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Radio Airplay 101 - How to Use Vinyl for Airplay

Most people reading this won't know this, but vinyl (or "wax") is actually growing in popularity. And radio, although it never totally dropped using vinyl, is now increasing its use of wax in particular formats. You may have even heard the scratches purposely put on some urban or pop recordings to simulate real vinyl.

You may have guessed that hip hop and rap are the prime users of vinyl. While this is true, pop, hot AC, electronic, ambient, and even some mainstream-AC or country dance "remixes" can make use of vinyl. The main decision for the need of vinyl is how much potential there is for dance club play of the club remixes, assuming you have club remixes in the first place.

Starting with college radio, if you are doing hip hop or rap, then vinyl is nice but not mandatory. Projects with vinyl will do a lot better, but it's still possible to get most-added (and then chart) on CMJ without ever pressing wax. Same for electronica (i.e., "RPM"). Due to the large number of college stations, it is understandable that not all projects will have the budget for wax.

Commercial mixshows, however, requires vinyl, period. These guys are your main leads into radio mixshows, club play, and record pools, and they are sometimes the very same people who mix in the clubs (or run the pools) anyway. You can almost do mixshows without even having CDs, but don't try it... you'll be sacrificing some airplay. This applies to any genre that can spin in a mixshow.

With commercial regular rotation, the need for wax gets back to how much you are pushing mixshow at the same time. If mix is definitely part of it, they you have to do wax. But there is also a splash factor with wax which becomes important, and it ties into the other standard marketing items like trade support: When you have wax, you are taken much more seriously, even though for regular rotation the stations are just going to dump the CD onto their hard drive and not use the wax.

So for a basic regular rotation push, you can use just CD; for a good push you must use CD and wax; for a serious push you must push wax and CD to both regular rotation and mixshow (and for a heavy-duty push, you have to work regular rotation separate from mix, and you have to service and work each mixshow guy separately... usually at their homes and on their cells.)

It should be noted that mixshows are not the same as record pools. Record pools are for club servicing only; they do not cross over to radio mixshow. However, about half the radio mixshow guys will also take your wax into clubs.

QUANTITY: For college, if you only do one piece of wax per station, you'll need at least 200 to 400 wax (and CDs) for the basic reporting panel of CMJ. If you want to hit each DJ with a separate piece, you'll need more like 500.

For mixshow, if you are only servicing the mixers (and not the PD/MD) and if you are only giving one piece per person, you'll need about 600 pieces for the basic 300 stations that have active mixshows which report to the trades (there are more, but they don't report.) If you want to include the PD/MD, that's an extra 2 per commercial station, or about an extra 300. Finally, if you are going to be giving the mixers copies for them to take to the clubs, you'll need an extra 300 to 600 on top of that.

Keep in mind when you are servicing wax, you need to send it (with CDs) in a priority box, or first class. Otherwise it may get delayed 2 to 3 weeks if you just use media-mail. If you are not trying to chart (and thus timing is not important,) then this delay won't matter.

Next topic: Being Overshadowed by Major Acts

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