Radio Airplay 101
- Independent Promoter Checklist, Part 2 of 2
The following are the more subtle things you should look for when hiring one...
CONTACTABILITY: This is probably going to be the one thing that you end up really liking or disliking about the way your indie operates. Some indies are always there when you call, others are never there. The ones who never answer will invariably tell you, "I spend all my time on the phone talking with the stations... Isn't that what you want me to do with your project?" Good try.
What these non-contactable indies 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 hire them, just wait until AFTER they get your money. We see this again and again and again. If you think about it, an indie's sole job is to talk on the phone. Why then, if they were there by the phone, would they not pick up when you call (you are the one who is paying them.) What if a station calls?
And that is exactly it: They are NOT there when a station calls... because they REALLY DON'T spend that much time talking to stations on the phone. They only want you to think that they do. And worse, if they say they give clients (and potential clients) a different phone number to call than the one they give the stations, then you can guarantee that you (the paying client) will never get that person on the phone when you need them (or much less, to be able to spend any time learning from them.)
A true indie promoter is a non-stop call center, which gives TOP priority to incoming calls. They should have several people available to answer calls; if everyone is still on the phone when the phone rings, someone should HANG UP and answer that incoming call. Remember, incoming calls are top priority... it could be a station, and stations normally only call when they have good news.
REPORTS: Reports are a requirement that well-organized promoters provide to you. There is no other way you are going to be able to understand (within an hour) what is going on with your airplay each week... much less be able to let someone else (stores, papers, clubs) know what is going on, without a report.
OFFICE: If the promoter does not have an office (even a small one), then you will be competing with things like the promoter's sleep, TV, neighbors, dinner, etc.
ASSISTANTS: If a promoter handles more than one genre of music at the same time, or if the promoter does college radio at all, then assistants are mandatory. The phone calls have to be made, and no one person can call more than 150 stations a week AND do reports AND do faxes AND do emails AND talk to you when you call. Impossible.
COMPUTER LITERATE: I don't have to go into how important computers are. But I should mention that as web radio becomes used like regular radio, those promoters that are not up on computers are going to have a problem. Already, web radio is used for a chart in CMJ, and some commercial charts too.
COLLEGE RADIO: College should be considered for every campaign, even if you are doing high-level commercial radio (provided, of course, that your genre fits.) College radio is relatively inexpensive, and will make some good-looking charts and reports to show retail, press and clubs.
FAXES: Serious promoters use faxes for commercial radio; faxing is simply the fastest way to get a one-page synopsis of info to commercial stations... with pictures if needed. They are not cheap, but a good promoter should still include these faxes.
EMAILS: While you may get excited about email, remember that since email is free, stations get them from every artist on the planet. And all the emails look the same. So in order to build a project, you must use faxes and calls too, because most artists can't afford them (and that is why you will stand out.)
REFERENCES: Any promoter worth consideration will have a list of clients or past clients. What you are looking for is a promoter with projects that are on your (independent) level. A list of "big" clients, however, means the promoter is used to having massive help from major label staff promoters, national tours, retail promotions, advertising, not to mention hundreds of newspaper, magazine, and TV appearances. Since that promoter will not have these with your project, you will be very difficult for them to work. You need a promoter who is set up to work with indie projects like yours. Besides, real "major label" promoters DO NOT take indie projects.
More likely, however, the "major label" promoter was actually not the promoter that worked the major projects in the first place. They were probably just assistants in the office, or were mail people, or more often than not, they were just outright lying. Happens all the time. You will have to ask the artist directly to find out.
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