Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to approach radio stations

For Indies trying to keep costs down, they discover they must do most of the footwork themselves. This can include handling their own promotions and bookings. One of the best promotional tools can be getting actual radio airplay. This can be an overwhelming task, one that I myself is trying to learn.

Through a fascinating forum discussion, I met a gentleman who, through handling his wife’s singing career has got the process of approaching radio stations down to a science.

With his permission, I am able to share this with you here:

Getting your music heard

First, when building a database of contacts part of the research is in defining your "targets". Our radio station database is broken down first by format, then by market, and we can also filter it for Arbitron ratings and other criteria. Our media database is similar and even includes notes about reporter's/reviewer's preferences. As for performing related databases we have one of promoters, one for touring related services, and another for concert venues which includes theatre seating capacity, links to technical plans, and even sound and lighting plats. The point is we spent well over a year building these databases so when we send out promos and press kits they are going to exactly the right people. We're not sending out any of those $6 kits to magazines that don't cover our format. Wastes their time and our money.
One of the two recording/performing artists I manage released an album three years ago, before he came to me, and the promoter he hired to do his radio promotion sent out 297 promo/media kits to radio stations on a list they bought. He got almost no airplay or exposure. When I saw the list they used I knew why. Out of the 297 stations they mailed them to only 21 were legitimate for his kind of music. A large number went to automated network affiliates where no local programming is done, others went to stations in the wrong formats, and still others went to stations that have centralized programming offices and they never got sent up the pipeline to the right PD's. Let's see, 276 x $5 each...... That's why you do the research!

The second thing I wanted to touch on is the "unsolicited" part. Nothing leaves here "unsolicited". Every radio station, every reporter and writer, and every theatre manager is contacted, almost always by phone, and "introduced" to what will be heading their way. In other words we are opening the door, alerting them to keep an eye out above the others for ours, and we are starting to establish a relationship with them.
When a promo kit leaves our offices a followup flag goes in the database and two weeks later the followup calls start. We keep calling until we make sure they have received the album and that it is in front of them. If they haven't listened to it yet we politely ask when they think they can get to it and then another follow flag goes back in the database. We keep calling until they have listened. From there if its a radio station we find out when they expect to add it it to their rotation and then through our radio monitoring service we can track them to make sure they do it and we can keep an eye on their rotation levels. If its a media contact we can then discuss arranging interviews, provide additional material that might be needed, and get projected air or publishing dates and do whatever is necessary to assist them. With promoters and theatre managers we can start any negotiation process that might be needed.

This is what managers, promoters and agents do. I understand individual indie artists probably don't have a clue about any of this, and I'm not saying they should, but this is what goes on in the background when you're making a run at a market, be it local or global. Had I not lived on the phone calling PD's at stations all over the country back in May and June of last year I can guarantee you HOTEL LAFAYETTEwould never have topped the national A/S airplay charts as it did last August. It's not that it didn't deserve to be there, but being an unknown independent how much attention do you think many of those PD's would have paid to it when they're getting new albums from big stars and big labels every day? It would have gotten shoved into a pile of "someday I may listen" CD's. I had one PD even thank me for alerting him to the album for that very reason. That's how its done!

One more bit of advice primarily aimed at the beginning artist just starting to break into this crazy business. It is not enough to just know who to send material to, and even the diligent follow ups are still not enough. If you are trying to break into this business and get noticed above all of the others there is one more critical ingredient; you damn well better have the product to back up all of this work. I'm sorry for the language, but that's how important it is.

I know every single aspiring musician thinks he/she is the greatest. I know every one thinks he/she/they SHOULD be heard. I know they all believe their song or album is the best ever. That's cool and that kind of passion is what makes artists produce new music. The reality though is not everyone else is going to share that opinion. Before you send anything out do your own sort of "focus grouping". Don't rely on friends' flattery, you know what that's worth. Go seek out people and experts that will give you a serious and perhaps painful critique. Listen and adjust as needed. As an up and coming artist your material is your calling card and introduction to the media and promoters, not to mention the fans. Throwing something together that isn't of the highest quality possible at best won't get you noticed, and at worst could permanently damage your image and reputation.

When you do an album don't cut corners on the technical stuff; the mixing and mastering. Don't use cheap synthesizers to add instruments that will sound cheap. Don't think that one or two takes in the studio will be sufficient. And Don't burn your music on a cheap CDR and stick it in a box with just a business card!

Do it right and give everyone what you are rightfully bragging about!

Adrian Brigham -

Thank you Adrian, for sharing your knowledge and experience with all!

I encourage all to visit  and read my review on Hotel LaFayette with Denise Brigham gives a five star performance

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