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Radio Airplay 101 - Independent Promoter Checklist, Pt. 1

If you are hiring a promoter to push your artist to radio, here are a few things you can consider which will help you have the greatest chance of success. (And when I say promoter, I mean an airplay promoter, not a club or booking promoter.) The big concern with this process is, if you choose the wrong person(s) to promote your artist... and end up with bad results... you can't just go back and do it over again. That's it for that CD (at those stations). That CD is now "an old project", and you can't go back to those stations until you have a new release.

USING A FRIEND: Non-experienced friends sometimes offer to work artists to radio for free or "for a few dollars". This is fine as long as you use them for the right tasks... like helping with the mailing, etc. If you are working college radio... say, no more than 20-30 stations... then they could help you with some phone calls too. But if they try to call any more stations than this, or if they try to call commercial radio, they will probably stumble after just a couple of weeks. And forget any capacity of doing reports or trade charts.

SOMEONE FROM THE MAJORS: Staff promoters at major labels sometimes offer to "help you out on the side" for a fee. On their days off, or on the weekend, they say they will "make some calls for you". What happens is that their company finds out and disallows it, or, the person gets tied up on their days off and can't do it. You are then stuck. Either way, it is a conflict of interest for them.

PR PEOPLE: Public Relations (or "publicity") people sometimes offer to work an artist to radio for airplay. But don't confuse PR with airplay. A real radio campaign has nothing to do with publicity. They are two separate techniques, with different contacts, different lead times, different terminologies, call frequencies, and so on. A person who is good at one is usually terrible at the other. This is why they are always separate departments at labels.

STATION PEOPLE: Station employees are sometimes recruited to work an artist, and will tell you "they know what stations want." This sounds convincing, but in reality, taking the calls (which they do/did at the station), and making the calls, are very different animals. Until station people are trained (at a label or indie), they usually make poor promoters.

OWN CHART: When you do hire a real promoter, make sure he/she is not affiliated with the chart that they say they are going to promote you to. Some promoters actually publish their own chart, and they can put you on it wherever they want to. And they can take you off just as quick. Worse, any advertising money you place with the publication actually just goes straight to them. They won't make any of this clear to you... you'll have to ask around.

BIG CLIENTS: The most-often used sales technique of promoters is to tell you they have worked "some big artist", and that this would benefit you. Ask them what they mean by "worked". Were they solely responsible for charting that artist? Probably not (you will have to ask the artist to verify this... the promoter is just not going to tell you the truth.) More than likely, the promoter was probably just partnered with a label or another promoter, or worse, was just an assistant or sidekick. Again, they WILL NOT tell you they were not the only promoter. You will HAVE to ask the artist or the artist's management directly.

Promoters who really do work major label projects just do not like to work with entry-level projects. With major label projects, the indie promoter ALWAYS has staff promoters at the label doing a ton of the work, in addition to heavy retail (the CD is on the shelf at most bookstores), touring (20-200 cities in major venues), and press (10-100 articles in major publications like Spin or Billboard, along with 50-500 articles in small publications.) And all this is on top of TV appearances. So if you think that the indie promoter is the one person who made the artist chart, think again. He will not be able to do the same for you.

Next topic:
Independent Promoter Checklist, Part 2

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