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Radio Airplay 101 - How Retail and Radio Work Together

Although we recommend that a new label get their radio and gigs going first (so they can sell their CDs at the gigs... i.e., tour distribution), if the label gets to where it has at least four or five acts, and EACH one is charting in their respective airplay chart, and each one is doing 100+ gigs per year, and each one is getting 50+ articles/reviews per year, then it MIGHT be time to consider real retail promotion and distribution. But not sooner, and not with less than four acts. And when we say retail, we're not talking about consignment, either.

The first thing you'll want to do once your distro is set up (real distro, not web) is set up a retail buy-in, which will cost you $3,000 to $15,000 per city in the small stores; this may include ads in the chain's or distro's house publication, and a purchase of 500 to 3000 units from the chain. You'll also want to tag the fact that you are doing radio. If the promotion is big enough, you'll get POP space in addition to the listening stations and ads, but you can go beyond this by trying to get talkers on your bin or listening stations, on which you would print something like "As Heard On WXWY"... provided of course you are spinning on that station.

Similar in cost are co-op ad (or underwriting) buys on the pertinent stations. In the case of music, "co-op" is you, paying 100% of the bill. You run the spots for your release(s), which include tagging of the local retailer. And if you can afford it, a remote at the retailer would make everyone happy. Remotes start at about $300 in small/unrated markets, $3,000 in medium markets, and $30,000 in major markets. Your releases are not the focus of a remote, but then they don't need to be... everyone at the station will know who paid the bill.

You'll also want to coordinate drop-bys (or "meet-and-greets" or full performances) with the stores, while the artist is in-town visiting stations. While at the stores, ask the GM if he/she would like to post the playlist of the station somewhere in the store (and hopefully you are on the playlist) if it's not already there. While it's true that the first thing a station does is try to get its playlist into stores, extra help from smiling folks like you won't hurt.

Don't forget to ask the stations (or have your radio promoter ask the stations) for their recommended stores that your product should be placed in, and further, what is the name of the buyer is that you or your retail promoter should speak with there. When you do speak to that buyer, you have a much greater chance of them caring what you have say if you preface it with "Bob at WXYZ is playing our record and said you might be interested in it... can I send you a copy?"

One last area of available exposure would be the community events announcements that stations make. Many stations (even college stations) have someone who's job it is to collect and announce what interesting things are occurring in their town that week. When you have a confirmed appearance/performance at a store, make sure the station hears about it. And if your announcement is aired, try to get a tape or transcription of it, and give it to the store GM or buyer to impress them.

Lastly, there is the need to inform the distro's reps about your project. Even with real distro, you (being a new indie) are just a single page in their book of 1000 other releases that they take with them when they meet with buyers. In their twenty minute meetings, maybe they get around to talking about ten releases; yours will not be one of them, unless it has more "apparent activity" than all the other 990 releases (most of which are major labels.) So you have to make it appear to the rep that you have a lot of things going on, and you do this by informing them, once a week, of everything that is happening with your project.

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