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Radio Airplay 101 - The Add Date

Unless you have worked for the radio department of a label, or else you have worked for an independent promoter or radio magazine, you probably have never heard of an "add date". But the "add date" is probably the most basic building block of both commercial and college airplay, and it is used in every successful airplay charting campaign there is, so we better cover how it works.

The closest analogy there is to an add date is the "street date". A street date is when a CD is "available" to the public. It is supposed to tell retailers when to "make available" the release to customers. That is where the similarity ends, however; radio goes on to be far more complicated.

A radio "add date" is supposed to tell stations when to add a record to its playlist. It is completely separate from, and has little else to do with, the street date. The add date can be before, the same as, or after the street date. Regardless, an add date simply MUST be used with any serious airplay attempt. A negative side effect, however, surfaces: You have one chance... and one chance ONLY... to make a particular song or album go at radio. After all, the date is printed right there on the package. You cannot come back next year and ask a station to reconsider it (and, we are talking here about new artists/labels.)

Everything a radio promoter does when talking to stations centers on the add date...

Four weeks before the add date, the promoter is describing the package to the stations (and for commercial stations... the consultants are handled too,) giving the stations a rough idea of what to expect musically. Also, a fax goes out, showing the release.

Three weeks before the add date, the promoter is describing the artist and the music in more detail, describing the spine of the CD, and scheduling resends for stations with changed personnel/addresses.

Two weeks before the date, the promoter solicits PDs/MDs for their initial interest/non-interest, and continues resends. Also, the details of any pertinent tour dates, press articles, or retail events/carriage are presented. It is also at this time that the first trade ads (advertisements, not "adds") will run... scheduled and worded by the promoter.

Finally, one week before the add date, the promoter fishes for commitments from the most-interested stations; re-words the next trade ads; sends a second round of faxes; re-affirms to each station that they know the correct add date; does a final round of re-sending; scans for possible early adds; and finally, makes one last contact/message with each PD/MD in hopes that the station can be swayed at the last minute... while stations are deciding on which record to add. This is done with 25 to 2000 stations every week, depending on the campaign.

That's the easy part. Now the real work starts... getting spins to occur after the add date; being "added" does not necessarily mean you are being "played". Being added simply is the step you have to go through, "officially", before spins occur. That's why the "add charts" are separate from the "spin charts" in radio magazines. Your goal for the first charting week of every radio campaign is to get on the "most added" chart first, and you have only one week to do it. Thereafter, your focus becomes the main spin chart. And one by one, every week, the promoter contacts/messages each PD/MD, and attempts to get more and more of them on the bandwagon. Artists with bad music, or with no support, will struggle to get new stations, and probably won't be "most added". Releases with great music and good support will easily make the most added chart, and will then jump onto the main chart, with several new stations coming on each week (again, assuming we are working a new artist/label.)

The promoter's work then continues: A non-commercial campaign may go 5-10 more weeks; A commercial campaign (for a single song) may go 3 to 12 more MONTHS, depending on results.

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