By Tom Robinson
An artist with enough time and determination can get by these days without a record label, manager, publisher or agent. But getting your tunes played on national radio without professional help is still pretty difficult – because 95% of the music we hear on the airwaves is allocated by computer from a centralised playlist. A playlist guarantees that anyone tuning to (say) Planet Rock or Classic FM will get exactly what it says on the tin. Very few DJs get to choose the tunes they play – and most shows on commercial radio get no free choices at all. The way playlists work requires a whole other article. But trust me: if your ambition is to dominate the airwaves you’ll definitely need the services of a radio promotion expert or “plugger”.
Pluggers can be hired at a price – but you’ll still need a gobsmacking record plus plenty of luck to make the playlist of any major station. It’s a massive gamble: you can easily shell out £2-5k on promotion and end up with nothing. So serious ambition is not for the fainthearted – but all is not lost. Let’s assume that even if you don’t have a spare couple of grand to throw around you do have a great sounding track that’s ideal for radio. (And if you don’t, none of this matters anyway…) In which case the good news is that some stations do allow a few “free plays” in among the playlist tracks. These tend to be few and far between on daytime programmes – but specialist evening shows may get to choose quite a high percentage of their music.
The competition for “free play” slots is ferocious and these shows get sent hundreds of records a month from record company pluggers and aspiring artists.
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Written by Tom Robinson for Fresh On The Net
The Hit Music Academy | 2010
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