Monday, March 4, 2013

The Truth about Getting Radio Airplay

Two things in the last 2 decades has changed the music and radio industry, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and piracy. How did the Telecommunications Act of 1996 change the radio market? By allowing companies to merge with one another. This is why Clear Channel is everywhere now. Through consolidation, they've expanded rapidly across the nation. Since 1999, they've been slowly acquiring at least one or more radio stations in almost every market. With over 850 radio stations in their network today, it's almost impossible to go anywhere in the United States without coming across a Clear Channel radio station.

When the internet began to become the preferred way to listen to music at home and on personal devices like the iPod, piracy began to change the entire industry as well. It almost collapsed the major record label market. Many labels were bought, sold, and dissolved as a result. Now we have an entirely new industry. Fewer CD's are sold and less money is made selling music on the internet. Artists and labels were forced to find new ways to sell music, and that was through live performances and on radio performance royalties, because traditional mechanical royalties weren't paying the bills.

Labels recoup much of their initial investment from their artists through Radio Royalties. Radio royalties or what is commonly known as performance royalties are tracked and paid out by the performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, and SoundExchange. Artists and labels also make money through satellite radio and internet radio, but the internet radio station must be licensed in order for the artist to get paid any royalties. To find out if an internet radio station is properly licensed, look for the ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, and SoundExchange logos and disclosures. If they do not disclose their licensing information, they are operating illegally.


You can, but it costs a lot of money to do so. Radio campaigns range differently in price depending on the size of the region and how large a network you want to market in. If you want to market to radio stations in the major metropolitan areas, then get ready to cough up in upwards of $250,000 per campaign. If you're doing your own promotion, be prepared to be ignored and get your CD's tossed in the garbage. A station manager or program director gets upwards of 20 to 100 CD's per day. By email, they are unsolicited by hundreds of indie labels and do-it-yourself artists. Guess who's emails and appointments they're going to accept? Not yours unless you're a rep from the "Big 3" (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group) or one of the smaller major labels including Columbia Records, RCA Records, and Epic Records. Priority goes down from there to the next highest labels in the chain.


You want to know the truth? It goes in a big cardboard box in the back of the office or studio usually where the interns sit during six months of the year. You have to look at the industry from the radio station manager/program director's perspective. It's all about the numbers. If you're barely coming out of your parents garage and you have no following and no "virility", then you are less likely to get their attention. Also, do not just slap together a CD cover with you holding your guitar that you snapped with your iPhone and expect it to be opened and certainly don't write on the CD with a Sharpie and think it's going to be played. It won't. Radio industry folks are people and they WILL judge your book by its cover, so make sure you have a professional looking CD jacket in a professionally shrink wrapped case.

In almost ALL radio stations, guess who's opening your CD's and listening to your music? 9 out of 10 times it is an intern from a local college. These interns are individuals that are typically brainwashed by mainstream society and they most likely listen to popular music and they have no patience for bad art. If your design happens to catch their attention, it better sound the way it looks. If your music doesn't sound like the music they're currently listening to, that intern won't bother handing your CD to his or her boss. The intern already has a specific set of instructions as they go through the big box of CDs, "If you don't like it, don't bother giving it to me". That's a scary thought, right? It's true. Don't believe me, ask for yourself.


The best way to find out if your music is ready for the "big time" and will be accepted by a professional representative that will successfully shop your music, is send your music to alternative mainstream radio stations like KGUP 106.5FM "The Emerge Radio Networks" and various other alternative-mainstream radio stations that have a good reputation and play QUALITY independent music. Other reputable alt-mainstream radio stations in Los Angeles include 98.7fm, KCRW 89.9, KROQ 106.7, Indie 103.1,KXLU 88.9FM, and KCLA 99.3FM.


Be proactive. Make sure you are promoting the radio station that is playing your music. Ask your fans to request your songs. If you don't, you may find that your songs aren't even being played anymore. Radio stations often keep your music on rotation based on how well you promote, so make sure you create a designated page on your website and list all the radio stations that play your songs and LISTEN TO THE STATION TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE PLAYING YOUR MUSIC. Do this weekly with all the radio stations you submitted your music to. If you don't hear your song inside of 2 hours, don't complain to the station manager, because he won't listen to you. The only way to get your music back on the air is get your fans to call the station's hotline, emails, or Tweets them to ensure your song is on rotation at all times. The moment you stop promoting, the station managers know this, because they keep a daily log of ALL requests that come in.


Before you pay thousands of dollars to a representative to shop your music to all the major radio stations in the bigger markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nashville, New York, Atlanta, or Miami, get lots of reputable reviews from magazine publications, professional music reviewers, and music bloggers. If you're constantly getting rejections, that is a sign that your music isn't ready and needs to be reworked. If you are rejected, don't act proud and curse out the reviewer for rejecting your music. Instead, ask why it was rejected. You might get some constructive criticism that you might be able to use when you record your next song or album.


Another sure way to get your music heard in a major market radio station is to get your music played on a major film or popular television show. Find a licensed agency that will shop your music for the right film or tv show. However, it's not that simple. You need to think like a Sound Engineer. The Sound Engineer is responsible for taking raw footage of a film, tv show, or commercial and puts music in the background of a scene. Don't just throw your music in all directions hoping it will get picked up somewhere. First, have a meeting with your agent and brain storm the available opportunities and visualize your music in that specific scenario. If you think your music will fit a specific score and the right opportunity comes up, you'll have a better chance at landing a licensing deal. Once your song is placed on a major film or tv show and it's a box office hit or a popular tv show with high viewer ratings, then likely your music video will go viral. If your song goes viral on YouTube, it will not only catch the attention of radio station managers and program directors, but also to major record label executives.


You need a following. Don't just create a website and one profile on MySpace. You will get rejected before anyone presses "play". MySpace is no longer the barometer used to measure your popularity. Other sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are. Sites like Reverbnation will pull data from all your social media sites to measure your relevancy. Sure, 500,000 Likes on Facebook sure looks great and it does look great on your resume, but it's not necessary, because more executives know anyone can buy Followers and Likes. There are plenty of career recording artists that make a decent living by having their music played on the lessor radio markets and it all adds up. Some of these artists have less than 30,000 combined followers and fans (excluding MySpace). You have to assess your own overall profile. Industry professionals like to look at your entire profile and evaluate your activity. They often ask themselves, is this artist proactive? Are their fans interacting with them? Are they frequently performing? Are they involved in charity activities?


The station manager/program director or executive will ask his or herself, "Is the music trendy today?" You cannot have aged music. Your music cannot sound like it should have been released during 1971. Even 2004 is behind the times. NEVER BE BEHIND THE TIMES. It needs to sound like today or tomorrow. Tomorrow is better, but today is acceptable. Sometimes, it takes more than just good music to engage your fans. You need to bond with them. That means you need to make more appearances and you must never stop applying to perform at festivals, appearing on radio shows, getting on network television and become the "artist of the week". All these things develop a unique persona that make fans want to engage with the artist.


To most people in the industry and especially in radio, sound quality is as important as the timeliness and relevancy of your sound. Make sure you are working with a sound engineer that understands what "normal" compression levels are and how frequency is done correctly. But, be careful. Even if you ask the right questions, you might have some "hack" lie straight to your face. If you have any doubt, ask for referrals or don't do business with him. Compressing a song for FM radio is vital and can make or break your career before it even gets off the ground, especially if you just spent $5k or $10k to make this EP all to find out that your engineer screwed up and doesn't know how to fix it.

There is a lot to learn about the industry that most independent artists either never learn, learn the hard way, or the information is never shared, because other people don't want to see you succeed. Now you have an idea what really goes on in an actual radio station and how to get your music played on the "all-mighty" FM radio station you've always dreamed of. Now get to work.



  2. Good Information. It can be so discouraging...we have a band of Teen Rockers who are getting GREAT music reviews, and are winning battles, playing shows...but, try to tell someone to even listen to them on CD, forget it. They see "Teen" and probably toss it aside. See/hear them live, people go nuts. Anyway, TY for the valuable input.
    Dee .... for 21st CENTURY FUGITIVES

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  6. you might as well have saved yourself time and just wrote.."Corporate radio CREATES the people they want, and therefore it wont be you, for there are a million of you. We are only commenting on one genre of music...POP music for teens, so your smooth jazz, country, Brazilian jazz, folk, blues, metal, classical, latin mariachi, indian genre music is unimportant to us, even though its playing on radio, as well as more so on PAY dish radio...we simply wont talk about how to push that, for we ourselves doing the writing are teenage hounds."-the end.

  7. I'm Billy Wilson of the Motown Alumni Association. I give lectures around the country to music seminars, and colleges. You gave these people the best advice I have seen in years. It's not that the industry is hard, it's that it's tedious to get from point basement to point professional. If you don't read and comprehend you will never make it in this business. I just wanted to tell you... very, very good and complete explanation in this one blog... bravo!

    Billy Wilson
    Motown Alumni Association

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