By Lisa Popeil
1) Why is radio promotion such an important part of a recording artist’s marketing strategy?
The obvious goal of radio promotion is to get your music heard. When people hear your music, it’s called a ‘listen’. So if ten people hear your song, that’s ten listens. But there are other ways one can use radio promotion besides getting listens. For instance, if you’ve decided to be your own label and are trying to find fans or to attract bigger offers, then the purpose of reaching out using radio is to show that your music should be taken seriously.
2) How is radio promotion useful for unsigned singer/songwriters and bands?
Radio promotion is useful for artists who want to keep control of marketing. Getting on the radio is great when you want people to hear the whole song and hear it repeatedly. It’s also the hardest and most expensive form of marketing because you’re asking the most of the audience. They’re not just listening to one second of the song. If the artist wants their music heard by a large number of people, create a buzz, get people to shows and get them to buy the material, they’re going to need radio.
3) Are there specific marketing routes which work best?
Actually, there are at least a hundred ways to go. The route depends on such things as: the desire of the artist to make money, how willing they are to spend money on marketing, and how much they want to do everything themselves.
4) Do you offer your services as a consultant to create the best marketing plan?
Yes, I do that and it’s usually $100 per hour. I would give all the information with no expectation that we’ll be hired for a campaign. Often, I need to be quite critical, pointing out what the artist may be doing wrong.
5) What’s a typical challenge artists encounter with self-promotion?
Musicians want to play music. Rarely are they interested in reading the kind of detailed, often boring material, that anyone starting a business should be reading. Radio promotion means contacting the decision-makers and getting them to hear a particular song or album and giving them reasons whey they want to play this song on that radio station for their listeners.
6) Could you outline exactly how radio promotion is done?
The basics of how it works is: this there’s a radio station somewhere in the US with people listening to it right now. We employ a team of employees who call, email and mail to try and convince the radio stations to play your song.
Radio stations want BIG songs, meaning songs by famous artists with a track record. It’s the history and rapport we’ve developed with the decision-makers which helps us get the smaller artists heard.
7) Does listener feedback determine how often a song is played?
Not at the beginning, no. The marketing budget determines how often the song is played.
8) Which is better for breaking a new artist, an EP or an LP?
You almost don’t have a choice. If you choose to promote on college radio, you’re not choosing it for listens, since they have almost no listeners, but if you’re choosing it for all the great reasons to go after college radio, you’re probably going to have to go with a full album, though there is a use for an EP too. If you’re going to go with commercial radio, you’re going to have to go with a single. In college radio, they want the album because they want to tell YOU what they like. The benefit of a 3-5 song EP is that you can stagger your promotion.
9) What’s the use of college radio promotion if nobody’s listening?
There are a lot of benefits. Number one, for a low cost, you can get referrals to stores, get valuable feedback on what they think your best songs are, get referred to local press, and most importantly, get referrals to local gigs. In fact, college radio staff may be the same people booking those local gigs.
Plus if you want to “chart”, that now is at a relatively low cost. Charting is another way to get to the people you may want to get to…it’s gives you cred.
And to do that for a few thousand dollars is a pretty good deal.
10) How important is it to be touring at the same time as promoting a song on commercial radio?
The answer totally depends on what level of act you are. If you’ve got your day job and perform here and there for little to no money looking to get more or bigger gigs, the referrals from radio to bigger gigs is very valuable. It’s not important to coordinate performing with radio play in this scenario.
On the other hand, if you’re doing shows in 500-seat venues and being paid $5000-$10,000 a night but that’s not enough – you’re looking to be paid $15,000-$35,000 per night, then there’s no question that you’ve got to get regular commercial radio rotation in the markets where you want to play. You start with radio first, and promote as hard as possible. That’s in the $50,000 cost range for a radio campaign, but once that’s in place, you book the markets where the record is playing. You lead with radio, you follow with the shows.
11) Is radio still a real force in the music business?
More people are listening to the radio now than any other time in history and that includes when the Beatles were around, Elvis, the Stones. That’s due partly to population increase and improvements in programming. Don’t be fooled into buying fake YouTube views…it’s not real listens and real sales. Major labels can spend $1 million dollars on radio promotion for one song by a #1 artist. That shows how important radio is in the music business.
12) What other promotional services do you offer?
About 5 years ago, we added booking promotion. So instead of calling radio stations, we call venues. Though we can do any kind of custom promotion, such as TV and film song placement, we’re very active with booking now. That means anything from coffeehouses to bars, restaurants, clubs, jazz places. We get the venue to want to book the artist.
13) Let’s talk money. What kind of money does a radio campaign cost?
Our campaigns start at $2500 and go up from there. Once we bring on our major label field staff going after serious regular rotation, the number of people involved goes up and the cost goes up. We use real people who are not minimum wage employees and you’re basically hiring them for 8 weeks to work your campaign.
14) Do you have any suggestions on what an artist with zero budget can do for themselves?
Absolutely! The articles I’ve written on radio promotion and booking are available for free on my website. There’s an awful lot you can do on your own if you take the time to learn how to do it and then to actually do it.
I’d suggest reading up on the topic for at least a year then plan on working 10- 20 hours a week to make the calls, send the emails and do the mailings. You can’t do this for one song though.
If you do this on your own, you stick with it for decades and you don’t quit.
Bryan Farrish Promotion • www.radio-media.com • (310) 998-8305
LIsa Popeil – LA Voice Coach • Voiceworks® • www.popeil.com • (818) 906-7229