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promotion 202 forum

The Undercurrents Series of Music Business Educational Forums is designed to assist musicians, songwriters, bands and music industry professionals with continued growth and knowledge of the music / entertainment industry.  These forums and the information provided is practical rather than legalistic in its approach and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice in relation to any particular matter.   Undercurrents, Inc. accepts no liability for any errors or omissions.


Compact Disc Promotion

Extra Promotion Ideas

Press Kits (Part 2)

Radio Promotion

Radio Interviews

Record Release Party

Tour Promotion

Video Promotion

Web Promotion

Radio Promotion

There are four types of radio:  Commercial Broadcast, College Broadcast, Internet Radio and Satellite Radio.

Commercial Radio

Historically speaking, 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 all the stations consistently
3. A product that is ready for national 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.  The Undercurrents Search option on the web site list most if not all commercial radio stations.

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.

College Radio

A more realistic approach for airplay is to consider the options available on the noncommercial 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.  In addition, many record companies keep track of the up-and-coming talent whose songs are being played on college and non-commercial station

Internet Radio


Satellite Radio


Radio Promotion Plan

Below you will find an outline based on how professional record labels plan for their radio promotions.

• You will need a database of commercial and non-commercial stations that you realistically think may play your music.   See Undercurrents.com for a complete database listing.
• The timeline you'll use to put the promotional material together (basically setting your deadlines).

Be sure to remember that your plan may be distributed to employees, and 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.

1. 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.
Remember you will need several practical tools/materials to achieve your goals. (Computers, hardware/software, office supplies, 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.

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 other press materials.

Sales: Describe Distribution and Retail plans. Any in-store play/ promotions?

What other specific sales opportunities?  Mail order, live shows, Internet website?

Any store promotional tie-ins with radio stations?

Tips for Radio Promotion

Press Kit For Radio
Save $$$ and skip the photo. It's radio.
Bring/Send a signed poster to the station to hang if you do get an interview/performance/plug.
Include all stations that have played it. Programming Directors are sheep.
Use terminology such as Adds and Spins (correctly) so they know you know how radio works


The cost of producing a quality video does not always Is a video cost effective? What airplay opportunities are there for the video?


Most areas have public access television. For a nominal fee you can produce your own TV show. While this does offer somewhat limited exposure it can reach a different marketplace for your music. Not to mention that you can then put "as seen on TV" on all your flyers, business cards, press releases, etc.


Touring: Describe the time frame for touring, and other promotional events to coordinate while on the road. Consider specific clubs, halls, fairs, festivals, etc.

Any club/venue promotional tie-ins with radio stations


Advertising: Design an ad to be placed in the trades/ consumer music press, and other media? What funds are available for purchasing ads? Describe the costs/benefits?

Record Release Party

Misc.: Record release party? Novelty item? Any other clever ideas? Explain clearly.

2. 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.
* Include in the timeline 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 timeline with deadlines for each element of your project.

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 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.

Promo Kits (Part 2)

You have 5 seconds... READY GO!!!  1,2,3...  OK stop, your promo kit is already in the trash.   All you hard work is flushed.  Why?  What happened?  Could be many things... the phone rang, the package looked unprofessional, the photo was bad.  It is so important to understand the other side of the equation.  In Promotion 101, we discusses Press Kits... now we've moved on to Promo Kits.   There is a difference.  Press kits are to get press, promo kits are designed for more a specific purpose such as a booking, record company recognition, radio airplay, etc.

Press Kit for Major Labels:
Compact Disc
Business Card
Cover Letter
Head Shot / Group Shot
Reviews (most current on top)
Any press
Lyric Sheets (very important to many A&R personnel. If you already have them in your CD jacket you can forego this unless they specifically request separate lyric sheets.)

Press Kit for Radio Music Directors:
Business Card
Cover letter
Head Shot / Group Shot
Reviews (most current on top)
Any press
(Some like lyric sheets, but ask this question before you include it. Save on the weight and the cost of the postage if they don't want it.)

After you have sent your press kit, make sure to follow up with a call to make sure your it has arrived safely. Then follow up every two weeks or so AFTER the 3rd week they have got the package. Don't just send the package and expect them to call. Remember, they get hundreds of packages from musicians just like you every single week. Follow up and get noticed!

I know your music is fabulous and you think it should be judged on its own merit, but this is the music industry, and image is everything. (Well, at least for the first 5 seconds to get whoever to open your tape / CD and actually listen to it.)

Your band is competing against a lot of other bands for the same attention of relatively few people. Consider your press kit a weapon which will (figuratively) explode that A&R/critic/judge/club owners' curiosity.

Most importantly, send and include the best quality CD / tape you can afford. This is the most important thing you can do. Even if you just duplicate it at home, spend that little extra and buy the best sound quality tape. Nowadays, most A&R types want CDs and say they don't even own a cassette player as CDs are easier to scan through all of a band's songs quickly.

Your first song must be your best.  It must not include a lengthy intro.  You have about 20 seconds to capture this person's attention so don't put a 5 minute guitar solo as the first track. Use your best song first, preferably an upbeat one, and if they like the sound of the first song, they'll check out the next one.

Cue the tapes up at the very beginning then listen to the tape yourself. Did you cut any of the song off?  Did you actually record it?  Most music companies receive several blank submission tapes each year.

Put your name and contact information on EVERYTHING.

Setting Up Radio Interviews

After your airplay for your song / album is progressing, radio interviews are a great way to make use of the fact that the stations are liking your material. Also, as opposed to touring, interviews can be done on the phone, which means a lot of ground can be covered... even in a single day. And if the artist is in the vicinity of a station that is playing the material, then in-person interviews (drop-by's) can be scheduled too.

Setting up the radio interviews is the difficult part. If you have a promoter handling your airplay, they should be able to handle it. However, since the artist's schedule of availability must be matched to the station's, a large number of interviews in a given week (say, 10 to 30) is going to require the cooperation of the promoter, the artist, and at least one assistant who can pre-call the stations.

The trick with setting up the interviews is to make best use of the artist's time. If not scheduled properly, the artist will be waiting by the phone for hours, or will have to make 20 calls just to get one interview completed. At this rate you will be worn-out before you get anything accomplished.

Here is the process: Your promoter fishes through the list of spinning stations for folks that are amenable to the idea of an upcoming interview. The idea is to get the prospective stations to believe that the artist will make for a good phone (or in-person) guest, because the last thing a station needs is for a troublemaker or a boring guest to ruin their sound. Of course, follow-up interviews with the same stations will be much easier later on, provided they liked you the first time around.

Once willing-stations are found (which takes weeks), the scheduling can be done in one of two ways. Either the artist can supply the promoter with an "availability" schedule (where the promoter uses it to match to the stations,) or the promoter can get station-opportunity "windows", and give these to the artists to finalize. Either way, you need a lot of approved-interview stations because of the difficulty of...

Making contact: This is the step that has to occur in real-time. In order to have more than one or two interviews in a single day, the artist must have one or more assistants pre-calling the approved stations, so that the appropriate people can be gotten on the line. Sometimes it takes many calls to get through because they ask you to call the request line. Make sure you get multiple phone numbers (three) for each station, so you can get through when you need to. Ask for the "hotline".

Then there is the holding time. Remember, you will be calling into live shows that have other segments occurring during your call. So someone has to wait on hold until your segment comes up. This holding time can be from a few to thirty minutes PER station. So the best technique is to have multiple assistants holding on multiple phones, so that when the artist finishes up with one interview, the next one will be ready to connect.

A typical scenario might be: The promoter provides you with 40 interview requests over a period of three days. You have four helpers pre-calling on four phones, each one giving the signal when a station is on the line and ready. 10 of the interviews fall through, but the remaining 30 get completed in the three days. However, if the artist tries to work without helpers, he/she may only complete 6 in the same three days... all the while spending the same amount of time on the phone... dialing and holding.

Compact Disc (CD)

Your promo kit should include a *CD highlighting three of your very best songs-with your best song first. If you include too many songs or if you include songs that are too diverse in style, you may send the message that you're not sure what it is you do. Make sure the songs you're sending are right for the organization or person you're sending it to. Sending modern rock songs to a country booker will do you no good. Also be honest as to whether or not your material is the best it can be. The key to your success in the music business begins with great songs first and foremost!

The production of your songs and CD should also be as high in quality as you can afford. Use modern sounds and drum programs-spend the time capture your best vocal and rhythm track performances. The key is not to leave anything to the imagination of your intended audience. Fortunately, digital equipment has enabled musicians to cut quality recordings right out of their own home. If you don't own your own recording gear, chances are that you have a friend who has home equipment and will be willing to help. Remember, your first impression may be your last and only impression!

Clearly mark the titles of your songs on both the CD and the CD packaging and indicate the corresponding track numbers-this is important! It's not necessary to have your CD packaging shrink wrapped since it only gives the person receiving it that much more trouble to get it unwrapped. Remember, people in the industry often listen to hundreds of CDs per week and the last thing they need is to wrestle with your packaging. Keep it simple!

*CDs are still the most popular form for submitting music; above cassettes and MP3 files.



Web Promotion 

If you would like to hear some music industry professionals talk about a variety of current opportunities for artists to promote their music, take a look at the video below:



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