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Radio Airplay 101 - Being Overshadowed by Major Acts

New people in the music business, when unsure about how a particular part of the business works, will tend to focus on acts they have heard of. This is human nature. For example, club promoters, music trades, stations, and stores will all want to work with known acts, before they pay any attention to unknown acts. But these people are on the receiving end of the marketing, so they can "select" whatever they want.

But bands, labels and management are on the "push" side of the marketing; they may still WANT to be mixed in with major acts, but they need to realize that it is usually better not to be (unless they are on a major label.) The reason is the "overshadowing" effect that you may already know about: When money (and priority) has to be giving to just a few acts, the major ones get it.

Our particular area of interest here is radio promotion; when hiring a promoter, new acts will instinctively want to hire someone who is pushing "all these major acts." Most of the time, if this route is taken, it is going to be tough to come out ahead. This is because of several reasons particular to radio promotions:

o A promoter who is promoting major label acts is looked down upon if he/she is also pushing a "no name" act on an indie label. Indie labels have no chance of being able to support the level of marketing needed by major stations.

o A promoter, even though he/she is being paid to promote a certain act, can still put great internal priority on one act or another. There is no way around this. So unscrupulous promoters will take the money for an indie act, but never really promote it. He/she then reports back that none of the stations liked it. And it's almost impossible for the act to double check this, because the act can't get through to the PDs.

o Most of the time, the trick used by 9 out of 10 promoters is to say they've worked with some big acts, but in fact they had nothing to do with them at all. Only a few indie promoters really push major acts to radio (be it college, specialty or regular rotation), yet thousands of promoters will "say" they do. Acid test: Call the artist's management and ask, "Is/was XYZ one of the promoters used to promote your artist?". You can't ask the stations, because they have an interest in not having the public know who their promoter is.

So how do you go about picking a promoter (or a publicist, retail promoter, street promoter, etc.?) That's the question that makes or breaks careers... not only for artists but also for people on the label side. Again, the instinctive route is to go with the person who has the "the big acts", but you have to dig deeper and find out if indie acts (like yourself) got what they were promised by the promoter. If working "big acts" were all that mattered, then every single major act would be with just one promoter, because it would make sense to stick with what is proven. But even the major acts shift between promoters because they feel they did not get the push they wanted; if this can happen to them (with their major distro, press, video, street, gigs, etc.), then how do you think you are going to fare with that same promoter?

Pick a promoter that fit's your size, and also, one who is working acts like yours or maybe a little larger. Once you have made headway with this person, you can add-on another slightly higher level promoter, and move ahead in a controllable way.

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