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Radio Airplay 101 - Reporting vs. Charting

As you start doing more radio, you'll get more opportunity to choose between "reporting" and "non-reporting" stations, and also between "charting" and "non-charting" campaigns. One is not better than the other; they are just meant for different purposes... like a car versus a bus.

"Reporting" is when a station fills out a form (or an email), and sends it to a chart magazine... telling the magazine that the station is adding or playing your record. "Charting", on the other hand, is either (1) when you appear in that station's "most-added" or "most-played" chart, or (2) when you appear in a MAGAZINE'S "most-added" or "most-played" chart. The station's chart is only for that ONE station; the magazine's chart is an average of all similarly-formatted stations across the country.

The advantage of a station reporting you is this: People will SEE your name. And the people who see your name will be the same people in the music/radio business that you need to impress, such as labels, managers, booking agents, music writers, club DJs, retail buyers, and (especially) other stations who will not add your record until they see that other stations have done so first.

The disadvantage of trying for a reporting station is that they are much more difficult to get (compared to non-reporting stations), due to the increased competition these stations garner because of their (generally) larger listenerships. Everyone wants to show up in the trade magazines (the "trades"), and thus these reporting stations are the first ones that people select, including every major label. So in the car-versus-bus comparison, reporting stations are the bus... they carry many more results, and the cost to get them is proportionately higher. Non-reporting stations, however, are much easier (and thus lower cost) and are more suitable for the beginner. The largest labels, however, will work both the reporting and non-reporting stations together.

Now let's talk about "campaigns". A radio campaign is when you work a large group of similar stations at the same time, so as to create a "hit". A hit is simply a particular artist that is being played on a large number of stations AT THE SAME TIME. If half the stations play it now, and the other half play it a year from now, you do not have a hit. Hits have to be on all pertinent stations at the same time. On top of this, the stations that are chosen for charting campaigns HAVE to be reporting stations, even if you also have chosen non-reporting stations.

And thus the difficulty. When you work a charting campaign, you not only have to work all reporting stations at the same time, but the stations that you are working are the more difficult ones. So in terms of money, a charting campaign (say, for non-commercial radio) is going to cost about twice what a non-charting campaign would cost. And for commercial radio, a charting campaign... even in small markets only... is going to cost twice to ten times that of a non-charting campaign, and in medium markets, charting is going to cost five to one hundred times that of non-charting.

Finally, there is the regional option. Many times, people will want to go after just a few stations in their own city or state, and this "regional" effort does have some merit... mainly lower cost... but it is not referred to so much as a "campaign", as it is just a "push". Regional is useful since all the stations are selected to be close to the artist, but the push is not very impressive to other stations because (1) most of the stations will be small, (2) there will be no chart action, (3) there will be no trade reviews, (4) there will be no stations near other stations in the rest of the country, and (5) you will have very few station-success stories to tell. But considering the cost, many smaller projects will have no choice but to opt for a regional effort.

Next topic: BDS / Mediabase / Soundscan

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