The commercial radio industry, at this time in history, couldn't be less friendly to the independent musician. However, that doesn't mean there isn't some significant radio airplay available to you if you know what you're doing. Outlined below is a plan to consider if you have the three important ingredients necessary for working your record to radio.
* The money to fund the campaign
* The time to spend working all the stations consistently
* A product that is ready for national airplay
When it comes to commercial radio, the chances of getting significant national airplay for your independent record are next to none. We live in an era when a small group of powerful media conglomerates own and control the most important radio stations in the land. Unless you are connected to a major label, or are independently wealthy, the costs of promoting your songs nationally to commercial radio have spiraled out of sight.
There are, however, lots of mix shows and specialty shows on commercial stations that may offer limited airplay, and at least will get you some awareness in the markets across the country. There will be a lot of work involved in finding these stations yourself, city by city, and music format by music format. I suggest you subscribe to or get a copy of the annual CMJ Directory.
If you have money to invest in radio promotion it's possible to hire an independent promoter who may be able to open some doors to these shows for you. Be prepared to spend several hundred dollars a week for their services.
A more realistic approach for airplay is to consider the options available on the noncommercial side of the FM dial (88.1 FM to 91.9 FM). With the combination of college radio stations, community stations, and even some of the larger National Public Radio affiliated stations, your chances of getting your record played are much better.
Also, don't forget those thousands of Internet radio stations that stream millions of songs a day. Google the phrase "Internet radio stations list", and you will be amazed how many stations on the web play independent music of every imaginable type. If you own a Blackberry or an iPhone, there are several free apps that will give you access to these web broadcasters.
Here is an outline based on how professional record labels plan for their radio promotions:
You need to prepare:
* A database of commercial, non-commercial and Internet stations that you realistically think may play your music.
* A timeline you'll use to put together your promo material together (basically setting your deadlines).
Remember that your plan may be distributed to any helpers or employees you may have for your own label, and any independent promotion people you may hire. This plan will be their introduction to your or your artist, and is the plan they will base their work on.
Consider all marketing and promotional ideas listed below. Propose what you think would work best in each of the areas to help market the record to radio.
Remember to keep cohesiveness between all areas: Give reasons why your music is appropriate to each station you approach. You will need several practical tools/materials to achieve your goals. (Computers, Smartphones, reliable Internet connection, hardware/software, office supplies, etc.).
Address the following specific topics in your plan:
Background/Goals: Give a brief history of the artist, and describe your goals
Image: Describe/ maintain the artist's image consistently in all promo materials.
Radio: What radio format(s) will be targeted? What markets? Which songs? Any station promotions? (On-air concerts?) Hiring any Independent promoters?
Publicity: Describe your plans to create a "buzz" in the print media. Any press releases to the music industry trades? Update any bios, fact sheets, and electronic press materials.
Sales: Describe Distribution and Retail plans. Any in-store play/ promotions?
Other specific sales opportunities: Mail order, live shows, Internet sales? Any store promotional tie-ins with radio stations?
Video: Is a video cost effective? What airplay opportunities are there for the video?
Touring: Describe the time frame for touring, and other promotional events to coordinate while on the road. Consider specific clubs, halls, fairs, festivals, Any club/venue promotional tie-ins with radio stations.
Social Networking: Mention any Facebook, Twitter or other SN plans.
Miscellaneous: Having a record release party? Novelty items? Any other clever ideas? Explain each idea in-depth!
* Lay out what needs to be accomplished each week to get the record out.
* Consider the: artwork, mastering, credits, sequencing, printing, pressing, booklets,layout/design. And be sure to convert your songs for online downloading!
* Include in the timeline when to start working on your promotional tools.
* Design the timeline with deadlines for each element of your project.
Remember that your radio promotion campaign is part of what I refer to as the 'Four-Fronts of Music Marketing', and your plan must connect to all the other Fronts in order to be successful.
Always have distribution and sales plans, as well as publicity, advertising and touring plans coordinated carefully with your airplay campaign. The worst thing that can happen to any song on the radio is that someone hears the song, but can't find a way to buy it.
Professional record labels always have distribution and sales connections set up before they secure airplay. You should do the same.
Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.
Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.
He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".
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