The commercial radio industry couldn’t be less friendly to the independent musician. However, 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.
• The money to fund the campaign
• The time to spend working all the stations consistently
• A product that is ready for national airplay
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 mix shows and specialty shows on commercial stations that may offer limited airplay, and at least will get you some awareness in the markets across the country. There will be a lot of work involved in finding these stations yourself, city by city, and music format by music format. I suggest you subscribe to or get a copy of the annual CMJ Directory.
If you have money to invest in radio promotion it’s possible to hire an independent promoter who may be able to open some doors to these shows for you. Be prepared to spend several hundred dollars a week for their services.
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 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 record played are much better.
Also, don’t forget those thousands of Internet radio stations that stream millions of songs a day. Google the phrase “Internet radio stations list,” and you will be amazed how many stations on the web play independent music of every imaginable type. 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. If you own a Blackberry or an iPhone, there are several free apps that will give you access to these web broadcasters.
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).
Your radio promotion plan may be distributed to any helpers, volunteers or employees you may have for your own label, or any independent promotion people you may hire. This plan will be their introduction to your or your artist, and is the plan they will base their work on
Design a detailed overview of your radio promotion plan.
Consider all marketing and promotional ideas listed below. Propose what you think would work best in each of the areas to help market the record to radio.
Remember to keep cohesiveness between all areas: Give reasons why your music is appropriate to each station you approach. You will need several practical tools/materials to achieve your goals. (Computers, Smartphones, reliable Internet connection, hardware/software, office supplies, etc.)
Address the following specific topics in your plan:
• Background/Goals: Give a brief history of the artist, and describe your goals
• Image: Describe/ maintain the artist’s image consistently in all promo materials.
• Radio: What radio format(s) will be targeted? What markets? Which songs? Any station promotions? (On-air concerts?) Hiring any Independent promoters?
• Publicity: Describe your plans to create a “buzz” in the print media. Any press releases to the music industry trades? Update any bios, fact sheets, and electronic press materials.
• Sales: Describe Distribution and Retail plans. Any in-store play/ promotions? Other specific sales opportunities? Mail order, live shows, Internet sales. Any store promotional tie-ins with radio stations?
• Video: Is a video cost effective? What airplay opportunities are there for the video?
• Touring: Describe the time frame for touring, and other promotional events to coordinate while on the road. Consider specific clubs, halls, fairs, festivals, club/venue promotional tie-ins with radio stations
• Social Networking: Mention any Facebook, Twitter or other SN plans
• Misc.: Having a record release party? Novelty items? Any other clever ideas?
Explain each idea in-depth !
Design a 12 week plan for the product and promotional tools.
• Lay out what needs to be accomplished each week to get the record out.
• Consider the: artwork, mastering, credits, sequencing, printing, pressing, booklets, layout/design. And be sure to convert your songs for online downloading!
• Include in the timeline when to start working on your promotional tools
• Design the timeline with deadlines for each element of your project.
Remember that your radio promotion campaign is part of what I refer to as the ‘Four-Fronts of Music Marketing’, and your plan must connect to all the other Fronts in order to be successful.
Always have distribution and sales plans, as well as publicity, advertising and touring plans coordinated carefully with your airplay campaign. 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.
Professional record labels always have distribution and sales connections set up before they secure airplay. You should do the same.
Christopher Knab is a retired independent music business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. He can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org