|Radio Airplay 101 - Creating a Story
When working with the mass media (radio, TV, papers, magazines), one thing to keep in mind is that they are just that... MASS... and anything you can do to let radio know that you are building a mass story for your artist will help tremendously in your ability to get airplay. A special note here: This info is not intended for an individual artist (or one-person label) to go and try themselves; it is beyond what an individual can do. Even if you had the time (40 to 120 hours per week), you would not enjoy the process.
Commercial radio wants to build a "star", and the first step to doing this is to build a story. A "star" is an artist whose one particular song is being played all across the country at the same time. Radio wants to be part of the other media building this star. Commercial radio (especially) does not want to be the only media doing it, or much less, be the only radio station doing it. As a matter of fact, by definition, a single station (or two or three stations) cannot "build a star"; no matter how much they play an artist. It takes a group of stations, across the country, doing the same thing at the same time with the same song from the same artist.
Let's start with radio itself. In a promoter's daily phone calls with the program directors and music directors, one of the most important things to inform a station about is what other stations have just added the artist. "Add" information is SO important that it is often the ONLY thing that is talked about, especially in the early stages of a campaign. Nothing in commercial radio happens without the add. It might start out like this: "We have adds last week in Tacoma, Austin, Orlando, Fresno, Wichita Falls and Dearborn, and commitments from Miami, Seattle, Dallas and Chicago."
Next up on the airplay menu are spins. Starting with the P1s and then the P2s and P3s, and starting with the highest (or most exciting) spins, the whole list is gone over with the station, describing (and thus somewhat proving) to the station that action is developing. This information is applied to each station in a way that is designed to make them want to jump on the bandwagon.
As things develop, the promoter goes for quotes from the stations...like "Mary's record is getting great calls!" or "The XYZ song is moving into power...it's strong females for us!" The quotes are then fed to every station that is talked to; it might take two weeks to get the message to everyone, even with full-time phone calls.
Finally, as the campaign progresses, the promoter might move into telling the stations which stations are doing what type of give-aways, which ones are doing visits, or which ones are doing any number of other things which help the "story" look like it is building.
Moving on from radio, other pieces of information are also fed to stations, thus helping the stations to decide if a particular artist is worthy of adding...
What performances is the artist making? What are the attendances? Is the artist being invited back? Did the artist get a letter of reference from the venue? And most important, did/will the artist perform in the station's particular city? (And, is the venue an advertiser on the station?)
How about retail? If CDs are only available at the gigs, how many are moving at each gig? If the CD is distributed, who is the distributor(s)? Have there been any past sales of this artist? Most importantly, what stores is the CD on the shelf at (and what are the sales at those stores) in the city where the STATION is located? Are any of those stores advertising on the station? This process is repeated with each and every station every week.
Finally, the process is applied to press information (newspapers, magazines, TV, web). Stations are shown a building of interest, especially when the press is in the same city as the station, and when the press mentions the station by name.
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