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SYNDICATION 101... Hiring Your Own Syndication Deal

Although it is similar to "self-syndication", hiring your own syndication deal (barter) allows you to do more of the things that established syndicators do, while going through less of the learning curve that the training a self-syndicating staff would entail. I'll cover mostly a radio angle here, and touch on the other areas. This article does assume you have some marketing money to spend. Reasons for hiring your own deal are several: You don't like the people you've talked to at the syndicators; you can't get deal where the points seem favorable; the syndicator wants you to change your show; you don't think you will be a priority at the syndicators; you don't want to lose ownership of your show; or simply, you want to start to take control of things now instead of later. The main thing a larger syndicator does for a show is to fund and steer the marketing efforts. The production of the shows themselves are not a real concern, since the shows are probably already moving along for several years before a deal is reached with a syndicator. But a show with no marketing will get zero stations, and thus zero listeners. Fortunately, the five main marketing areas that a show requires can be hired by you... radio, press, TV/film, retail, and touring. Indeed, the people you hire to do these jobs are sometimes the same people that the syndicators hire. Obviously not all shows that are starting out need all these areas, but at some point, if a show get moving fast enough, all these areas will have to be considered. Here are the detailed areas; you should look at your marketing efforts in terms of 12 months (one year), since syndicating is a long-term process, and even modestly-succesful shows can go for 5 or 10 years.

Radio: This is your main concern, of course; you need affiliates. A syndication promoter's only job is to get you affiliates. Costs for one year would be around $10,000 for a slow-build in the unrated markets, to $150,000 for a faster build in the medium markets.

Press: Needed after you get some affiliates, a publicity firm is going to run $35,000 a year for smaller clippings in city papers and regional mags, to $120,000 a year for full page stories in city papers, TV morning show appearances, and national large-distribution magazine focus stories.

TV/Film: While considered a non-necessity, hiring a firm to get the host/show placed in TV/Film scripts is still an option for the high end. The firms are usually paid per-placement, with indie films and late-night TV costing maybe $2,500 per show, to $25,000 for a major film or prime-time TV part.

Retail: If you have a product (or even show-merchandise like t-shirts) to sell at retail, a retail promoter can get the accounts set up and get the merch on the shelves. This topic is too involved to get into here.

Touring: In addition to doing "station visits", a tour is where you make public appearances or even talk to the audience in live venues. For this, your hire a booking agency, and maybe a tour manager. Each person you work with will run about $25,000 per year, unless you can get an agency to work on commission only.

One last person that you might want to consider is a quarterback. A quarterback works full-time on your behalf to coordinate radio, press, retail, appearances, and TV/film. He also hires the proper people for these areas, and acts like your manager, so that all you have to do is your show.

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