Thursday, June 24

Getting Radio Airplay

The details from industry folks who make it happen
By: Nadia Lelutiu
March 2010

To help decipher a path for musicians to the airwaves, I've enlisted the insight of several players in the radio game. Here's how to pursue airplay from the business side and the radio side.

Randy Sadd, president of Protocol Entertainment, which recently won Radio Promoter of the Year at the New Music Weekly Awards, has been the catalyst behind successful radio promotion campaigns for Shawn Mullins, Butch Walker, Rehab and Cowboy Mouth. First, he assesses the quality of production and whether a song makes sense for radio. According to Sadd, it has to pass the one-minute test. "A programmer might only listen to the first minute of a song," he says, "so it has to grab their attention within that short timeframe." Once your songs are well-recorded and you choose your catchiest tune, send a package to radio stations including a CD and a one-sheet.

The packaging for the music is also important. Sadd explains, "CD packaging for an independent artist is definitely crucial, as it is the first impression the radio programmer has for that artist. It always comes down to the music, but we are also in an image-driven industry." And although you might not have a distribution deal for the disc through a label, Sadd contends, "Back in the day it was essential to have a label. But that model has changed. For an indie artist, the landscape allows for a platform to be built, step by step." Airplay could very well lead to a label. BJ Kinard from 99X on 97.9 FM in Atlanta cites a prime example of this phenomenon. "We played the local band, the Constellations, last year ?and they were unsigned," he says. "Because they had a great CD and our support, they got a record deal with Virgin/Capitol Records."

You may not need a label in order to get your music played on the radio, but do you need a radio promoter? Sadd emphasizes that radio promoters have access to two major elements in the music industry, "experience and relationships." He adds, "A reputable promoter will make all the difference and works with songs and artists that they feel have a competitive chance of gaining airplay. Programmers recognize this and a relationship is developed and built over time." Kinard agrees. "I would say that it helps," he says. "I have long-running relationships with lots of people in the music industry. If they bring a record up to me, I'm likely to move it to the top of my listen stack just to make sure that I get to it. Plus, if they are helping on it, they must believe in it, too." However, if college radio is your goal, this may not hold. Maria Sotnikova from WREK 91.1 FM, the student-run Georgia Tech station, says, "Submitting music to WREK via this avenue provides no advantage."

Once the music gets to the stations, the fate of the song lies only in the decision-making of the music director. Music directors have hundreds of submissions to sort through, so what do they look for among the plethora of choices? Both Sotnikova and Kinard agree that the quality of the recording is crucial to placing it in rotation. "One factor that automatically disqualifies a piece of music from rotation is an FCC obscenity," says Sotnikova. "Don't send elaborate press kits and one-sheets. More often than not, these items don't even make their way to the music directors and in the worst-case scenario, autographed press photos end up being posted on the 'wall of shame.' Do, however, get creative with album artwork." Kinard points out, "Make sure you include everything I need about you: the band bio, contact info, etc. It needs to be broadcast quality. You can have the best song in the world, but if the quality is bad, we can't play it. Don't hound a radio station. We'll get to it and if we like it, you will hear from us."


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