“The key to this business is personal relationships.” Jerry Maguire’s mentor Dicky Fox said it best. Mind you, he was referring to sports agents, and is also fictional…but he still nailed it. And the it in this case is record promo.
In real estate (incidentally, an oft chosen 2nd career choice for those in Music Industry Recovery), it’s “Location, location, location.” Let’s think “relationship, relationships, relationships.” And the key to most is empathy, right? One must consider the other person’s perspective in any relationship in life or else you end up alienating the very people you’re charged with winning over. While it’s not rocket surgery per se, there are some gentle reminders that may be helpful as one begins to navigate the swampy waters of promoting records to radio. (And yes, even if they are digital and are rarely represented in physical, they will forever remain “records.”)
Rule 1: Enlist Play MPE for your promotional distribution needs. (Well, duh.)
Rule 2: tied with Dicky Fox’s, above: This generally goes without saying, but… treat others as you’d like to be treated. Sure, it’s a vaguely sacrilegious rephrase of the main rule from the guy upstairs, and he certainly didn’t intend it as the “Golden Records Rule” …but it’s still key. Because it applies to everyone, in every scenario– including the gatekeepers. And by gatekeepers, we’re talking Caitlin who covers phones… Caitlin who stands between your getting on the phone with the MD during music calls and you’re getting on the phone with voicemail during music calls. (Keep in mind, Caitlin has also been known to move from transferring those calls to answering them down the road).
Rule 3: Think like a programmer. This means knowing your target audience and your programmer’s. From the promo person’s perspective, the audience is the programmer. Get in his shoes. Consider the mathematical equations facing the station each week. The number of “slots” available. Know that in many cases, for your record to be added to rotation, another must be dropped. Mind you, this is not to say you should ever badmouth the competition. Programmers can be sensitive souls, and it’s just uncouth to throw stones. Considering the numbers allows for realistic expectations. Consider too how your record will mesh with others on the playlist at a particular time. A station might be particularly ballad heavy at a given time, or have 30% unknown artists in their medium rotation, for example. That said- always remember the gift of the specialty show: Let there be spins! If you’re working a “baby band” –this is an affectionate term– you may wish to start by asking to reach the specialty host or AMD.
Rule 4: The KISS method: Keep it simple stupid. Programming radio is one of those “fun” jobs. And with such jobs can come a great deal of pressure from hovering or even absentee landlord style managers who have high expectations, largely because they think programmers listen to records all day and get wined and dined. Realistically, those high expectations can amount to short time availed for music calls. So, the easier you can make it for the programmer, the better. This can be as simple as trying to stay within call times, but over time as you build your relationships, that rigidity should fade like the last few seconds of a Steve Perry single. Bullet point your record’s growing story quickly– and never bury the lead. If you have ‘em, include call letters in your Play MPE sends. Include touring info, press highlights, social media stats. Keep in mind, though, the weight of each bullet tends to vary from station to station. (And now we’re back to “know your audience.”) Sure, it’s good info to know stations X and Y are on board with Johann Ripplesnipple’s first single, but you might be on the phone with a station that prides itself on charting its own course, (pardon the mixed metaphor), concerned most about in-market listener habits and in-market airplay.
Rule 5: Mediabase is your friend. Know your charts. Let your fingers do the walking and make sure you know who and what’s getting played where. This circle back to the “think like a programmer” rule. Be mindful of all as you make the pitch. Plus, to hear each of those chart toppers, you can click on the handy dandy Play MPE music logos.
The tip of the iceberg for sure, these 1-5 jumping off points as you dive into your quest for airplay. Tune in, as they say for more.