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Radio Airplay 101 - 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.

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.

Next topic: Radio Referrals to Press, Gigs, and Retail.

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