in the U.S.
by Bryan Farrish
Back to The
No conversation about music marketing would be complete without the word RADIO
rearing its ugly head time and time again. Few songs sell well at retail without
it. None sell millions without it. You've got your CDs manufactured...now what
can YOU do about it?
Radio is one of the MASS MEDIA that record
companies use to promote CDs to a wide-spread audience. It is the only medium
that gets songs to an audience on a REPEATED basis (meaning, a person can hear a
song on a particular station 20 or 50 or 100 times...just compare that to TV,
film, print...or even touring.) So the question stands: How do you get your
songs on the radio? With this and following installments of Airplay 101, we will
look at what radio avenues are realistically available to indie bands and indie
labels, whether or not you use an independent promoter.
Total Number of Available Stations
Radio is broken down into
two main categories: Commercial and Non-Commercial. If your favorite station
promotes itself on billboards and TV, and if its commercials are "in your face",
then it is a commercial station. But if it never seems to have blatant ads for
itself, and if its "commercials" are very "soft sell", then it is a
non-commercial station. The two types of stations are treated very differently
as far as airplay is concerned.
There are approximately 10,000
commercial stations, and 2,500 non-commerical stations, in the United States.
Here is a rough breakdown of the ones that have new-music formats:
|Hot Adult Contemporary
|Modern Adult Contemporary
|Soft Adult Contemporary
|Adult Album Alternative
|Urban Adult Contemporary
|Rhythmic Top 40
|Rock and Modern Rock
|Country (all forms)
|Smooth (contemporary) Jazz
Non-Commercial (consists of college, community, and NPR
|All styles on one station
Stations that are not listed here are either news/talk, oldies, foreign
language (besides Spanish), traffic info, or some other non-new-music format.
Regardless of what you were thinking
were the "charts", you should familiarize yourself with radio-only publications
that "track" airplay (as opposed to tracking retail or ticket sales.) Also, you
need to be careful of the word "chart", because confusion will inevitably occur
if you do not specify what chart you mean: "Charting" in the "trades" or
magazines is what most people mean when they use the word "chart", but it is
constantly mistaken as meaning charting on an individual-station's chart, or
"playlist". The first chart is an average of many stations, while the second
chart is from just one station.
A long-standing entry-level publication
for this purpose is CMJ (College Media Journal). With the variety of genres that
it covers, and with its acceptance of up-and-coming projects, you can get a good
feel for what you are competing against in the radio airplay world. If you are
hiring an airplay promoter, then you do not need to subscribe to CMJ or other
charts, but you do need to know how the charts work. Note: Your music MUST fit
what college stations play, in order for CMJ to be of use to you.
the starting point for non-commercial (mostly college) stations. It comes in two
versions...the consumer's monthly version (found on some newsstands) which is
called the New Music Monthly, and the professional weekly version (available by
subscription only) called the New Music Weekly. The professional version is the
one that is of interest here.
With its seven different weekly-airplay
charts, the weekly version covers the seven basic areas of music heard on
college radio. They are Alternative (called the TOP 200 chart,) Metal (called
the LOUD ROCK chart,) Electronic (the RPM chart,) New Age/World (NEW WORLD
chart,) Hip Hop, Latin Alternative, Jazz, and Singer-Songwriter (AAA chart).
Forget Billboard...For an indie act with a limited budget, its airplay
charts are impossible, since they incorporate sales. Other charts such as
R&R and FMQB are possible, however.
is an independent radio airplay promoter. He can be reached at 818-905-8038 or at radio-media.com