|Radio Airplay 101 - Station Visits
There is one radio marketing tool that sparks a lot of interest in the new artists/labels that can manage it: Station visits. While majors usually reserve station visits for their priority artists (because of the expense), a lot of well-financed indies... even if they have never done radio before... like the idea also, and they will many times put their dollars into visits before putting them into other areas of radio marketing. This is probably due to the familiarity that these folks have with the concept of traveling itself (more so than with the other radio techniques,) not to mention the nice thought of being able to get out-and-about. This is good, since station visits are one of the most powerful (yet expensive) ways of marketing to small and small-medium market stations. See our market-size list here...
What makes station visits so useful? To start with, stations can see for themselves that the artist is for real and loves his/her music, and that the artist believes this enough to make the trip. It's very rare for a non-local artist to be able to come by a station for a visit, because of the costs and time involved in doing so. And it's of no use just visiting one or two stations... you have to do the whole country (in your format) in just a few months... or else it's just not effective. Small market visits are also rare, because when indie labels try visiting, they usually try the top markets where they don't have a chance, instead of the small and small-medium markets where they are more welcomed. Thus, the smaller stations really remember visits when they happen.
Before attempting visits, it must be decided whether or not the artist has the people skills that are needed to make the connections; the music is not important at this point. When an unknown artist visits a station, he/she will be judged on personality alone; only then will the station care to hear any music performed by the artist.
And speaking of live station performances, they are something that are always wanted by the artist, and indeed, if the artist gets along with the station, and if there is no rush, a live studio performance might just happen (the station will ask you.) Just don't have the artist march in with instrument in tow. Try to be more subtle.
While in town, the artist can do some incredibly important marketing, such as shaking hands with the local store music buyers/managers, music writers, TV hosts, and club promoters. It will be probably be the only chance the artist will ever have to meet them in person, unless you are very successful and the artist gets to come back in a year or so.
The visits will probably need to be set up by your radio promoter... especially if the station is planning any promotions around the visit. But a PR person can do it too. Target all stations in your format in markets 150 and smaller. The airfare and motel costs will be $30k to $50k for a few months of visits, not including, of course, money for the artist. And the schedule will probably have the artist flying criss cross around the country; but it's more important to hit all the stations during the life of a single, than to try to save time/money by grouping close cities together and thus ending up with a week or two of dead time between visits. If done properly, the artist will be in a new market every day. And lastly, save the major and medium markets (1-100) for your second year... you don't want to be spinning your wheels now.
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