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Radio Airplay 101 - Trade Support

When getting more serious about your radio (i.e., after you have at least one indie promoter working your record,) it's time to take the next step providing trade support to the radio publications that are pertinent to what you are trying to accomplish. ("Support" means advertising.)

(Note: Some radio "trade publications" are actually fronts for radio promoters; this means that the promoter is actually the person who puts the information into the publication/chart in a way that benefits them directly; the problem is when they try to do it secretly, so that you will not only hire them to promote your record, but you will also advertise in their publication since you don't know that the money is going to the same person. The way to identify such situations is to ask the promoter if they are in any way connected to a radio publication or chart; and ask the publication or chart if they are in any way connected to a radio promoter.) And of course, get your hands on a copy of the chart.

Trade support is when you provide money in some form or fashion to a radio publication (web or print); it performs three main functions: Information, Seriousness, and Editorial. Here are details:

INFORMATION: The ads get critical info to the stations each week; things like the add-date (don't confuse "add" with "ad"), number of adds, number of spins, station quotes, tour dates, etc. This is all stuff of critical importance to stations when they are deciding what to play next. And this information gets to some of the bigger stations that are more difficult for promoters to get on the phone.

SERIOUSNESS: Stations need to know that you are serious about pushing your record, because they want to build a hit, and you can't build a hit if you just push for a few weeks and then quit. So since the stations know that the trade ads cost a lot of money, they feel better knowing that your project is well-supported, and that it will (hopefully) be pushed longer before you give up.

EDITORIAL: Since radio publications are privately owned businesses, they can do whatever they want, including going out of business. In order to stay in business, they support the projects that support them; i.e., the projects that they want to succeed are the ones who spend money with them. This is why they prefer to write editorial for projects that have/are/will advertise with them... either for the artist they are reviewing now, or for a different artist, so long as the money comes from the same account.

What advertising is available? The obvious is a display ad, usually at least a quarter page. Other options (which vary) are buying a track on a compilation CD, buying an ad on a weekly fax or email, getting a banner on their site, sending your CD along with their magazine, and including your MP3 with their emails.

The trick is to pick a trade that gets to the stations you need to get to, and to avoid the trades that reach stations/people that are too big for you. Billboard is about the only trade that is too big for all indie projects; before you care about dealing with Billboard, you should have charted/supported (and had editorial) with every other trade in your genre. Your radio promoter will be able to tell you what trade support make sense for your situation.

Next topic: How Touring and Radio Work Together

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