Album Promotion
Radio Promotion Articles
RADIO AIRPLAY 101 - The Overall Picture of Music Marketing

There are two options for your independent music in the music business: You can either try to be your own record label (and/or PR firm, music company, entertainment agent, etc.), or you can partner with others who will do the work for you if you pay them. Either way, you need to know who does what.

A Record label, PR firm, music manager, music publishing company, entertainment agency, music distribution firm, entertainment lawyer, music magazine, and most any other entity in the music industry are all part of a "mass media" wheel that generates airplay, publicity, gigs, CD and download sales. All this is usually part of a record deal (from a record label), or, it can be used to get a record deal. Alternatively, you could decide just to keep as much of it in-house as possible, thus creating your own operation. This is a realistic option if you will be in the business for five or more years, and you are willing to work at least 30 hours a week at it, at a desk.

A real record company handles four basic areas of music marketing: Radio, PR (public relations), gigs, and retail. The radio portion is what these articles are about; radio is the most complicated part of the music industry, and the most expensive part of the budget of a major record label. If you hire an independent radio promoter, they can also help a little with PR, gigs and retail, provided the airplay campaign is large enough.

The PR (publicity) portion of the entertainment industry is obtained by hiring a PR firm (or PR person). A large record label has these people on staff, but will still sometimes hire out for more push. A smaller independent record label sometimes will just try to do its own publicity, maybe by just focusing on some local music reviewers. Big mass media music magazines, however, will be beyond what an independent music label can easily get.

The gig portion of your music marketing is obtained by partnering with an entertainment agency who books gigs for you (good gigs can get you some PR too), or by hiring a gig promotion person. Small music labels will just try to book their own gigs, since their gigs do not bring in enough money to interest agencies. Note that a booking agency for gigs is not the same as an entertainment agent that an actor would have.

The retail part of the music industry is split between brick-and-mortar stores, and download sites. As of 2013, about half of all music sales come from each one. A record company would hire a retail promoter, whereas a small independent record label would just call stores on their own. Note that this is NOT the same thing as music distribution, which is simply a middleman between the record company and the music retail stores... they just take retail orders once the retail promotion person causes the sales to happen. If you have no retail promotion person, you will have no brick-and-mortar sales, regardless of the radio that you have. Online sales requires salespeople too, however some small amounts of sales can occur without salespeople.

The entertainment industry has a few other entities you may have to work with... like the music manager (i.e., personal manager, if you are already bringing in a good amount of money for him to take a percentage of), and an entertainment lawyer, to review agreements with the various parties. While they are not into music-marketing or mass-media details the way a record label or radio promoter would be, lawyers are needed with things like music publishing and general operation agreements once you are making agreements valued at $10,000 USD or more (but probably not before.)

What Is Promotion?

So welcome to the new articles about radio promotion; as articles are updated, they will have "New for 2013" on them. Most all of the information in the old articles still applies, except that now there is a general recommendation to move away from non-commercial radio, and move into commercial radio. This is because after 15 years of working non-commercial campaigns for clients, they don't seem to understand this point: Non-commercial is not designed to reach listeners, or to have an audience, or to result in "listens". So, let's move on to commercial airplay promotion, and start with the basics: What is promotion?

Well, promotion is not music. Making music is just that: Composing chords, beats, lyrics, hooks and melodies, and/or, playing chords, beats, lyrics, hooks and melodies. In other words, music has nothing to do with promotion, it never has, and it never will. Making music is done with your headphones on, listening to the music that you just "made". As soon as you want another human to hear what you made, however, you are now dealing with promotion. Promotion is, therefore, getting other people to hear your music. But promotion has nothing at all to do with music.

Promotion is part of marketing. "Marketing" is getting people to know about something; the people don't have to like it, they just have to know about it. Promotion takes things a bit further, and attempts to get the people to want it. "Sales" is part of promotion; it attempts to get people to buy the thing that they now like. In general, we will not be covering sales; it is a separate topic for a lifetime of study.

Back to promotion. Promotion is getting people to want something. In radio, there are two parts to this: The first is convincing the proper person at a radio station that he or she wants to play your song. And this is the hardest part. The second part, is when the song actually plays, and the listeners actually hear it. This is much easier, because as the number of "listens" increases, there will automatically be a percentage of the audience that likes anything that is played. So if the first promotional part (convincing the proper person at a radio station) is accomplished, then the second part (convincing some of the listeners that they like it) will automatically happen. It very important to realize, however, that it never happens in reverse...

Just because listeners like your song (because you've asked them, and they told you so), does NOT mean that the proper person at a radio station will care. Because again, promotion has nothing to do with music, and music has nothing to do with promotion. Nobody tells a musician or singer how or what notes to perform, and likewise, a musician or singer should not tell a radio programmer what to play. However, if you know what the other person likes or needs, then you have a better chance of having that person do what you want. The first person a musician or singer usually promotes to is their spouse or close friends. This is just one person, and it's usually pretty easy, since that person wants you to be happy. Then the musician tries to promote to larger groups of friends in general; it's still pretty easy, it just takes a few more days. Then they sometimes try to promote to people that they don't know, like a small group of people at a bar, and they get their first taste of "difficulty". These bar people are not there to make you happy, and thus they don't care about you being there or not. It's at this stage that you can start to appreciate how being slowly "introduced" to a new audience can help bring that audience around to appreciating what you are doing. And that's what radio does. And that's what radio promotion is for.

So welcome to the new articles about radio promotion. These articles are designed to show you how to promote your own songs, for free, using just your voice on the phone, and your time (and lots of it). Everything that you need to do to get your song played on the radio can be done using just your voice on the phone, and some email. The higher level you go, the more skilled you have to be on the phone, and the more hours per week it takes, but it's still just your voice on the phone, and nobody can stop you from doing it.

Next topic: The Number of New-Music Stations in the U.S.

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