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Radio Airplay 101 - What is "Successful"?

What is "Successful"?

The first question people have when they want to hire a promoter (provided that they have never done an airplay campaign before) is "What airplay campaign do I need in order to be successful?" There couldn't be a more misplaced question. It's like when a cab driver asks you "Where to?" and you say "Well, where would I need to go in order to be successful?" Where you need to go depends on a million things, not to mention what your definition of "successful" might be.

For some people, a successful radio campaign is getting one spin on one small college station. For others, it is getting 60+ spins per week on each CHR station in the top 100 markets... thus charting #1 in Billboard & R&R... which then produces a major label deal... which then scans 10,000 units per week in the U.S... which results in a 300-date U.S. stadium tour, not to mention all major magazines and TV covering the artist. And this is in just the first month. (This is not an exaggeration of what some artists want with their first release.)

So instead of seeking out a "successful" radio campaign, look at what you have to spend on radio, and then decide:

(1) What hard-core radio results are worth this money.

(2) What you (not us, but you) are going to do with these radio results in the rest of your music campaign. This is where your "success" comes from.

The above two ideas are entirely different. The first point, "Radio results", are what we are hired to produce: Spins, charting, station IDs, station interviews, station visits, and possibly... reviews in the radio airplay magazines. That's it. It's the most difficult aspect of the music business... airplay... but it's the one thing a promoter focuses on. The second point, "what you do with these radio results", is what will determine your "success".

Here are some starting points where you can use your radio results:

TRADITIONAL (NON-WEB) DISTRIBUTION: You can start by getting consignment in select stores. You do this by telling the consignment manager that "you're currently spinning on the WXYZ station down the street." Next you try to get a simple distribution deal through a small independent distributor, which will require more airplay results than "just one station." Finally, you try to get a good-sized P&D distro deal, which in itself could be considered "successful". To impress these distro people, you need significant airplay results that will be quite costly. And keep in mind that no matter how good the radio results are that your promoter hands you, you have to take them and use them properly to make your distribution "successful". And if retail SALES are your final measure of success, then it will be up to your salesperson (who is calling/visiting the stores) to create the sales.

GIGS: Start by showing the bookers your airplay report. Even if a station is not near the clubs, just the fact you have some spins occurring in other places will help you get booked. On the next level, start talking to booking agents... they will need some bigger airplay results to work with... but they will be able to book you into 200-500 seat clubs (with bigger bands) that you could never get yourself. Finally, with commercial regular rotation, you can work with large agents to get 1000 to 5000 seat venues, with or without other acts.

IMPRESSING OTHERS: The final use of your airplay results can be to attract and/or impress others who can help your career. Labels, newspapers, magazines, TV/film producers, managers, law firms, and (especially) investors all know and understand the fundamental value of airplay, and they will see from your airplay results that: (1) Your material is worthwhile; (2) There now is an audience waiting for your next release; (3) You understand how the radio system works; (4) You agree to work with this system; and most important, (5) You already have paid for a certain level of radio, and thus anyone who would be backing you would have to contribute less in order to get you to the next level.

Next topic: Radio Cost Sheet

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