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Charting the Course: A Radio Promo Discussion – Adam Lewis of Planetary Group

Welcome to the fourth of our seven-part interview series ‘Charting the Course: A Radio Promo Discussion’.

The purpose of this series is to explore the world of radio promo, with insights from 6 people who work in and outside of the realm of radio promo, but all of whom have dedicated themselves to advising independent musicians.

Yesterday we spoke with Dave Cool, Director of Artist Relations at Bandzoogle.

Today we hear from Adam Lewis, Co-Founder of Planetary Group, an artist development and radio promotions firm based in LA and Boston!

1. Why should an artists try to get their songs on Radio?

I think developing artists should absolutely still go after radio airplay, because college and non-commercial radio is a great place to start. They are the most supportive outlets out there for a new artist to get attention from.

Radio is not as sexy as the blogs - but they still have lot’s of great listeners and the people staffing the stations are the ones you want talking about you or your band. College radio, even in the heyday of alternative, never sold much music - but it was and continues to be a great way to build an audience and to support touring.

2. Which format is best to try to get if you are an independent musician?

I think College and Non-Commercial are the way to go. Really does not make a lot of sense to go after commercial radio. Some online stations are good - but there are so many - that we really limit ourselves to going after the biggest ones and the ones that report to CMJ.

3. Do independent musicians have a shot at getting their songs to break on commercial radio in 2012?

Not really. If you are on a well funded indie, then perhaps you can get some traction.

But if you are self releasing - then commercial radio, even Triple A is pretty much going to be cost prohibitive. There are always exceptions and you could find some spot play or specialty play - but on the whole, really going to spend a lot of money to try and end up with very little. Save the money.

Many commercial campaigns end up getting the indie artists airplay on the overnights or in distant markets. That is a passive crowd listening. Not going to get much out of that. College radio might be in small markets as well - but those listeners and DJ’s are active. Big difference.

4. How do you know if you are radio campaign is successful?

You really need to be realistic with yourself about where you are coming from.

If no one has heard of you, you are starting from zero. At the end of the campaign, you might have 100+ stations playing your CD on some level. To me, that is success. Success is not only charting on the overall charts (say the CMJ Top 200).

Success is looking from where you came and where you end up. Also, are the right stations playing it?

Are you supporting your tour efforts? That is how you should judge. Obviously, the more charting the better and being on the Top 200 is fantastic - but it is not always a given on your first release. That said, we do chart a lot of debut releases. Just need to have a realistic outlook when you start.

5. How do you make a radio campaign last or have a future impact once you begin to slip back down the chart (assuming you already are up the chart)

Take the information you get from the campaign and build with that. Get a relationship going with the stations that played your CD. Do interviews. Let them know when you are playing in town. Send them a steady stream of music.

Lot’s of folks take two years off between releases. That is a lifetime now. Get EP’s out. Even singles. This way there is a steady stream of music coming to the stations, so they never have a chance to forget about you. Don’t over due it - but stay present. We work with a band called The Jezbels from Australia. We worked three EP’s in 2+ years. They didn’t come and tour the States until the release of their 3rd EP (self Released). Because of the frequency of releases, they built up a nice story - so that when they arrived, they actually played for fans at CMJ.

Touring is really one of the best things you can do post radio campaign. You now know where the fans are. Go play in those markets and get the stations involved. They want to be involved. It’s the single best way to build a following. Don’t have to tour everywhere. Build it slow regionally. But tie in the stations that supported you.

Also, there no point doing a campaign and then not doing another one. The first one is all about introducing the band or act. You will see the second one, generally speaking, have a much bigger impact, since folks already know you. Then you are truly building.

As long as you don’t take two years off between releases! Cd’s have an 8 week life of being “new” at college radio. It is pretty natural to peak in the 5th or 6th week. That does not mean that they stop playing you on the station. Just means it is more of a recurrent situation.

6. How can you best leverage social media to work with your radio campaign (or is this not possible?)?

Well, it’s not a bad thing to have a good Social Media presence. If there is a good buzz there, then of course that will translate over to help the ball roll at radio. We will use those tools. That said, college radio is really supportive. If they like a band - they will play it. It really is as simple as that. You don’t have to have social media to get radio play. But of course, in terms of the lager success of your project - you will want to have at least something happening there.

7. What advice would you give an artist who calls you looking to spend money on a radio campaign?

Don’t dismiss radio, just because it is not the newest, sexist thing out there. Still a ton of people listen to radio. The folks at the stations (20-100 staff members) are all music junkies that you want to empower to spread the word on your band. Invest in them.

It’s a great place to slowly build a fan base and start creating tour markets. Every city in America has great stations that want to support you. Stations like KCRW, KEXP, WMBR, WMNF, WSOU, WZBC, WFDU, etc.These are all college stations in great markets, many of whom have international listening audiences online. Be realistic about your music and where it fits properly. There are 500+ stations out there.

That does not mean that you need to send your CD to all of them. You can try to do a radio campaign yourself, but if you do, realize that it will take 100% of your time. You have to call every station, every week. That will prevent you from doing your booking or writing new material. It is often worth it to out source that service - even if you are DIY on everything else, so you can focus on other duties.

You never want to skip collge radio. You spent a lot of time, money and effort into making your CD. Invest in it and make sure people hear it!

Join Us Tomorrow!

Come back tomorrow for part four of ‘Charting The Course: A Radio Promo Discussion’ with David Avery of Powder Finger Promotions.

Reader Comments (1)

I like what Adam had to say about releasing new music on an ongoing basis, and supporting a radio campaign with a tour. It serves to reason that radio airplay can lead to the building of a fan base who you can then entertain in a live setting.

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Wiebe

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