Radio promotion is a dark and mysterious region of the musical landscape. Radio promoter Bryan Farrish has created a checklist on how to go about selecting a promoter to push your music. Scroll down to read these helpful tips and find out what you should be looking for, and who you should avoid.
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by Bryan Farrish, Bryan Farrish Radio Promotion
© 2013 All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission
If you are hiring a radio promoter to push your music to radio, here are a few things you can consider which will help you have the greatest chance of success (and when I say promoter, I mean an airplay promoter, not a club or booking promoter). The big concern with this process is, if you choose the wrong person(s) to promote your artist and end up with bad results, you can't just go back and do it over again. That's it for that CD (at those stations). That CD is now "an old project" at those stations, and you can't go back to them until you have a new release.
Part One: Overview
Using a friend: Non-experienced friends sometimes offer to promote artists to radio for free, or "a few dollars". This is fine as long as you use them for the right tasks, like helping with the mailing. If you are working college radio, in the 20-30 station range, then they could make some calls too. If they try to call commercial radio, they will probably stumble after just a couple of weeks. And forget about any capacity of doing reports or trade charts.
Moonlighter: Staff promoters at major labels sometimes offer to "help you out on the side" for a fee. On their days off, or on the weekend, they say they will "make some calls for you". What happens is that their company finds out and disallows it, or the person gets tied up on their days off, and can't do it. Either way, it is a conflict of interest for them.
Publicity: Public relations people sometimes offer to work an artist to radio for airplay. But don't, however, confuse PR with airplay. A real radio promotion campaign has nothing to do with publicity. They are two separate techniques, with different contacts, lead times, terminology, call frequency, and so on. A person who is good at one is usually terrible at the other. This is why they are always separate departments at labels.
Station People: Radio station employees are sometimes recruited to work an artist, and will tell you that "they know what stations want." This sounds convincing, but in reality, taking the calls (which they do/did at the station), and making the calls, are very different. Until radio station people are trained (at a label or indie), they make poor promoters.
Big clients: The most-often used sales technique of radio promoters is to tell you they have worked "some big artist", and that this would benefit you. Ask them what they mean by "worked". Were they solely responsible for charting that artist? Probably not, more than likely, the promoter was probably just partnered with a record label or another promoter, or worse, was just an assistant or sidekick. Again, they will NOT tell you they were not the only promoter. You will have to ask the artist or the artist's management directly.
Part Two: What to look for in a Radio Promoter
Making contact: Some Indies are always there when you call, others are never there. The ones who never answer that is usually a bad sign. If you thought it was difficult reaching them before you hire them, just wait until after they get your money. Also be wary, if they say they give clients (and potential clients) a different phone number to call than the one they give the stations. It is more likely you will never get that person on the phone when you do need them.
Reports: Reports are a requirement that well-organized promoters provide to you. Without a report, there is no other way you are going to be able to understand what is going on with your airplay each week... much less someone else such as stores, papers, clubs etc.
Office: If the radio promoter does not have an office (even a small one), then you will be competing with things like their sleep, TV, neighbors, dinner etc.
Assistants: If a promoter handles more than one genre of music at the same time, or if the promoter does college radio at all, then assistants are mandatory. The phone calls have to be made, and no one person can call more than 150 stations a week, do reports, faxes, emails and talk to you when you call!
College Radio: College should be considered for every campaign, even if you are doing high-level commercial radio. College radio is relatively inexpensive, and will allow you to create some good looking charts and reports to show retail, press and clubs.
Faxes: Serious radio promoters use faxes. Faxing is simply the fastest way to get a one-page synopsis of info to the stations... with pictures if needed. They are not cheap, but a good promoter should still include these faxes.
Emails: While you may get excited about email, remember that since email is free, stations get them from every artist on the planet. And all the emails look the same. So, in order to build a solid project, you must use faxes and phone calls, because most artists can't afford them (and that is why you will stand out.)
References: Any radio promoter worth consideration will have a list of past clients. What you are looking for, is a promoter with projects that are on your (independent) level. A list of "big" clients, doesn't necessarily better, since a promoter used to having massive help from major label staff promoters, national tours, retail promotions, advertising etc., will not have these with your project. You need a promoter who is set up to work with indie projects like yours.
Do your Homework: The "major label" promoter was actually not the promoter that worked the major projects in the first place. They were probably just assistants in the office, or were mail people, or more often than not, they were just outright lying. It happens all the time. Ask the artist directly to find out.
Bryan Farrish is an independent radio promoter. He can be reached at 818-905-8038 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact: and other articles found @ www.radio-media.com.