By Christopher Knab
The commercial radio industry couldn’t be less friendly to the independent musician. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some significant radio airplay available to you if you know what you’re doing. Outlined below is a plan to consider if you have the three important ingredients necessary for working your record to radio.
1) The money to fund the campaign
2) The time to spend working the stations you submit your music to.
3) A recording that meets the standards of radio broadcast/streaming quality.
Forget About Commercial Radio Airplay
When it comes to commercial radio, the chances of getting significant national airplay for your independent record are next to none. We live in an era when a small group of powerful media conglomerates own and control the most important radio stations in the land. Unless you are connected to a major label, or are independently wealthy, the costs of promoting your songs nationally to commercial radio have spiraled out of sight.
There are, however, lots of local music shows, mix shows and specialty shows on commercial stations that may offer limited airplay for you. These shows air in low-listening off hours, such as late at night on weekends or early morning programs on weekends. If you want to find these kinds of shows by yourself, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.
However, If you have money to invest in radio promotion, it’s possible to hire an independent radio promoter who may be able to open doors to these shows for you. If you take this route (which is certainly the easiest) be prepared to spend several hundred dollars a week for their services. Also, in some smaller market cities and towns across the country there may be some stations these indie radio promoters can get you some airplay in.
Important rule about securing ANY airplay: If you have NOT made your music available in stores (either through traditional distributors or distribution into online stores like iTunes or Amazon.com) then FORGET about investing the time and money trying to get airplay. What’s the point? If a station plays your recording and people like your music – but can’t find it in their favorite store online – then they can’t buy your music. So get your distribution in place first!
A more realistic approach for radio airplay is to consider the options available on the non-commercial side of the FM dial (88.1 FM to 91.9 FM). With the combination of college radio stations, community stations, and even some of the larger National Public Radio affiliated stations, your chances of getting your music played are much better.
Also, today we have tens-of-thousands of Internet radio station availalble that you may have luck securing airplay on. Finding the most appropriate online Internet radio stations for your music can be a time-consuming process, but if you start by browsing the radio broadcast directories at Live365.com and Shoutcast.com , you’ll get a quick start. Many of these Internet stations play alternative acts. There are also channels on Satellite radio (XM/Sirius) that you can do some research into.
Below you will find an outline based on how Major and the better Independent record labels plan for their radio promotions. Seeing what they do might help you organize your thoughts for your own radio promotion campaign.
You need to prepare:
- A database of commercial and non-commercial and Internet stations that realistically may play your music.
- The timeline you’ll use to put the promotional material together (setting your deadlines).
1) First, design a detailed overview of your radio promotion plan.
- Propose what you think would work best in each of the areas to help market your music to radio.
- Remember to keep cohesiveness between all areas: Give reasons why your music is appropriate to each station you approach.
- Remember you will need several practical tools/materials to achieve your goals. (Computers, hardware/software, office supplies,cell and/or land-line phones etc.).
Address the following specific topics in your plan:
- Background/Goals: Give a brief history of the artist, and describe the goals of your plan.
- Image: Describe and maintain the artist’s image consistently in all promo materials.
- What radio format(s) will be targeted? What markets? Which songs? Any station promotions? (On-air concerts?) Hiring any Independent promoters?
- Describe your plans to create a “buzz” in the print media. Any press releases (EPKs) to the music industry trades or music press?
- Update your website,Blogs,MySpace and Facebook pages,bios, fact sheets, and other press materials.
- Describe traditional and Internet distribution and music retail plans. Any in-store play/ promotions? What other specific sales opportunities? Mail order, live shows. Any store promotional tie-ins with radio stations?
- Video: Is a video cost effective? What airplay opportunities are there for the video? Consider using sites like YouTube especially.
- Touring: Describe the time frame for touring, and other promotional events to coordinate while on the road. Consider specific clubs, halls, fairs,festivals, music showcases at music conferences like SXSW etc.
- Any club/venue promotional tie-ins with radio stations
- Advertising: Design ads to be placed in the music trades/consumer music press, and other media? What funds are available for purchasing ads? Describe the costs/benefits?
- Misc.: Record release party? Novelty item? Any other clever ideas? Explain clearly and and all unique promotional ideas you can think of.
2) Next, design a 12 week plan for the product and promotional tools.
- Lay out what needs to be accomplished each week to get the CD/Music File out.
- Consider the: artwork, mastering, credits, sequencing, printing, pressing, booklets, layout/design, converting of master recordings to digital files.
- Include in the time-line when to start working on the promotional tools that you will need for your plan (photos, press releases, novelty items, display material, ads).
- Design the time-line with deadlines for each element of your project.
- Remember too: We are in a digital age now, but that doesn’t mean you no longer need any older traditional promotion tools. YOU NEED BOTH!
As you can see, a radio promotion campaign is something that is done as part of a wider marketing plan. Always have distribution and sales plans, as well as publicity, advertising and touring and any and all Internet plans coordinated carefully with your airplay campaign.
I will say this again: The worst thing that can happen to any song on the radio is that someone hears the song, but can’t find a way to buy it. Professional record labels always have distribution and sales connections set up before they secure airplay. You should do the same.
The last word: The reason for coordinating all the “Four Fronts” in a RADIO promotion campaign is this. Nobody is alone in the music marketing world. When you talk to radio decision makers, they want to know WHY they should play your music. After you have given them solid “business” facts about why they should air your songs, THEN you move on and tell them what OTHER marketing plans you have up your sleeve. That is where the other topics come in to play. Radio wants to know what your plans are to sell your release. What your Publicity plans are and what your touring plans are.
All these issues are crucial to creating a professional impression to the broadcasters you want to play your music.
Christopher Knab is an independent music business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. He is available for private consultations on promoting and marketing independent music, and can be reached at 206-282-6116 or by email at: Chris@Knab.com
Visit the FourFront Media and Music website for more information on the business of music from Christopher Knab.
Written by Christopher Knab for MusicBizAcademy.com
The Hit Music Academy | 2010
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