Radio Promotion

Radio promotion is an important part of an artists marketing plan for a CD release campaign. Hiring a professional radio tracker is imperative for commercial radio promotion. They have plenty of contacts, years of experience and they will talk up your single to the right people in the hopes of getting you charted and adds at radio stations. Andrea Morris from AM to FM Promotions and Dale Peters from Dale Speaking, both with many years of music and radio experience, offered up some valuable advice to The Spill for artists regarding radio promotion.

What You Need To Ask Yourself

Before contacting any music business professional that you hope will join your marketing or management team, it’s best to have a general plan of action.  Peters offers some questions to consider before making contact: What do you expect from a radio tracker? Are you familiar with this term? What is your demo? (male, female, ages, lifestyle) What is your marketing / publicity / promotional budget and strategy? Do you have funding applications prepared and applied for? (Factor, VideoFact, Starmaker, MaxFact, CMT) Do you have an agent? A manager? A publishing deal? A record deal?  Who produced your album, and where was it recorded? Do you have an internet / web presence? (Website, MySpace, ITunes, Pure Volume, Last FM, etc) How are you planning to sell your music? Do you have a video? What are your touring plans? You do not need to have accomplished all of these things but it will help to get a good sense of where you are at and what the strategy will be

Don’t Stop at Singles, Sell the Album.
It is also good to note that even radio promoters that will be working a single want to hear the full album before working it.  “One song does not define that artist,” states Peters.  “Having the entire disc also gives me a chance to hear if there are other potential singles,” Morris adds. “I also like to look at packaging and read lyrics as it’s an insight into how serious an artist is.”

Independent is Alright
One bit of good news for indie artists is that retail distribution or even a record label is not always necessary. It is more important to build a fan base, have a professional website or Myspace and keep busy with your career.  “When it comes to rock radio, touring is really important,” says Morris. “Programmers like to see movement around a track.”

What They Consider
There are many factors that radio promoters take into account when deciding to put an artist’s single on the radio.  Along with production quality, lyrics, length, and how memorable the song is, professionals also want to know how serious the artist is at making music a career as opposed to a hobby.  Morris says, “I want to make sure the artist understands what they need to do make things happen.”  Peters adds that “each artist is different and needs to be addressed individually.”

There are many things that artists don’t understand about how radio promotion works. “Most artists don’t have any idea of the number of tracks a programmer receives on a weekly basis,” explains Morris. “There is a lot of music submitted and my job is to make the programmer care about my artist and the song enough to add it, keep it in rotation and add future singles.” Artists also don’t understand the amount of time it takes to get airplay on a track. It doesn’t happen overnight.  “Depending on the traffic out there, it can sometimes take eight weeks to get a station to add a song.”

Campaigns need time to start seeing results so patience is key. “We work singles at main stream radio for 3 months per song, whereas college radio promo requires 3 months for the life of the disc,” says Morris. “I’ve worked some songs for six weeks, others for six months. It depends on the strength of the single.”

Find Your Market
When deciding if commercial radio should be part of your marketing, listen to the stations you think would suit your music and see if your song stands up.  Does your single have hit potential? “Campus is definitely cheaper to work,” says Morris, “but you can’t guarantee sales or tour dates based on campus airplay. Commercial radio is a harder nut to crack, however, you get a lot more interest when you chart, hence more orders for the CD, more and better tour dates and the possibility of being included on compilation CDs.”

Asking radio music directors, programmers and promoters if artists should get their fans to call stations and request their song always gets strong reactions. Bands, artists and fans will say yes of course.  Peters says “yes, but it has to be done strategically.”Morris however strongly advises against it saying, “Programmers are not dumb and are fully aware when requests are generated by the band. I’ve had programmers threaten to drop a track due to the amount of e-mails and phone calls they’ve gotten from

[suspicious] fans,” warns Morris.  When a band from say Alberta get fans to call stations out East it soon becomes evident to the programmers that those fans are not in their market.  “Programmers need to see if a track is truly reacting with their audience.”

The Importance of Timing

Timing is another important thing to consider, “the fall is still the most difficult time,” says Peters. “September is a hard time for indie artists on commercial radio,” Morris points out. “It’s the biggest ratings period for radio stations, and programmers tend to stick with familiar artists. Plus, the Christmas season is approaching and tons of major artists release singles in September and October in anticipation of the pre-holiday release of their CDs.”

“January through September is a fine time for indie artists to hit radio,” advises Morris. “It’s always an uphill battle for indie bands, however, if you are prepared to think positive and slug it out, you can make it!”