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Charting the Course: A Radio Promo Discussion – David Avery of Powderfinger Promotions

Welcome back to the fifth 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.

On Friday we spoke with Adam Lewis, Co-Founder of Planetary Group.

Today we hear from David Avery, President of Powderfinger Promotions, an indie radio promoter and publicity firm!

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

Studies show that the number one place teenagers are listening to music now is YouTube.

However, studies also show that teens (along with people of all ages) are not discovering new music on YouTube. They mostly go there to listen to music that they already know about. The #1 place that music consumers of ALL ages discover new music is…radio.

In other words, if you’re trying to get attention from listeners for your new single, ep, or album for the first time, there is no better place than radio. Radio has certainly changed a lot in the past few years. What hasn’t changed is that it’s still one of the few places where an artist can find a local mass audience that’s interested in new music.

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

The formats that are supported by college and community radio, and the few independent commercial stations that are out there, along with select internet stations and satellite channels. So, rock, indie rock, jazz, jambands, electronica, folk, funk, bluegrass, metal, experimental, hip hop, singer/songwriter rock, and americana music. But you need to know who to get your music to at the stations and how to follow up with them.

Sending music to the general music office with no followup is a waste of time and resources. And btw, you still get much more airplay overall at these stations with a cd, preferably an ep or lp. singles rarely get you anywhere with these stations. Satellite radio can also be open to music from new artists, depending on the particular channel. Internet radio is booming, of course, but we don’t put a ton of effort into internet radio simply because nearly every terrestrial station (which has an antenna planted on earth) streams their signal now, and they are the most listened to stations on the internet.

There are exceptions, of course, and we do work with internet radio, but we’re selective about which ones we send new music to because there seem to be a million of them and most have 2 listeners.

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

It partly depends on what kind of music you perform, and how deep your pockets are. Commercial radio promotion can be quite expensive, depending on circumstances and format. For someone in an independent rock band, you’d have to approach one station at a time, and they’re only going to notice you if you’re building a following from their target audience that’s so significant that they have to pay attention. Even then, if a commercial rock station adds your record you may end up with most of your spins at 3am.

Other formats like Top 40 and Hot AC can actually be more open to independent artists if you fit their format. If I were thinking of spending money at a commercial station I’d probably save it for when my band was playing in their market and then put it into advertising for the show, which can sometimes also include an interview. If you’re paying for an on-air spot that talks about your gig and features your music, at least you can ensure that people will hear about it, and at a decent time.

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

Expectations can be very tricky, and not necessarily realistic. So, if you’re looking into hiring a radio promoter it’s a good idea to talk to them about what they think are realistic goals and expectations. For non-commercial radio,

I usually say that a 20-40% response rate is good, but that can vary a lot depending on circumstances and unknown factors like who else may have a new release coming out that sounds similar to yours. That sort of thing is nearly impossible to predict. A first release may or may not chart because you are new to these people, so you have to be prepared to capitalize on the airplay you receive anyway you can.

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)?

Actually, most artists who come to us looking for promotion these days are far more interested in capitalizing on airplay over charting. Charting is cool for bragging rights and can help give you a leg up on local competition, but for a working band, they want to be able to followup with gigs and interviews.

You want the campaign to continue for as long as it seems like you’re still making overall gains, whether that means charting or picking up new stations on a weekly basis. The more things that are going on at about the same time the better. So, things like touring, album reviews, etc. and help draw out the life of a new release at radio.

Right now I’m working with an artist who decided to break up his 12 song album into two separate 6-song eps for radio. We’re currently promoting the first ep now and we’ll promote the second ep in the spring. So, instead of the promotion for his 12 tracks lasting 8-12 weeks as an album, it’s going to last about 16-20 weeks as two eps. Of course, it’s also nearly twice as expensive to promote it this way, but you can get more mileage out of your release that way.

If it were me, I’d probably wait until I had an album’s worth of songs to send the stations because that’s ultimately what they want.

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

We use social media to enhance our efforts and the artist should do the same. For instance, we have a solid facebook and twitter following of our own, so we often tweet and post about reviews, events, new videos, charting, touring, etc. and the artist should be doing the same with their own social media resources.

Your fans want to get excited about what’s happening with your music, but if you don’t tell them they may never know about it. Our lists are a combination of music fans and media, so social media can help serve as a reminder about an artist and give them a higher profile online.

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

Only hire us or any promoter if they have experience promoting your kind of music, and have a clear understanding about what to do with it.

For instance, there’s no sense in sending your music out to 450 college radio stations if it doesn’t seem like a good fit for those contacts.

What you want your promoter to do is listen carefully to your music and come up with a plan—where does the music fit? Does this promoter have good relationships with those stations? What other acts have they promoted to these same stations? I would also ask how many other releases they’re promoting to the same group of stations because yours will not be the only one. On the one hand, it’s good if your promoter has a big release at the same radio format because they can use that to help get attention for your music, but you also don’t want to be forgotten or overshadowed because they’re working too many similar releases to the same format.

After you’ve done your homework and spoken to the promoter(s) that you’re considering hiring, and feel like you probably want to hire them, that’s a good time to ask for references before making a final decision. I’m always willing to give a potential client 2 or 3 references that someone can contact, but you also need to be careful in contacting those references—if you ask people too many questions they might not respond simply because of time. But asking something like “did you have a good experience with this promoter?” will usually get you the response you need.

After that, you need to make your decision and go for it!

Join Us Tomorrow!

Come back tomorrow for part six of ‘Charting The Course: A Radio Promo Discussion’ with Michael Addicott of Pandora.

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