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Radio Airplay 101 - 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.

Next topic: Where To Expect CD Sales (From Radio)

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