|Commercial Radio Ratings
by Bryan Farrish
Back to The
When working a record to commercial regular-rotation radio, one thing and one thing only will help your career
move forward: Helping the stations get ratings. Stations are not in the music business... they are in the ratings
business... they get paid to have higher ratings. Whether they play a great song or a crappy song, if their ratings
stay the same, then they will make the same money and nothing more. So song quality is not the issue to them. Here's
what is the issue: IMPACTING THEIR LISTENERS. Here's how to do it:
While commercial stations do all they can to build station awareness in their city (using vans, billboards, bus-sides,
benches, t-shirts, etc.), the station that impacts the most people will get the most listeners, and thus will win.
So stations will accept help wherever they can get it. Their preference of which records to play in regular rotation
will greatly be based on which artist is performing in their city, and how many people attend these performances,
because if these people want to hear the artist's music after the show, they HAVE to tune in to the station that
plays it. For a new indie act, ten people at a gig is irrelevant; a hundred is decent for a small market; three
hundred is decent for a medium market; five hundred is jammin' for any market. There are many reasons to do gigs,
but if you are going to do them to impress radio, you need LOTS of people. The notion of small "cozy"
gigs does not fly with radio.
DISTRIBUTION (OR, SALES): Next up on the difficulty ladder is on-the-shelf (not "in-the-system") distribution
in the cities where you are seeking commercial regular rotation. A major peeve of commercial stations is that the
listeners complain when they hear a song that they can't find in the stores. After your product is on the shelf,
the next thing a station will want to know is how many units have moved... and by moved I mean Sound Scanned. This
is a level or two above the mom-and-pop store situation, and is thus more difficult. To impress a typical commercial
station, you would need to be scanning 200 or 300 units per week in THAT station's market. Sales like this means
that listeners are diggin' an artist, and the listeners are just waiting to tune in to the first station that plays
Finally, and probably most difficult for most indie bands, is extensive press IN THE CITIES where the stations
are. Except for trade press, if your press does not impact a station's listeners, then the stations do not care.
However, if you can show the stations that you were covered in the local (regular or alternative) city paper, or
the arts paper, or a regional arts magazine, or (of course) a national music magazine, then you are well on your
way since a lot of a station's listenership will have seen it. Even local cable and TV applies. Trade press, on
the other hand, impacts only stations, labels, management, bookers, retail, and other critical people in the music
chain. Even though it does not hit the public, however, trade press is still extremely important.
A problem arises when brand new under-funded bands try to get commercial regular rotation airplay: They cannot
afford to do all the above things at once. So they have to choose what radio-help to attempt, and the proper choice
(for most situations) should be: Gigs. Gigs are something that the average band can handle; bands can still invite
the press, and bands can still sell CDs there.
If any of this seems un-doable, then it is time to look at non-commercial radio, and commercial specialty/mixshow
radio, since these can be worked without any gigs, retail or press whatsoever.
is an independent radio airplay promoter. He can be reached at 818-905-8038 or at radio-media.com
|Submit An Article for Consideration!
Would you like to submit an article for publication at MusicBizAcademy.com? If you have music-related expertise
you'd like to share with other musicians including career tips, how to's, or general music business-related articles,
please feel free to send them our way. We'll be glad to consider them. Submit your article!