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.
There are four types of
radio: Commercial Broadcast, College Broadcast, Internet Radio and
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
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.
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
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
• 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
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
Sales: Describe Distribution and Retail plans. Any in-store play/ promotions?
What other specific sales opportunities? Mail order, live shows, Internet
Any store promotional tie-ins with radio stations?
Tips 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
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
The cost of producing a quality video does not always Is a video cost effective? What airplay opportunities are there for the
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.
Misc.: Record release party? Novelty item? Any other clever ideas? Explain
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,
* 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
* 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.
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:
Head Shot / Group Shot
Reviews (most current on top)
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
Press Kit for Radio Music Directors:
Head Shot / Group Shot
Reviews (most current on top)
(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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.