Music Business

Radio Airplay: Still Worth It? [Brian Hazard]

Music-promotion-radio-airplayHere musician Brian Hazard walks us through his experience using Jango/Radio Airplay to promote his music, allowing us to see how effective this sort of paid promotion is, and whether it's actually worth the time and money invested.


Guest Post by Brian Hazard on Passive Promotion

Radio Airplay

Jango is a free internet radio platform similar to Pandora. Feed it an artist name and it generates a playlist of related songs. Radio Airplay injects songs from emerging artists into those playlists.

I started using Radio Airplay a.k.a. Jango Airplay when it launched in March of 2009. Over the past seven years, my songs have racked up 340,246 plays at a cost of about two cents per play. Some of that money came out of my own pocket, but most of it was generated by affiliate links in my four articles on Jango. The last one dates back to November of 2011, so we’re long overdue for an update!

Rather than directing you back to years-old articles, I’ve written this post as a standalone review. If you believe that paying for airplay is in all cases payola and therefore evil, start with Is Jango Payola? Otherwise there’s no need to refer back to my earlier posts.

How much does Radio Airplay cost?

Subscribing to any monthly package makes you eligible for up to 1000 additional free plays per week, for each of your songs that get at least 100 plays.

Radio Airplay Packages

The $30 per month for 1000 plays package is a no-brainer for me. The $10 package doesn’t provide enough credits to consistently earn free plays, and $100 is too big a leap for my budget.

The number of free plays you receive is based on your song’s weekly PopScore, which is determined by how listeners interact with it (likes/dislikes, etc). Most weeks I earned 100 free plays, bringing me up to 1400 or 1500 plays per month.

Radio Airplay NeuCoin Tip

You can also earn plays through an artist tipping feature integrated with NeuCoin, a virtual currency. Jango Radio listeners start with 25 NeuCoin for tipping emerging artists, and earn more by listening daily. Each tip puts 5 NeuCoin in your account. You can exchage 1000 NeuCoin for 500 plays. I’ve accumulated 180 NeuCoin since the feature went live early this year, so I won’t be cashing out any time soon.

How does Radio Airplay work?

When your song comes up in the playlist, your “promo unit” appears on the listener’s screen. They can ignore it, close it, vote on the song, or perform other actions depending on the configuration you select.

Lars Promo Unit
If they give your song a thumbs up, they “become a fan” and can opt to share their email address and/or leave a comment.

Radio Airplay Share

You can see recent listens, plays, and fans on your dashboard. Listeners can limit the ads they hear to one per day by connecting their Facebook account. When they do, a link to their Facebook profile appears on our dashboard. You can even click through and send them a friend request. It’s true – Jango listeners are real people!

Radio Airplay Fans

You can also message fans through Radio Airplay’s internal messaging system, individually or all at once. Don’t waste your time though. A typical message to my 14K fans nets only 3-4 thoughtful replies. Open rates aren’t provided, but clearly the vast majority of listeners don’t see their messages.

Targeting and Reporting

How your songs perform, which determines your PopScore, is largely based on who you target. You can create unique sets of targets for each song. Maybe one does well with fans of Death Cab for Cutie while another resonates with fans of Radiohead. This is referred to as Song-Level Artist Targeting, and it’s well worth taking the time to get right.

Fortunately Radio Airplay provides a wonderful tool for optimizing your artist targeting: the Fan Overlap Report, which shows you what artists your fans like, on a per-song basis.

Fan Overlap Report

Just click on a suggested target to add them to your targeting.

I’d love to see a toggle switch to optimize targets dynamically based on recent song performance. Maybe you’d start by picking three artists you sound like, and let the algorithm work from there. Seems like it would be doable!

There are two categories of targeting: Standard and Premium.

Standard targeting includes Artist Targeting and basic Geographic Targeting (plays are focused on the areas you select). It costs one credit per play.

Premium targeting adds Demographic Targeting (by age and gender), and strict Geographic Targeting (plays are limited to only the areas you select). It costs two credits per play.

Geographic and Demographic reports can help to refine your premium targeting. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth paying double for. Most of my plays are in the US, which is good enough for me.

My Radio Airplay results

I recycled affiliate income into plays for a couple years after my previous article, then took a two and a half year break, dividing my results neatly into then and now.

Radio Airplay results

As you can see, the percentage of new fans, comments, and shared email addresses dropped by roughly half. My guess is that active listeners moved on to subscription services like Spotify, leaving a higher percentage of passive “lean-back” listeners.

Ultimately though, do those metrics even matter? The way I see it, the value of the service is in the plays.

Is your music getting played? Yes. To real people? Yes. Are they actually listening? Who knows!

The value of a Jango email subscriber

My emphasis on plays is a break from the past, where I previously measured the success of my campaigns by the number of email addresses collected. Why the change of heart?

Of the 1291 email addresses shared with me over the past 7 years, only 396 remain on my list. To be fair, I recently purged my list of inactive emails, after sending out two warnings to confirm or be removed.

To gauge the level of engagement of the remaining 396, I sent out an email, and followed up with a reminder email, asking them to complete a three-question survey. Only 9 responded, and their answers aren’t promising:

Jango Email Survey

You might conclude that Jango plays don’t lead to sales, but you’d be wrong! Plenty of Jango listeners have purchased my music over the years, as I’ve found out about through social media, website surveys, and fan email.

Clearly that reality isn’t reflected in my current Jango email subscriber base, which is why I no longer measure my success by email shares. Now it’s all about the plays.

Is Radio Airplay worth it?

I guess it’s time to answer the question: Yes, it’s worth it.

At the very least, a few thousand plays will get you an accurate Fan Overlap Report. Knowing what artists your fans listen to is useful in any promotional context.

Beyond that, it depends what your goals are, and what else you’re doing to promote your music. You’re certainly not going to make your money back in sales, so Radio Airplay can’t function as the sole piece of the puzzle.

For me, it’s hard to justify the expense when I’m getting thousands of free plays every month, plus demographic reporting and a growing array of artist tools, on Pandora (submit your music here).

If you’re focused on SoundCloud, you might be better off with (my review here). The reporting isn’t as robust, but the plays perform double-duty by boosting your SoundCloud play count.

I doubt there’s much if any overlap between audiences, so why not try both? One listener pool may prove to be more receptive than the other.

You can get 100 free spins on Radio Airplay and support the site using my affiliate link.

Radio Airplay Free Plays

Have you tried Radio Airplay? Share your thoughts and results in the comments below.

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  1. IM pretty sickened by this review. RA is notoriously bad for musicians. They don’t tell you who actually plays your song, what they count as a play is just an auto play, it doesnt tell you if people skip, which 98% of people do.
    It’s a bad model, bad for musicians, and only works for people like yourselves making affiliate money.
    Musicians: stay away

  2. Were you so sickened you didn’t bother reading it?
    Of course it tells you who played your song. It’s right there on the dashboard. You can see a screenshot of it in the middle of the article.
    As for skips, it doesn’t count as a play if they skip within the first 30 seconds – I think? I can’t remember, and I don’t feel like looking it up, but I’ve written about it before.
    Your 98% figure was obviously pulled out of thin air, and is clearly wrong. People aren’t sitting at their computers waiting to skip tracks. They’re doing something else and listening to Jango in the background.
    As for my affiliate money, the vast majority (the entirety for at least 5 years) was recycled back into plays. Nice try though.

  3. I am trying it again but what is the point if it does not lead to listeners actually making a purchase. You made the point that an artist can spend the money on promotion, get exposure, acquire a fan base yet because the music is free, why bother paying for it? What does it take to get fans to actually pay for your music? I also don’t understand why RA shows that I have a number of fans but they don’t respond to my emails. Why are they not getting the email message?

  4. Thanks for this great overview of Radio Airplay/Jango. I thought the greatest value in Radio Airplay was in the insights I picked up about my music through the Fan Overlap function where I found some surprising affinities. Conversely, like you, I found the internal messaging system to be useless. I do wish the system gave artists better insights into who may be giving “thumbs down” ratings. I would not want to know their identity but if would be very helpful to know if I earning negative ratings by targeting fans of the wrong artist.

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