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Radio Airplay 101 - Sacrificing Older Releases For Radio

New for 2016: (Note: has nothing to do with uploads and computers and sites; this has to do with humans saying yes at commercial regular rotation radio)

Here is the typical scenario - A new artist/label wants to do radio, but their current album is a year or two old so they feel the material does not represent what they are all about. The new "better" album is almost done, so they want to wait to start radio with the new one when it is finished. Well interestingly, how good the new album is doesn't matter to radio; what matters is how well radio knows who you are and how fast your music is getting big. And if this is your first release, then right now (today) nobody at radio knows anything about you, and your music is small. Radio does not want small, they want big. Or at least growing fast. So the quality of music is irrelevant.

Next, consider this... you're first push to radio will be your worst. That's right, everything else equal, your first promotion to radio is not going to be as good as your second or third. This is because (again), with your first release nobody at radio knows who you are, and they don't care. Radio always puts preference on acts that they've played/heard before or look like they are getting bigger. It's just how humans work. Plus, radio knows that this is how their listeners work. Given a choice, people always want to hear the next tune from an artist that they've heard and liked before, more so than they want to hear a song from someone they've never heard before. Listeners have this preference even if they haven't heard the new songs yet (thus the quality of the new song is irrelevant; one from the already-heard act is the one that will get played). These are some of the reasons that all labels want multiple-album deals, because even they can't make money on the first release since nobody at radio responds well to a first release from a new artist.

This is where a sacrifice comes in. Since you know that your first release at radio will be your least-performing, you make use of an older release that you are not totally happy with just so that radio can start learning your name. Remember it's not an old release to radio; anything that you promote to them will be new to them. And since you have your newer release almost done, the new material will become your follow-up release that proves to radio that you are improving and getting better. This is important because you want to keep the momentum up at radio by having the second release come out soon after the first, and no more than six month later. This applies whether you are promoting albums, or singles.

Some artists worry that the date on the older release (i.e., copyright 2014) will cause some problems at radio. It won't. You have months of promotion to go through before some of the stations will even hear the material, much less spend any time reading the small print.

Another artist objection to an older release is that "it's not available for sale yet". Well, it's not supposed to be. You are not doing your first radio release to move product (if you are, what is your salesperson's name?) Instead you are doing it to build your awareness with radio station personnel. Not listeners. Your follow-up releases, however, will be what you make all your movement with. If you think that all your action is going to be with your first release, you need to re-think what you are doing. And you can't use major-label new artist releases as examples as how first releases can perform. Major label methods of operation don't apply to indie releases like yours, just like the operations of McDonalds don't apply to you opening your very first restaurant.

Try to view your first radio release the way you view your first live gig: You know that your very first live gig was not very polished, but that was OK since you expected it, and since you knew you were going to have FOLLOW-UP gigs which would be much more refined. But if you mistakenly thought that your very first live gig was going to (a) sell all your CDs, (b) get great reviews in all sites, papers, and TV shows, (c) get multiple investor offers, (d) get multiple management offers, and (d) end up in a major label deal, all from the very first single gig, then you had a very skewed view of how the business works.

Same with radio.

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