Promoting To Radio

Promoting your CD to radio takes a lot of organization and time management. The first step you will need to do is find radio stations that are willing to accept submissions from indie artists. Always get permission ahead of time, before you submit your music. There are two easy ways to find radio station information. The first is to go onto the internet and search the radio station databases available. This method is free, but will take some time. The best resources I have found are, "MIT Radio Stations on the Web" and "BRS
Radio Stations". Most sites list the stations by genre (style of music), state, etc. This will help you find radio stations in your region if you decide you are going locally at first (which is a good recommendation if you do not have a lot of money to spend, and you aren't worried about charting), or if you are going nationally (which is only a good idea if you are already established locally and are seeking national exposure and a chance to chart). Here are a few web site addresses:

Bookmark these sites in your Internet browser. You will find yourself going back to these sites often. If you decide looking for this information on the internet takes too much time, the second way is to purchase books that already have all the information for radio stations listed in them. There are a few books I know of, however check with the people who sell these books to verify they have all the information you need such as e-mail addresses, shipping addresses, web sites, etc. A very good reference manual is "Gavin Radio & Record Industry A to Z". Call (415) 495-1990 to order. Most reference manuals for the Entertainment Industry can become quickly outdated due to high turnover rate. The internet may be more accurate because the radio stations keep the information up to date weekly or monthly. When finding radio stations to submit to, it's best to start with college radio first, especially if you are a new act without a track record. It will be easier for you to get added on college stations, which are usually "free format" and don't have the stringent rules and regulations governing them that the major radio stations do.

If you decide on the college route, make sure you have verified they have a format for your music. Most college stations have a variety of music styles and many different Music Directors, so there is a wide selection. However, Rock, Jazz, and Alternative Music tend to be the mainstays for college stations. Country acts will have a more difficult time on college stations, although there are many that have Folk Music programs. However, your music may not fit into their style of Folk. For the Country act, I suggest you try to get on stations that are Americana and college stations that play Country Music specifically. Once you conquer the college charts, you will have a solid base and track record to promote yourself to the larger stations. It's like a snowball that rolls down the mountain. The more it rolls, the larger it gets. Make sure when approaching larger stations that you ask specifically if they play indie artists.

If they tell you that they occasionally give an indie artist a shot, go ahead and submit your CD to them. If they say, "No. We only play major-label releases, or artists that are in the top 50 of the Billboard charts, but go ahead and send it along," think hard about it before sending your CD. While it's exciting to possibly get heard by someone who may have met Third Eye Blind or the Goo Goo Dolls, unless you have a lot of cash to spend on reprinting CDs, you will waste your money because they won't play you until you chart. When you do break into the top 50, you will probably have to send them the kit again. Be patient, and wait until you chart before submitting to stations with these requirements.

If the goal for your music is charting, you will need to make sure that all of the radio stations you submit to, report to the same charts. This will help ensure that all of your "spins" count. (Spins are the amount of times a song is played.) If the radio stations don't report to any charts, or the charts they do report to are not consistent with those you already have, you may want to think about passing on them until you have more resources. If you are only looking for exposure, then by all means send it to every radio station you get permission from. It is easier to get added to a playlist on stations that don't report, than do. The competition is not as fierce. A note about air time. Each station only has so many hours and slots they
can play songs. If you can get your song charted, you will have a better chance of getting into one of those precious slots.

Once you have found all the radio stations you need to submit to, and you have entered that information into a database, you are ready to send the press kit out (assuming your CD is ready). At this time, make sure to call the radio stations again and verify that all the information is still the same. As I stated before, the industry is very volatile. Stations get bought and sold very quickly, and there is an extremely high turnover rate for personnel. You don't want to send your Heavy Metal CD to a station that is now a Smooth Jazz station. And you don't want to send something out with the words "Material Requested" on it, to someone who no longer works there. Most Program Directors (PDs) and Music Directors (MDs) have
specific call times, on specific days, every week. You can only call them on these days or they will not take your calls.

Once you have sent your press kit out, wait 5 - 7 days, then call and confirm your CD has arrived safely. If the CD has not arrived, wait 1 more week and call again. If at that point the CD has still not arrived, tell the PD or MD that you will send another package and then send it. Once you have confirmed that the CD
has arrived safely, you'll need to start your weekly calls. A side note, in your cover letter for your press kit, make sure to suggest the tracks you think radio personnel will like, and the ones you think are more commercial. Give them an opportunity to listen to several tracks, but don't ask them to listen to the entire CD. You will confuse the heck out of them! Radio promoters push one track at a time.

Pushing only one track will show them you are a true professional. To push a track means to tell the radio personnel which track you are suggesting at this time for airplay. Tell them it's the first release off your new CD. In order to chart you must have a substantial amount of "spins". If you have a lot of tracks that are being played, but no stations are playing similar tracks, your chances of charting for a particular song are very slim. While you really don't have a choice of what is played, you can help it along by constantly suggesting the same track. The life of one song is anywhere from 4 - 6 weeks. At the end of that time, continue to push the first track but also start suggesting the next track you plan to release.

Start building a rapport with the PD's and MD's. Find out their likes, dislikes, and interests. You will get much farther if you are truly interested in who they are and what they do, than if you are only interested
in what they can do for you. If you can get someone to help you with the task of calling radio stations every week (and you must do that once you release your CD), it will make you look more professional, and you will get a much better response, than Joe Smoegh representing Joe Smoegh.

Because every Program and Music Director have different call times and days, time management is essential. To help make your job a little easier, create a database to hold all your contact information and keep track of calls and call times. If you have succeeded in getting a station to add your music, here are some questions you should ask:

  • If they are playing your CD, ask them how your CD is doing at their station.
  • Ask them if they are playing the track you specified in your promotional package, and if they have had any listener response.
  • Ask if they need additional CD's for their DJ booths or for promotional giveaways. If they do, send them right away. This is beneficial for college stations because it will give DJs a chance to preview your music on their own time. As I stated before, college stations are usually "free form", meaning they play whatever the DJ's want. If they are already familiar with your music before they do their show, you will have a better
    chance of being played.
  • Ask if there is anything additional that you can do to assist them.

More often than not, you will only be able to leave a message when you call. If you are able to contact them directly, your conversations will generally be short, as they are extremely busy people. Keep them informed of any newsworthy items. Every time you succeed in getting another station to add your music, go a little further on the chart, or score a major gig, announce it in your faxes or emails, and definitely hype it on the phone during your conversations with them. Build excitement so you keep yourself in the forefront of their minds, and get them more interested in your music. Offer to do interviews and liners. Liners are a small commercial you record for the station. E.g., "Hi! This is Joe Smoegh and you are listening to today's
hottest mix on such and such a radio station." I will say it again, be persistent and pleasant.

If you have not been added, or you are not receiving airplay yet, continue promoting yourself to these stations via email, fax, or when speaking with them personally. Ask them if they do test spins. If they do, ask them if they would try your CD during one of their test spin slots. Additionally, stop by radio stations in your area and make live appearances. Bring some pizza or donuts and soda, and you will bring a smile to their faces. Try to come up with unique ideas to "sell" your CD to them. Additionally, when you release your CD to radio, will affect how much airplay you receive. If everything fails, try to remain upbeat and positive with them. Remember that radio is very political, and as I stated previously, there are only so many time slots available. Most will not pick Joe Smoegh over Whitney Houston. This may be the time, if you are still not getting airplay, to call it quits on that particular station and stop contact. You can keep them informed of your comings and goings via email if you wish. That will save you long distance charges. Good luck!

Tonya Rae has had 3 #1 hits that went straight to the top of the indie charts and an astonishing 8 top 20 hits. She has just been nominated for "New Female Vocalist of the Year 1998" for the "Golden Music Awards" to be held in Nashville, TN on March 14, 1999.

If you would like more information on money saving tips for recording, marketing ideas, phone scripts, industry contacts with email addresses, phone numbers, etc. when available, please check out the new Tonya Rae book written in conjunction with North Shore Records called, "Hidden Secrets To Making And Promoting Your Music Revealed".

Tonya Rae

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