Is radio right for you?


Does being played on the radio make good sense for your music business?

 In today’s market, even if you hire a radio promoter your chances of getting repeated airplay with out a major label financing is very difficult and very expensive.


Radio airplay is basically divided up into Commercial, College, Satellite & Streaming formats.
Commercial radio- Play lists for commercial radio are dictated by the radio station’s corporate headquarters, Clear Channel  is the largest with 850 stations, and 237 million listeners followed by Cumulus, Citadel, Entercom, & Salem Communications. The songs you hear are selected based upon which record companies are paying these corporations top “dollar”.

College Radio- C.M.J. "College Music Journal" is  a music events and publishing company that hosts a annual festival in New York, it also publishes a weekly magazine for the music industry and college radio stations in the United States.  Roughly 75% of the music played is within the  alternative genre. Each week about 1000 colleges are eligible to submit their play lists to CMJ for consideration in to the top 200 listing,  of which 350-600 actually submit lists,  over 2,000 artists are competing weekly to chart  in the top 200 and do not.

I’ve put together a check-list to help you decide if  investing in radio  is a logical career decision for you.

1)    Do your fans listen to the radio?  Or do they primarily download music, or listen to streaming stations like Pandora, MOG or Last.FM ? You need to be able to answer this very important question, and put your music where your fans are listening it. If you don’t know, then the first thing you need to do is clearly understand how your fans consume music. If your fans aren’t listening to radio or the style music you are playing isn’t being broadcast on the airwaves it doesn’t make sense to pursue radio airplay.

2)    Do you have the budget for ongoing campaign? Let’s assume your fans are big consumers of commercial, college, or even satellite radio.  A 3-12 week campaign at one station can easily run $1,500-$6,000. If you are touring with a 50 station promo you very quickly have a $75,000- $300,000 in just radio ad costs.  Additionally, to support your radio campaign your budget will need to include a print and online media promotion to support airplay.

3)     Is your music currently available for retail distribution?  Do you have name recognition within the broadcast network?  You need to have retail ready product to support your promotional efforts, as well as have  buzz within the station network. Station managers, consider these factors when determining where in the play list you’ll be, The most sought after morning or afternoon drive time, or the Midnight- wee hours listening time.

4)    D.I.Y. campaign or hiring a promoter- Running your own campaign requires a tremendous amount of time. Researching where your music should be directed, developing and nurturing those relationships. Do you have a team of people dedicated full time to doing this work? If not, then you need to hire a reputable promoter- Estimate between $400-$800 per week for a 8-12 week campaign. Adding $3,200- $9,600 out of your promotional budget.  When interviewing promoters you need to find out what successes they have they had promoting other indie artists? Get references, and check them, does the promoter work hard? are they affordable? And importantly do they love your music?

5)    Are you the performer or the songwriter? Currently songwriters, not performers are paid royalties for music played on the radio. This is has been a issue of ongoing  debate in congress. This is worth noting, simply because if you are investing a minimum of $100,000 into your music business, you want to measure the return on your investment.  There is no guarantee that you will earn this in music sales, if you are the songwriter, only mid- top level songwriters are seeing modest returns in royalty payments.

After going through this check list, you may quickly realize before you even get to budget considerations, that you need to do the important work of simply  identifying your audience.Then, you can create your targets and start thinking about whether persuing radio markets makes sense for you,  or if your time and money are better focused in other areas.

 Stop and listen to feedback from your audience, most artists so are busy trying to get people to hear them, and spend no time actually listening to feedback from the people who are essential to your success. After your performances when you are working the merch. table people give you feedback, whether you want to hear it or not.  This is valuable information because when your listening you start discovering patterns and themes essential  to your business. This will help you learn if your selling the right merchandizing items. Should you press CD’s Downloads, or Vinyl? Do your fan’s like  T-shirts, hats, or hoodies? Most importantly you’ll discover how to spend your precious few dollars in the right places.


Need help creating a music marketing plan or simply have questions on managing your music business strategy?

Tamra Engle is a independent music business strategist based in the S.F. bay area she is available for private consultations to help you develop your independent music business, You can read more about her at www.tamraengle.com  you can email her at guitartam@gmail.com
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