT AC (adult contemporary): About 100 major AC stations (and a 10-station Indicator most-added chart), and 100 major Hot AC stations (also with a 10-station Indicator most-added chart). AC is your basic Celine Dion format, while Hot AC would be would be more for Smashmouth.

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SMOOTH JAZZ: Less than 50 stations, all of which are non-monitored. A lot of major-indie artists, and maybe one or two small indies. Dave Koz is a good Smooth Jazz example.

ROCK and ACTIVE ROCK: About 50 monitored stations for each, and 20 Indicator stations for each. Active Rock has a Rate The Music chart, and Rock has the very useful Specialty Show Chart (about 30 stations). Tool and Staind are good Rock and Active Rock examples.

ALTERNATIVE: About 70 monitored stations and 15 Indicator most-added stations. Also a Rate The Music chart, and a Specialty Show chart (about 35 stations).

AAA (adult album alternative): This is your singer-songwriter chart, but it has become more rock-based lately. The main AAA chart is 25 monitored stations, but for the Indicator chart, R&R has combined both monitored and non-monitored (10 non) stations for a total of 35. The AAA Indicator chart is a realistic place for a small indie to go, as long as they have a substantial promo push.

CHRISTIAN: These charts are all non-monitored, and consist of the CHR Top 30 (about 30 stations), the Rock Top 30 (about 50 stations), the AC Top 30 (about 60 stations), along with a Specialty Show chart for Rhythmic and Loud.

- Small Market Commercial Regular Rotation


There are too many commercial stations in the U.S. (even within a single format) for the typical new indie label to deal with at one time. So, for the purposes of marketing music on radio (via airplay), you have to divide up the markets (cities) into different groups that can be approached one at a time... each with different levels of difficulty. Note: This information applies to regular rotation only, NOT to specialty, mixshow, or college.

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Markets are divided into "major", "medium", and "small", according to how many people live in each market. Major markets are #1 (New York) to #30 (San Antonio); Medium markets are #31 (San Jose) to #100 (Johnson City, TN); Small markets are #101 (Lakeland, FL) and smaller. See the complete list of markets here: markets

There are also "non-rated" markets, which are the smallest towns in the country. Most regular-rotation airplay campaigns for new artists and new labels should start with the small and non-rated markets first, since these markets are easier, faster, and lower cost than the bigger markets (not to mention the fact that many larger stations will not respond until they see action in the small markets first.)

There are several other advantages to small and non-rated markets. First, there are many more of them. This means that you have hundreds of choices of places to perform on the road, and, there are thousands of small newspapers in these markets to review you.

Second, the music and media people in these small markets are more likely to work with you. Why? Because of less competition from major labels, major PR firms, and major booking agencies. In small markets, (1) stations are more likely to play indie music, even if you have no distribution, gigs or press in their town, (2) the stores you try to get your CD into will be more willing to work with you, and (3) the newspapers and TV (or cable) will be more willing to interview you.

The first negative you or someone else might come up with regarding "small markets" is, "they don't sell records". Let me start my reply by saying, again, that if you don't have a salesperson calling stores to get the stores to place orders, then you will sell zero records no matter what radio or markets you choose to promote to. And note that this applies to sales in stores, not sales at gigs. (That's why we recommend tour-distribution instead.)

The "small markets don't sell records" mindset comes from major labels who actually have a choice of where to market their records to in the first place. It's kind of like Sears saying, "We only put our stores in malls, since only malls have enough people for us to make any money." True, but then Sears is starting off with a five million dollar store. YOUR very first retail clothing store (that you worked all your life to save up for) is not going to be a five million dollar store in a mall. After all, the lease space in the mall alone would be a million dollars a year. YOUR first store is going to have to be much lower scale, maybe in a strip shopping center, and it's still going to cost you several hundred thousand dollars to open. Point is, you have to put the store in a place with less people (compared to a mall) because it's the only way you stand a chance to get started. And, you might just do very well there.

It's true that a major label, who's priority artists are getting one-half to three million dollar radio campaigns, think that starting off in small markets is a waste of time, since their level of push (like Sears) puts them right into regular rotation in the medium and major markets. Good for them. And good for Sears.

Small market regular rotation radio works with almost any format, especially country and AC. Even pop can be worked in small markets. The idea is just to get your record started, so that you can tour, get press, get distro, or attract investor attention in these markets. After you do well here, you'll finally have the option (provided you have the additional marketing dollars) to start a medium market regular rotation campaign   TOP of Page

Medium Market Commercial Regular Rotation

Once your regular rotation radio has taken a foothold in the small markets, you are ready to move to medium markets. In the case of hip hop or rap (regular rotation, not mixshow), you might actually have to start off in the medium markets, since you really have few small-markets to work with. Either way, for all formats, it is going to get expensive in the medium markets, and it's going to be difficult. Most medium market stations want to see small market regular rotation action before they will take you seriously. They also want to start seeing trade support. Trade support alone can cost more than your entire small market push did. Nevertheless, most labels and artists can live their entire existences in the small and medium markets. See the list of markets here... markets

There are two groups of medium markets... the mediums themselves, and the small-mediums. The small-mediums should be your first attack, since they will seem similar to the small markets. You can start the small-mediums right after (or during) your small market push, even if your retail, gigs and press are not set up yet. But the actual mediums will start looking hard at your retail, gigs, and press. You may not have all of these totally lined up when you start the mediums, but much of it needs to already be in motion. If it's not, you may not get far unless you have a huge radio push.

RETAIL: Medium market stations want in-store retail in their town. This means "on the shelf", not "in the system". The reason is that listeners complain if a song is heard but cannot be bought. And by "bought", they mean going into a store and walking out with a CD. The good news is that the radio campaigns that you do (to get on the medium market stations) can actually help you get into stores, since you have the option of using something which the stores and distributors have a tough time getting... spots. Spots cost a fortune, but if you have not managed to get into stores yet, spots can save the day. Your promoter can set things up so that part of the spot deal is that your CD gets on the shelf, and possibly, gets hooked up with a distributor too.


GIGS: All medium markets have tons of places to perform. Gigs are the first thing all artists do, so it is expected that the gigs will continue once radio begins. And by gigs, the stations mean gigs in their town, not yours. The more listeners that see you perform in their markets, the more those people will tune into the local station to hear you; this means more listeners (and more money) for the stations. More good news: The optional spots that are part of a medium market campaign can be used to get gigs in venues... venues that would normally never talk to you; your promoter may possibly even hook you up with a decent booking agency too (on a percentage basis.)

PRESS: The last requirement of the medium stations... press, is going to be a bit more difficult to get than the retail or the gigs. And by press, medium stations don't mean a fanzine or a calendar listing. They mean reviews with color pictures in the city newspaper, and also cable/broadcast TV appearances, preferably with appearances in the better-known regional and national music mags. And... they don't mean one review every once in a while... they mean lots of reviews in lots of different places at one time. This kind of press can only be done through a PR firm, although a spot campaign, if set up properly by the promoter to tag the press, can be used to get select reviews in those press. A national press campaign, over the period of six months, can produce 50 to 300 articles, reviews, and appearances, but can cost as much as the medium market radio campaign itself. You can work the small-medium stations without much press (or you can use them TO get press,) but the real mediums are just going to difficult until they see press action in their markets, or until you do a much larger radio push

- Large Market Commercial Regular Rotation

The largest 30 markets in the U.S. (see market list ) are considered "major" radio markets. Most people, in their first radio campaign, will say that they want regular rotation (not mixshow or specialty show) in the major markets. Unfortunately, most people will never get there. Major markets are the top of the radio heap; they are extremely sought out by major labels, and the majors will do everything they can to keep you off of those stations. If you listen to commercial radio in a major market, almost all of what you hear in regular rotation (10+ spins/wk) will be major label.

The only way a new artist on a new label is going to get any play in a major market is in on college, mixshow, or specialty show radio (unless you do a huge, huge radio push.) Of course all of these limit you to just a few spins a week (on an irregular basis), but it's still nice to be able to say you are on in a major market. Beyond that, no advertising, gigs, press, referrals, DJs, mixshow, specialty show, local show, management or anything else is going to get a new artist on a new label into regular rotation in any of the top 30 markets. If you think that you've heard a new artist "break" on a large market station, you are not seeing the real mechanism behind what caused it to happen. So enough said about that; let's now look at what IS needed to make it to the top markets...



SMALL AND MEDIUM MARKET RADIO: First, the large market stations want to see success in the smaller markets first. Why? Because, of all the problems that large market stations face, taking chances on new talent is not one of them. Large stations want to see that you stick with your radio campaign without quitting; that you support the artist in the radio markets where there are spins; that you do station promotions when needed; and that you work with the radio trades to show your serious.

GIGS: Paramount on the list of needs, major stations want the artist performing in THEIR cities (not just nearby), to a sizable (1000+) audience, and not just once but several times. This is where the stations get new listeners from.

RETAIL: You absolutely must have real (not web or consignment) distribution. And that means ON THE SHELF placement, not just "in the system". When a listener calls in and asks "where can I buy it", the station needs to be able to tell them the store(s) that has it on the shelf today. If the listener cannot find it, (s)he will be pissed, and the station may lose a listener. Aside from this, he only way to get large market radio without retail is by doing a huge radio push.

PRESS: Important, but not quite as critical as gigs and retail; Nevertheless, major stations expect to read about you at least in the radio trade press (which will take some dollars), and preferably also in regional and national music press (Vibe, Spin, LA Weekly, etc.) And I mean half, full, and double page reviews with pictures; not just listings in the calendar section. City papers around the country (like the LA Times) are beyond what even the lesser-major acts can get, but a nice review with pics in the daily paper of a particular large market will guarantee that the station there takes notice of you (because you are reaching everyone in their market, and this means possible new station listeners.)

PRESS: The last requirement of the medium stations... press, is going to be a bit more difficult to get than the retail or the gigs. And by press, medium stations don't mean a fanzine or a calendar listing. They mean reviews with color pictures in the city newspaper, and also cable/broadcast TV appearances, preferably with appearances in the better-known regional and national music mags. And... they don't mean one review every once in a while... they mean lots of reviews in lots of different places at one time. This kind of press can only be done through a PR firm, although a spot campaign, if set up properly by the promoter to tag the press, can be used to get select reviews in those press. A national press campaign, over the period of six months, can produce 50 to 300 articles, reviews, and appearances, but can cost as much as the medium market radio campaign itself. You can work the small-medium stations without much press (or you can use them TO get press,) but the real mediums are just going to difficult until they see press action in their markets, or until you do a much larger radio push

WEB: Unimportant; major market stations really don't care what you've done on the web. Your not reaching their listeners. The web might only hit 10 percent of the people in their city that they want as new listeners, while gigs would hit maybe 20 percent, and the city paper... 80 percent

Hiring Your Own Record Deal

I downplay all the talk about "deals", since the impression is that a good "deal" solves all problems. However, since this topic comes up daily, I'll present a realistic option for the newcomer to consider.

You may not know it, but you can "hire" your own record deal (and by "deal" I mean marketing (not making) your music) if you know what level of people to look for. After all, if you were to be "signed" to a real label (with real backing), the first thing they would do is hire the needed marketing people to get the record going.

Yes, labels have some staff people to do some things, but the larger the label, the MORE external field-staff people they hire to get the job done. You can hire some of these same field-staff too. Since I'm writing a radio airplay article, I'll emphasize radio, and then touch on the rest. I'll also show four different levels: Major label deals, major-indie deals, indie deals, and grassroots deals.

RADIO: Most all labels have staff people to call stations, but the responsibility of these people is also to hire-out for indie promoters. Indeed, it is the indie promoter's sole job to talk to the stations, and then report back the results to the label.

Grassroots Deals: These radio campaigns hire college, mixshow, specialty, and/or small market regular rotation indies, and are under $10,000 for the radio budget for one song/album. This amount would cover manufacturing and postage too. You can hire all the same people for your project that the grassroots label does, and thus not depend on what the label might or might not do. Besides, some of these grassroots label deals are offered by people who don't know anything more about marketing than  you do.

Indie Deals: These folks know what they are doing, but are limited in budget. They have maybe one full-time radio person, and this person hires one to four separate indies to do the radio work. The radio budget might be $10,000 to $50,000 for one song/album. This is about as high as a newcomer like yourself would want to attempt on your own; you would hire the same indie(s) that the indie label would have hired (and in general, these indies will take your project.)

Major Indie Deals: These have several in-house radio people, and they hire out from two to five indies, from $50,000 to $300,000 total. You cannot easily hire these indies; they will only consider your project once it is successful in the smaller markets, and once it has at least indie distribution.


Major Deals: These are the big five; their radio budgets are $300,000 to $1 Million, and they hire from 3 to 15 separate indies. You cannot hire these indies; they take major label accounts only. The only exception might be a record that has worked its way up to R&R or Billboard charting, and has major distro, press, touring, etc.

you do.

PRESS: Like radio, grassroots labels hire PR people/firms to obtain publicity. You can hire the very same PR firms for yourself for about $1,500 a month, and you'll want to do it for at least 6 months. You can expect a total of about 10 articles in small magazines /newspapers/ zines /sites. These smaller PR folks generally don't ask for distribution first.

Indie labels would hire a full campaign at about $3,000 a month, and you could do the same. These PR folks, however, may start wanting indie distribution first, however, and radio too.

Major indie labels would be spending $3,000 to $5,000 a month on one or two separate PR firms. You can't really hire these folks until you've got good indie (or major) distribution, and at least small-market radio.

Majors labels will spend $10,000+ a month each on 2 to 5 separate PR firms; You cannot hire these PR firms yourself.

RETAIL: After your radio and press are going, you can hire a grassroots-level person for retail promotion for $1000 a month for 6 months, plus commission. Indie-level would be one firm for $3,000/mo plus commission. Major-indie would be $5,000/mo, and major $10,000/mo, but you cannot hire these last two.

Radio Referrals to Press, Gigs, and Retail

After spins, charting, and the other basic areas of a radio airplay campaign are under way, there are some very useful things that you can use the stations for while you are still promoting to them. Amazingly, these things sometimes actually work better with college and specialty/ mixshow than with commercial regular rotation; they can also work quite well with stations that are not even playing you yet, just so long as they are familiar with your song/album.

Besides radio, there are three other main parts to marketing an artist... press, gigs and retail... which can be quite difficult for a new artist/label to get started. But fortunately, radio can be used to get these going, by using radio referrals. Here's how it works... we'll start with radio referrals to press...

After the stations have been contacted for several weeks and they are aware of (and hopefully playing) the artist, they can be asked what local magazines, newspapers or websites they would recommend that the artist should be reviewed in. Since the people at the station live in the station's local area, and since they are involved heavily in music, they are the perfect folks to tell you where to try to get reviewed. And of course, these station people are going to be looking forward to reading these artist reviews that they helped set you up with.

Then there are gigs. Same process: After the stations are aware of (or are playing) the artist, the stations are asked what clubs/venues the artist should be booked at in the stations' local areas. With college stations, some of the clubs might be on the campus; this is an advantage for the right kind of artist since college venues sometimes pay more than venues off campus. Another plus for referrals to college venues is that sometimes the college stations can participate in promoting the gig, for free.

Lastly, there is retail. Not recommended unless you already have the gigs and the press working, because retail is the most difficult to do (which is why we recommend tour-distribution instead.) But for artists/labels that do want to get radio referrals to retail... the process is the same, except that the stations are asked for mom-and-pop retail stores that are friendly to consignment. (It's above the level of this article to talk about getting distribution.)

College station people (and some specialty/ mixshow people) are unpaid, and thus they also work jobs in their communities doing something they love... music. And where better to work than a record store, music magazine, or club! So not only do the these folks provide more knowledge (compared to commercial regular rotation people) of what's available in their town, sometimes they are the same people that you need to talk to at the stores, magazines, or clubs in the first place.

What do you do with the referrals once you get them? Try this: If Bob at WXYZ says he recommends that you be booked at Joe's Nightclub, then you call up Joe and say, "Joe, you know the station WXYZ there in your town?... Well Bob over there has been [playing/ reviewing] my album, and he said that I should call you up since you might be interested in booking our type of act. Would you like a copy to review?" It works great.

For press, it's "you might be interested in reviewing our type of music." For retail, it's "you might be interested in consigning our type of product."

Either way, one thing is very important: Once you have the referrals, you have to use them right away. One of the reasons the referrals are being given to you is because the station people want to feel they are making something happen. If nothing happens, they feel let down.

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Where To Expect CD Sales (From Radio)

The concept of using radio for CD sales (for entry-level artists) can be broken down into specific phases. Here are the levels of difficulty involved for each...

EASY: Selling your CD at gigs (i.e., tour distribution.) If you used radio referrals to get some gigs, or even if you got the gigs otherwise, you are going to do pretty well selling full-price CDs at your gigs... probably 5 to 15 copies per night. If a station referred you to the gig, then the station may promote it for free (if it is a non-commercial station), or give some on-air mentions (if it is commercial,) thus increasing the attendance and CD sales. Just be sure to keep your CDs where people HAVE to walk by them. Also, as an advanced technique, have someone walk through the crowd asking each person if they would like to buy one (this technique alone can double your sales.)

NOT SO EASY: Selling CDs from your site. If you are thinking that a simple radio campaign is going to cause hundred of CDs sales per week to occur at your site, it's not going to happen. The size (and cost) of a radio campaign that CAN do this is beyond what most indie bands can handle. You are better off selling at gigs that stations refer you to.

NOT EASY AT ALL: Getting paid from consignment sales in stores. Getting the CD consigned is hard enough, but getting paid is very tough. If you use radio referrals to get consignment in mom-and-pop stores, you will probably get into several stores, but since you are (probably) only spinning on smaller stations, you will (once again) make more money by just selling at your gigs. You should not bother with consignment in a particular market unless you are getting 20+ spins on a good size commercial station in that market. Setting up the consignment is quick, so it's easiest to get the spins first, and then consign only where needed.

DIFFICULT: Getting pre-paid orders from stores. This is not distribution... it's simply getting a check when you deliver your CDs to a store. You will need to be getting some very good spins on a commercial station before this will happen, and even then, you will need to approach each of the mom-and-pop stations individually.

VERY DIFFICULT: Getting regular distribution, much less, getting any money from sales through regular distribution. Note: Regular distribution is NOT the web or Orchard. Unless you have several releases, and unless you are doing some good sized radio (AND you have a retail promoter), then forget about regular distribution for your first few releases. It won't sell anything at all.

Overall, the CD sales for different levels of indie releases are:

1. Artists releasing their very first release will sell mostly from live gigs, and the bigger gigs will be gotten from referrals from radio (even college radio).

2. Artists with several releases, decent radio, and a strong local or regional string of gigs, will still sell most from the gigs, but can also start selling a few on the site or through consignment.

3. Small indie labels that have three or four simultaneous artists (each with several releases), decent radio, great touring, and some press, can start looking into a regular distribution deal. If the radio is only non-commercial or small-market commercial, then most of the CD sales will STILL be at gigs. But if regular rotation on medium-market commercial stations is used, and you are using a retail promoter, then sales in stores will probably start outpacing gig sales.

4. Medium indie labels with 5 to 15 simultaneous artists (who are all doing great touring), and who are doing at least strong non-commercial (or decent commercial) radio, and who are using a retail promoter, will certainly sell most through the stores.



- Why Stations Have To Be Called

To the person who has not worked with (or even heard of) promotions departments or independent promoters, the concept of making continuous phone calls to stations may seem like overkill, or even downright strange. After all, "If the station liked what they heard on my CD, they would play it and then call me to let me know." Not quite.

Take a look at the promotion department at a major indie label: Even small projects (less than $30,000 marketing dollars over three months) will have at least three full-time people doing nothing but calling stations. Larger projects have more people, including people in every market who visit stations personally every week. Songs which do not get into this promotional cycle do not get into regular rotation on commercial stations.... they are relegated to test spins, specialty, or college stations.

It works like this: If you are a PD, and you are talking with someone on the phone about a prospective song/album, you know that this person is also calling many other stations like yours this week too. And since he has your attention on the phone, and since you are looking at his CD while he is telling you what is going on, you have to assume that the other PDs will be listening and looking too. Your job as a PD is to get listeners, and nothing does this like creating a mass-media "hit" (many stations airing the same song by the same artist at the same time). So you have to take seriously the fact that many other stations may start airing the song/album that this person is calling about.

Then, you realize that while you were on the phone with him, you were not browsing through the stacks of other CDs from other artists; you were not surfing around websites looking for other great song possibilities; you were not listening to other stations in your market to check for songs which may also work on your station. You instead were focusing on the one song that the guy on the phone was calling you about. And now that you know all the basics about this guy's artist, it becomes one of the CDs you will be reviewing.

That was one phone call... maybe five or ten minutes long. As a PD, how many of these calls do you have the time to take each day?... Three, four, ten? However many it is, these calls will be the songs/albums that you end up knowing something about, and they will be the ones that you know other PDs will know something about, too. So these become the projects that will get a full listen.

But wait! What about the stack of CDs on your desk that no one called about?... The ones still in their wrappers, or still in their mailers? And what about all those emails? Why aren't you taking extra time to read through all their details, to request CDs, or to go click and listen online? Are the other PDs checking into these other projects? Are other PDs even aware they exist?

So that's it: The amount of phone time that you (as a PD) spend is taken up by certain folks describing certain projects, and these projects are the ones you review. The other projects either we're not reviewed, not opened, or not requested. After all, how many of those other projects can you review, especially when they stand no chance of mass growth because they are not being promoted?     TOP of Page

This article is presented by   Bryan Farrish Radio Promotions   Santa Monica,  Ca   Sherman Oaks, Ca 


Continued     to radio promotion part III     RADIO PROMO   PART I    PART II     PART III




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