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It's All About Marketing and Perceived Value

Aug 17, 2007
Promoting your CD to radio takes a lot of organization and time management skills. Let me help organize your process. First you need to find radio stations that are willing to accept submissions from independent artists.

You have to decide whether you are going to local and regional stations (which are a good recommendation if you don't have a lot of money to work with and you aren't worried about charting.), or if you are going after national stations, which is only a good idea if you are already established locally and are seeking national exposure and a chance to chart.

As with all submissions, 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 log 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. You should bookmark these sites in your Internet browser. You will find yourself going back to these sites often.

The major advantage the internet offers is the ability to download information into a spreadsheet or word processing document to make labels and save data for your follow-up files.

However, if you decide looking for information on the internet takes too much time, an alternative is to purchase books that already have all the information for radio stations listed in them.

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 are more likely to air something new and exciting.

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 Music Directors.

Rock, Jazz, and Alternative Music tend to be the main stay for college stations. Country acts will have a more difficult time on college stations and there are many that have Folk Music programs. For Country acts you'll have a better opportunity at stations that play Country Music specifically and/or those that play Americana.

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 independent artists.

If they tell you they occasionally give an independent artist an opportunity, and you have the extra resources, go ahead and submit your CD to them. You never know, they may play it. But if you hear: 'No. We only play major-label releases, or artists that are in the top 50 of the Billboard charts, but why don't you go ahead and send it along anyway.'

Think long and hard about it before sending your CD. You're better off to be patient, record the comment on your spreadsheet and wait until you chart before contacting that station again.

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. It would be like sending an unsolicited press kit to a management firm that doesn't accept them. It's a waste of time, energy and press kits.

If you are only looking for exposure, then by all means send it to every radio station you get permission from as long as your budget allows. However, try to stay in one local/regional area so it's saturated with your music. It will give you a much better chance at lining up a distributor as well as selling more CD's.

It is easier to get added to a play list on stations that don't report, than do. The competition is not as fierce. Remember: air time is an important commodity to a radio station. 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. You have to decide which route you want to take.

Once you have found the radio stations you plan 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 you've gathered is still the same. 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.

You'll need a 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. It's not professional. Radio promoters push one track at a time.

Pushing only one track will show them you know what you are doing and are respectful of their time. 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". Here's another major reason to push only one spin: 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.

Most Program Directors (PD's) and Music Directors (MD's) 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 approximately two weeks, then call and confirm that your CD has arrived safely.

If the CD has not arrived, wait one 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. Wait another week and then follow up again.

The life of one song is anywhere from 4 - 6 weeks. You can't just assume that at the end of 6 weeks the radio station is going to automatically play another track from your CD. It's up to you to suggest it. At the end of your first 4 weeks of air 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.

Because Program and Music Directors 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 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, always ask them if it is a convenient time for them to talk to you. If it is, keep your conversations short, as they are extremely busy people. If it is not a good time for them to talk, ask them when you can call them back and then do.

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, send out a press release by 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. Keep them interested in your music. Offer to do interviews and liners. Liners are a small commercial you record for the station. For example: '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 doing your follow up phone calls. Ask them if they do test spins. If they do, ask them if they would try your CD during one of their next test spin slots. Additionally, stop by radio stations in your area and make live appearances.

Bring something special, perhaps pizza or donuts and soda. You will bring a smile to their faces and create a personal association. 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. Radio is very political.

Remember there is only so much air time and only so many time slots available. Most will not pick Joe Smoegh over Britney Spears. After repeated efforts have failed and you're still not getting any air time, it may be time to call it quits on that particular station and stop contacting them with your weekly phone calls. You should still continue to keep them informed of your comings and goings via email.
About the Author
Jaci Rae is a #1 Best Selling author of The Indie Guide to Music, Marketing and Money and Winning Points with the Woman in Your Life One Touchdown at a Time. Book Jaci for your next show: and hit contact button for her publicist.
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