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Radio Airplay 101 - Large Market Commercial Regular Rotation

The largest 30 markets in the U.S. (see market list HERE) 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.)

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.

Next topic: Hiring Your Own Record Deal

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