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Radio Airplay 101 - Regional Vs. National

Some people feel very strongly about only going after stations in their particular city / county / state / region. While we certainly appreciate the purpose of this (wanting to stay in the area that can be supported by gigs, retail, press, etc), we should point out the plus and minus points of such an approach, versus going after similar stations spread across the country (and Canada / Alaska / Hawaii too.)

The first thing to keep in mind is that radio is a mass medium; it has one purpose... to create a "hit". And it can only do this when many stations are playing the same thing by the same artist at the same time. This of course is the purpose of a "chart"... it show's what songs the similar stations around the country are playing: What songs, by which artists, during a given week. You do not have this level of charting with gigs or press, because these areas are not nearly as concerned about being "mass". And speaking of charts, what do you think the first thing is that programmers look at before they decide what to spin next? Yes, charts. And this includes the programmers in your local region that you want to get to.

The second thing to keep in mind is that national campaigns (i.e., the campaigns that promoters work) are time-tested and well-defined; the promoter talks with the programmers each week, and the only new thing thrown into the mix is your material. However, when you go for a custom regional campaign, the stations you are forced to choose may not be on the regular contact pattern of the promoter; thus you are not fully taking advantage of the promoter's current relationships.

The final point of a regional push is that the promoter will be forced to select stations that are known non-performers, or stations that are not part of the tracking services. These "out of the way" stations can sometimes be better performers, since they get less promotion from other labels, or they can be worse since they might not play as many currents (as opposed to re-currents or oldies.) So, half of the trouble of setting up regional campaigns is knowing which stations to choose among the many that exist. (Remember, there are 14,000 broadcast stations in the U.S. and Canada.)

With the above three things working against a regional campaign, when would regional still make sense? About the only time would be if your act has a very strong regional gig pattern (for instance, 2 to 4 gigs a week, with more than 200 paid attendance each.) Depending on your genre, this might be enough to overcome the stations' fear of working with an act that has "no chance of charting". (Remember, you can only chart with a national campaign.)

If you have ever wondered why your local stations pay no attention to local artists, and instead play other artists from other areas that have nothing going on in your area, it is because the other artists are being put through the "mass media" machine, so at least they stand a chance of charting and being a hit. Since the stations live and die by the charted hits they play, artists that are at least attempting to chart get preference over those that don't, most every time.

One partial exception to this mass media rule is the local shows that some stations have. The very purpose of these shows is to feature locals, but only for a few spins, and never in regular rotation. If you really want to do only a small area like your home town, start with these shows.

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How to Use Vinyl for Airplay

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