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Radio Airplay 101 - Moving From Unrated to Rated Regular-Rotation Stations:

(Note: This following does not apply to college or specialty shows).

After clients hire us for non-charting or unrated or small-market regular rotation campaigns, many want to try for a "charting" campaign, which would of course involve going to stations (usually in larger markets) that report to a chart. Or maybe a rated-station campaign, which is not really trying to "chart" but is just trying to get "rated" stations. After all, the small markets that you already got "look great" on paper... all those adds and spins and playlists, and maybe even some interviews. And all for just a few thousand dollars.

But typically what happens if a client does upgrade to a "charting" campaign (or non-charting campaign on rated stations) is that he starts getting spins on the larger stations, but only on a "few" of them. In other words, in his previous unrated campaign, he may have gotten spins on 10, 20, 30 or more stations, maybe even with some of those at the top of the station's playlists. But now, with the "bigger" campaign, he only sees action at 2, 3, 5, or 6 stations. "What happened?!"

This is how media (including radio) work. There are only a few "bigger" stations, but the bigger stations ("bigger" means more listeners) in a market typically have more of an audience than all the smaller stations put together in that same market. "Small" or "unrated" stations typically have less than 300 people listening at the same time. This is not a terrible thing, however, having 300 or 200 or even 100 people hear your song at the same time, considering it's taking no effort on your part to make this happen. But when you move to the "rated" stations, or even the unrated stations in medium markets (see market list here: ), they can have 3,000 people listing at the same time. What a difference: 3,000 listeners compared to 300 listeners. However, on paper they look the same: WXYZ and KXYZ.

Here is where the advantages of larger stations start. To get 3,000 listeners with the unrated stations, you need ten of them (300 each). And since these ten stations are spread out around the country, so are the listeners. If your goal with radio is to get the listeners to your live shows, it's going to take a lot of traveling. However with the larger station, all 3,000 people are in one place. Thus, all spins, announcements, and even commercials hit all the same listeners who can easily drive to your gig in that city.

So let's compare. Let's just say it takes the same amount of labor to get spins on ten unrated stations (300 listeners each, for a total of 3,000) as it does one larger station (3,000 listeners). And let's say five percent of the listeners show up for your gig from each station. So each unrated station would cause 15 people to show up at each gig (5% of 300), but you have to drive hundred's of miles to get to the next station/city/gig. After ten gigs and thousands of miles, you've played to 150 people (10 gigs X 15 people each). The rated station, however, causes 150 people (5% of 3,000) to show up at just one gig. So by just driving to the one gig, you get to play to the same 150 people.

So on paper it might look more impressive to have ten unrated stations (WXYA, WAYB, WAYC, WAYD, WAYE, WAYF, WAYG, WAYH, WAYI, WAYK) playing your music compared a single rated station (KXYX), especially if both campaigns cost the same, but when you are actually trying to make things like gigs happen, the bigger station is better because of the much reduced travel/motel/setup/food costs. After all, just think about how much effort and money it takes to rent ten motel rooms, setup for ten gigs, travel at least a thousand miles, and buy food for at least thirty days (which only gives you two days in-between gigs to do the driving.)

In addition to getting people to your gigs, other advantages of larger stations are: More visibility to labels, managers, bookers, etc, and more clubs are covered by each station (so you can play more than one gig in that city before moving on.)

And that is the reason that it takes more labor to get spins on larger stations: Since it really makes things easier for the artist/label, other artists and labels put much more effort into getting larger stations. This amount of competition makes it more difficult for you to get these stations. Matter of fact, some labels put all their effort into the top 100 markets ( and don't even bother with markets 101, 102, 103, etc, because the smaller number of listeners of these smaller markets makes it not really worth it to them. But that's because these labels CAN get the larger markets. There are also some smaller labels which only go after stations from market 101 to market 200, leaving out the biggest and the smallest markets. And of course there are big labels that may put ALL their effort into just the top 30 markets. They may have a staff person (i.e., a field staff) who lives in each of those top 30 markets, and does nothing but walk into the stations in that city to meet personally with the programmers.

So in the end, your goal is to only go after stations that you can actually get, and to not try for stations that are beyond your ability. And realize that you will get far fewer of these stations, and spend a lot more money getting them. But, they will reach a lot more people.

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