|Radio Airplay 101
- Commercial Stations, Part 2 of 2
We now talk about what is needed to promote to these types of stations.
MAILING: Although mailing your CD to stations is not considered "promotion" in-and-of itself (promotion requires phone calls), it nevertheless must be done, and when doing it is recommended that you do your own mailing instead of using a mailing service (or worse, a compilation CD service.) CDs from mailing services, which are sometimes sent with a magazine, tend to get lost. Also, they are sometimes delivered with many other CDs, which can dilute your project. If you do use these services, do so in addition to doing your own mailing, i.e., consider it an advertisement.
SPECIALTY SHOW VS. ROTATION: On commercial radio stations, specialty spins (also known as tests, spikes, new music shows, local music shows, or dayparting) is what many bands mistake for regular rotation. As a matter of fact, one of the uses of a specialty show is for a station to put songs that it can't really play (but doesn't want to tell the artist/label this.) The average new artist/label will be very happy to hear that they are "being played", because the artist/label doesn't realize that this means only one or two spins.
Only regular rotation can reach a large number of people (and can help you sell records IF you have a full-time salesperson calling the stores)...but it is also (by far) the most difficult to get. Specialty shows (and mixshows) however, while not nearly as powerful as regular rotation, do still have uses...for example, building the buzz, introducing a song to a station, or providing airplay practice for a new label or artist. And many times, the person at the station who does the specialty/mixshow also sits in on the same music meetings with the music director and program director.
PROMOTERS: Also called radio promoters, airplay promoters, radio teams, promotion departments, etc., promoters are the people who call the stations and give them the information they need to play your song. (Faxes/emails are also used.) You will find promoters who work at labels who only promote the artists on their label, and promoters who work independently (these are called "indies") who are for hire by labels and artists.
The main thing that a promoter does is try to make it appear that a big picture is developing: Adds are happening, spins are increasing, interviews are occurring, great comments are being made, and if pertinent... sales are occurring, shows are selling, and press is printing! All of this is updated and repeated every week to every station (25 to 3000 stations, depending on the promotion level...most often it is 100 to 500.)
As for indie promoters, they vary in the reports that they give you (some don't do them at all,) the stations they call (some do only one genre, others do more,) the promotions or advertising they handle (some don't do this,) and the accessibility that they give you (some are easy for you to reach, others never answer the phone and hardly ever call back.)
TRADE ADS: Buying printed advertisements in the radio airplay magazines would be the first step that a serious label/band would consider as their next step beyond simply hiring a promoter. These printed advertisements (1) show stations that you have a serious project, (2) get critical info to the stations in a high-profile and timely (weekly) manner, and (3) greatly increase your chances of an editorial review in the magazines you advertise in.
STATION ADVERTISING: High-level airplay promotion will include the buying of time on broadcast stations (which understandably may be beyond the indie label.) Advertising on stations does several things:
1) Lets the public hear samples of (several?) of your songs.
2) Tells the public where to buy the CD.
3) Tells the public about your gigs.
4) Gets the attention of the station management, who pays more attention to the ads than they do the music.
5) Greatly increases your chances for airplay, because the station is now making money from you.
...And with a little extra work on the part of the promoter:
6) Gets your CD onto the shelves of large chain stores.
7) Gets you gigs in larger venues which you could not get otherwise.
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