(UPDATED) By Rob Wilcox, Senior Manager of Alt. Radio Promotion at The Syndicate. This article originally appeared on DailyRindBlog.com
So you’re in a band, or perhaps you’re a manager of an up-and-coming artist — or perhaps you run a record label and have a release you want to create additional exposure for. What do you do to create awareness for a piece of art that needs to be heard? Where do you go? How do you bridge the gap between a local fan base and a national audience? As we’ve all learned, cream does not always rise, and it takes more than just a message in a bottle to make sure you’re being received in an ocean of new and/or already established artists.
Studies have shown that radio is still the number one source for new music discovery — and it’s as simple as flipping a switch or clicking a mouse. As a radio publicist, I too can attest to this, and feel that in any field of marketing, knowledge is power in taking full advantage of these tools. Much like a conversation you’d share with the knowledgeable clerk at your local mom and pop record store, radio promotion serves the purpose of cultivating positive dialogue about your music between the promoter and the programmer of a radio station — focused on turning them onto new ideas and sounds across various genres.
If you find that there’s been an organic build in awareness for you or your artist preceding a new release — independent or through a label — or you’re planning to go on tour in support of that release, you should consider radio promotion. This is especially important when your release has national distribution, either physically or digitally, as radio support can help influence immediate sales. In doing so, there are several arenas in which you can enlist a radio publicist to promote your record:College and “Non-Comm” Radio, Specialty Radio, and Commercial Radio.
For decades now, the College Radio format has existed as a source of new music discovery, regardless of genre. College Radio can also be a great launching pad for artists looking to test the waters of their commercial viability. Many artists, especially in the Indie genre, have seen their rise to notoriety through college radio. The Adult Album Alternative (or Triple A) radio format is representative of Indie and Singer/Songwriter “tastemakers” like WXPN in Philadelphia, KCMP in Minneapolis, WFUV in New York City, KCRW in Los Angeles, and KEXP in Seattle — all of whom happen to be Non-Commercial radio stations, either listener supported or university affiliated. Equally well known, the AAA format also includes commercial stations like WRLT in Nashville and WCNR in Charlottesville. These stations tend to play music that skews towards independent and heritage artists, and encompass a wide array of genres.
It’s not uncommon to also see artists from this side of the dial “cross over” into the world of Commercial Alternative Rock radio, where some recent examples includeVampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, and Mumford & Sons. But before these artists were in regular Rock rotation alongside bands like The Foo Fighters or M83, they were getting their first debut spins on commercial alternative New Music Shows — better referred to as the Alternative Specialty format. Alternative Specialty is a radio format designed to act as the testing ground for slightly more “underground” acts who are nudging their way into the mainstream. Well-respected stations like KROQ in Los Angeles, WRFF in Philadelphia, and WEQX in Albany all carry weekly specialty programs designed to feature new music from artists both old and new.
Regardless of the format, a good promoter will be there to help navigate and decide upon the appropriate avenues for your music. Not all music is meant for the radio (and that’s perfectly okay), but if you have a desire to be heard, choose a publicist that shares the same burning desire. The secret code to all of this is that when the right song hits the right ears, it can lead to wonderful results — whether you’re a radio programmer who’s inspired by a promoter to fall in love with a track, or a casual listener looking to purchase “something new” for their music collection.
— Robert Wilcox, The Syndicate