Why Promote to Them?
by Bryan Farrish
Back to The
We now focus on the "Non-Comm's": Why, and how, they should be chosen for
airplay by you and your promoter.
Non-commercial stations are comprised of three groups: College, community,
and "NPR" stations. The "NPR" and "community" stations are mostly the same ones,
and are owned by community non-profit organizations. The community stations that
are contracted to carry the NPR (National Public Radio) programs are the ones
that are often called "NPR" stations. Community and NPR stations, in general,
have few paid staff (perhaps just the manager and program director.) The
majority of the "labor" comes from community volunteers who love a particular
type of music or talk-subject; they program their own shows (and for music
shows, they choose their own music,) in cooperation with the management.
However, some of the more strict music-format community and NPR stations
(such as Jazz, Classical or Religious) have a single Music Director that
oversees all the music that is selected. In general, the people at these
stations are more mature, and they prefer softer music, compared to the people
at college radio stations.
College radio is by far the biggest non-commercial group, with about 1,000
stations in the U.S. and Canada. A college station is part of a college's
Communication or Media department, and is almost always comprised of hundreds of
separate one-hour music shows, each one being done by a different student taking
a broadcasting class at the college. In general, college radio likes the harder,
louder music. Indeed, Alternative music comprises 75% of all the music at these
The biggest advantage of college radio is that it is the easiest and fastest
way to get airplay, and with it, the comments, favorite tracks, interviews, and
reports in CMJ and other magazines, all of which become great tools to market
your band with. The biggest disadvantage... actually the two biggest
disadvantages... of college radio is that college stations are very difficult for
promoters to reach (by phone, when promoting to them,) and they have a limited
listenership (since they are non-commercial, and have no promotion budget.) So
to "work" college radio properly, you have to work a lot of them at the same
time (hundreds) in order to get enough results.
Overall, airplay on non-commercial stations should be used as a developmental
tool for artists or bands. It is possible to sell CDs using non-commercial radio
(as it is with commercial radio), provided you have a full-time salesperson to
call the stores. But since most new acts and labels don't have such a full-time
salesperson to call stores, non-commercial radio is best used for other
With non-commercial radio, you are looking to generate a tool that can be
used to obtain gigs, get articles, get CD placement in stores (maybe with store
performances), find out which single the stations like, practice doing station
interviews or I.D.'s or visits, and of course, learn how the "charts" work,
either at the individual station level, or at the trade-publication level...all
stuff which is of interest to bigger labels, management, bookers, lawyers,
publishers, and TV-film people.
The toughest part about working your CD to college radio is that there are so
many kids running in and out of the station, and there are so many stations
which need to be worked, that is becomes very difficult for the promoter to
reach the stations. For a new act on a new label, stations need to be reached
every week, by phone along with some email, so that they can be told what's up
with your CD, and so you can ask them what's going on with your CD (the latter
task is called "tracking".) If you are trying to "chart" your CD in CMJ, you
will need to service and contact AT LEAST 300 stations EACH week if your genre
is not Alternative, and at least 500 stations EACH WEEK if your genre IS
Alternative. This has to be done for a MINIMUM of several weeks in order for you
to have a real chance of charting. Note: Leaving a message counts as a contact.
is an independent radio airplay promoter. He can be reached at 818-905-8038 or at radio-media.com