Radio ratings, promotion and CD sales

With unwitting anticipation, you greet the FedEx man as he delivers your long awaited, debut CD. You tear into the package like a ten-year-old on Christmas morning. "Yes, the cover graphics are perfect," you decide. But how does it sound? Into the CD tray it goes. "Yes!" you shout, "just what I hoped for." As you look around the kitchen table at the stacks of neatly sealed discs, you’re very aware that it’s now time to move into the promotion phase. And of course, the best way to reach the ears of prospective listeners is through the magic of radio.If your CDs aren’t in any stores (on the shelf-not to be confused with "in the system"), or if you have only scattered performances outside your area, and very little press (articles written about you), then non-commercial radio should be your strongest push. While distribution, touring, and press are important, they are not high on the list of concerns for these stations.


Commercial Break

Is this to say most commercial stations, especially larger ones in the bigger cities aren’t interested? Not necessarily. Radio stations base their advertising rates upon their audience ratings. The more listeners they have, the more profit they make.If a record label exposes an artist to many potential fans by way of performances, posters, TV, articles, or film, and these fans demand to hear a particular song, the radio station that plays it is going to attract many new listeners, and thus is going to have higher ratings. And that computes into higher ad revenue. But new acts cannot generate dollars for a station, and the station knows it.So how do you know which stations to send your music to? If you have an airplay promoter, you’re one step ahead of the game, but in general, your choice of radio stations should be based upon the following.


Setting Goals

First, consider the direction you want to go in the next year or two. Do you want to simply sell CDs, or is your motivation to generate attention so that you can eventually sign with a larger record company that will sell your CDs for you? If you are, or represent only one act, and if your intentions are to build a buzz to the point where you can "sign" with someone, then non-commercial radio is probably your best bet. Non-commercial radio is very accepting of new acts. Many of these stations report their airplay to this publication as well as other music trade magazines. They will also be more interested in interviewing you, playing station promotional tags recorded by you, and, in general, working with you. This all adds up to a good buzz. However, understand that these stations will not generate as many CD sales as commercial radio.On the other hand, if you are running a small label and you intend to build the number of artists on it with the intent of selling CDs, tickets and other merchandise through it, then commercial radio might be a better choice for you. Only commercial radio can get your song to enough people, enough times, to sell large quantities of CDs. Just keep in mind that commercial radio is also the most expensive avenue to market to.



What is the main music format played by a station? Does it match up with yours? Non-commercial radio is very accepting of Alternative, Metal, Rap, Hip Hop, Jazz, Folk, Blues, New Age, World, Electronic, and Novelty/Comedy. The major labels do not closely scrutinize these stations’ formats and they are not driven as much by the almighty dollar as the commercial stations are.Commercial radio is accepting of Alternative, Modern Rock, Rap, R&B, Smooth Jazz, Top 40, Adult Contemporary, Country, Americana, and Adult Album Alternative (AAA). But in general, it’s almost impossible to get an indie label tune played on a commercial, chart-conscious radio station.



Do you have manufactured CDs or CD-Rs? How many do you have to work with?If the CDs that you have were printed on a computer (commonly referred to as CD-Rs, Write-Once CDs, Burned CDs, or One-Offs), then you must choose non-commercial radio. Commercial radio will completely ignore this format. In order to even get a PD (program director) to consider listening to your CD, it must be professionally manufactured.It’s a good idea to project ahead for the type of marketing you plan to do with your CDs. Do you have enough CDs to service most or all of the stations that fit your style? Rather than just blindly sending out disc after disc, research your potential stations. Send your CDs to individuals, not just general delivery. Even better, call ahead and ask permission to send it, then follow up a week or so later to make sure the appropriate person received your package. This approach will prevent numerous discs form ending up in the trashcan.


Web Presence

Do you have an in-depth Web site with articles, photos, individual bios, mailing lists, and tour info, or just a simple site? Or no site at all? A strong Web presence can be a great asset. To take advantage of the Internet’s power as a major resource for information, you can build a multi-page, interactive Web presence complete with audio and video clips of your best work. It cuts down on the amount of material you have to send out; a PD or promoter can simply go to your site and learn anything they need to know about you. Having an effective Web site is fast becoming an essential weapon in your music promotion arsenal. In the case of college radio, college kids (age 18-24) have the highest percentage of access to the Web, mostly at high speed. Members of this generation will be the promoters and PDs of the near future. The Web is where they go for almost every aspect of their lives.


Previous Promotions and Experience

Have you done this before? What worked for you, and what didn’t? Should you consult with some one who has experience? Maybe you have promoted a previous release to radio. Or maybe you just completed a college tour. If so, make the most of that momentum and experience. Ride the wave. When you’re up, do everything you can to stay there. Careful consideration and planning will prolong the wave and stretch out your ride.


Originally posted 2009-01-17 05:23:48.