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Radio Airplay 101 - How Press and Radio Work Together

People who work in press and music-radio have the same goal: Create a hit (because this leads to the next goal of getting more readers and more listeners, which leads to the ultimate goal of getting more money.) And by "press", we mean magazines, newspapers, and music websites. We'll leave out TV, since that is beyond what most brand new indies can pursue. Note: It is consumer press that we are talking about here, not radio or music trade press (it is assumed that your trade press is taken care of before you attempt the more difficult consumer press.)

Let's divide the music press into three levels of difficulty (they are grouped according to how many readers they have.) First, easiest, and the one with the fewest readers, are websites and zines. The next level up is local music newspapers and calendar sections. Finally there is regional music magazines, and entertainment sections of city papers. Anything higher than this is going to require a PR firm.

Since press and radio have the same goal, just feeding the information from one to the other is one of the first steps you want to make. They want to see that a project is growing. If press sees that radio is supporting an artist, that in itself is enough to get some website, zine, and local paper press. It won't work the other way around, however... almost no level of press, by itself, will start your radio. What radio needs is the use of the regular promotion techniques that have been used for 40 years (which are the subject of all of Airplay 101.) But press is still very important... almost as much as touring is.

Referrals-to-press are a good way to use radio. After radio is familiar with your product, even if they are not playing it, you or your promoter can ask them what newspapers/mags/sites they recommend you to pursue. If it's a commercial station, the press they recommend might be a client or potential client (that would advertise on the station,) or they might be co-owned by the station. If it's a college or community station, the person you are asking might just work at the paper, since they don't' get paid at the station.

What radio really likes to see is it's name in the press (this gets them more listeners.) If you can convince the press to mention the station (with OR without mentioning you), then when you send a copy of the resulting print to the station, they are going to remember you.

If you are gigging in a market, talk to the calendar/events person at the paper (in addition to the music writer) and have them list the station's events and activities, as well as your own. It takes effort to get station activities organized and sent to possible press, so if you can do a station's work for them, then they are going to like you. Are you good with the web? Go a step farther and put up a free site for each market, keeping it updated with weekly station activities around town (and put "for more info" links that go to the station and the press.) Promote the page online, and possibly with stickers and flyers.

A final note: We don't recommend buying ads in consumer press until you have done so first on radio. This is because the press can't "play" your song. (Trade press is different, however.)

Next topic: Payola, part 1 of 5

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