By, Wendy Day (www.SlavesNoMore.com music industry how-to site coming soon…) Before you read this article, please make sure you’ve already read this primer: http://bit.ly/100VB2r about the basics of securing radio spins.

Radio is still the most misunderstood aspect of this industry. I see people lose tens of thousands of dollars constantly in this industry because they either trust the wrong radio promoters or they don’t know what they are doing. I can’t teach you whom to trust, but I can tell you how I successfully pursue radio for my artists.

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I am NOT a radio promoter, I am a consultant. I help people start labels and make money with their music, so one of the many things I do is hire and interact with radio promoters. I have relationships with 10 or 12 different top independent radio promotion people all across the country. I trust them. They have all delivered results for my clients in the recent past. But just because they do a great job for me doesn’t mean they will do a great job for you. [I protect my connections at radio, so if I don’t know you well, I won’t share an introduction with you. Don’t even ask!]

There are MANY variables with radio: time of year, how crowded the radio market is, money, your song, sound, subject matter, money, tempo, features, who’s behind it, the artist, work ethic, money, how established the artist is, how likable the artist is, how likable and knowledgable you are, money, relationships, power, experience, catchiness, money, frequency of your releases, your money, their money, competing labels’ money, etc.

I’m going to assume you’ve done these things before you start spending money at radio:

1. You’ve gotten your single hot on the streets and in the clubs in your region (not just your city, but in the cities that are within a 5 hour driving radius of where you or your artist live) because you’ve already read http://bit.ly/ZvYfJu and maybe even had the chance to read http://bit.ly/YXtwUN as well.

2. You have a radio ready song that’s not only marketable for radio and fits the format, but is mixed and mastered to compete with everything already at radio such as Kanye, Jay Z, 2Chainz, Rihanna, Ke$ha, Lil Wayne, etc. There’s no cursing, the song is around 3 and a half minutes in length, and the subject matter is palatable (even clean versions of songs like “I Wanna F#ck Your B#tch” are harder to work than songs about love and respect, for example, especially for new artists who are scrutinized more harshly).

3. If you have a feature from an established artist on the single, you’ve already gotten the necessary clearances, in writing, from both the artist AND the label to whom he or she is signed giving you “single rights.” If an outside producer (someone not signed to your company) produced the beat, you have a contract with that producer saying you can use his production.

4. You have a good reason for wanting radio play–to sell single downloads, to increase awareness and build show opportunities, etc. By the way, just wanting to hear yourself on the radio, or because you want to be famous are really bad reasons to spend $15k to $100k on radio spins. If you only have one song to work, and no plan, you are wasting everyone’s time and your money.

5. You have registered every version of your single with both MediaBase and BDS. If you don’t know how, your radio promoter can help you do this. You’ve established your ASCAP and/or BMI, and SoundExchange registrations. If you don’t know how to do this, add “.com” to the end of each company and do the research online (such as BMI.com).

Once you’ve accomplished the basics, it’s time to decide which markets are best to break for your artists. The majority of artists that I consult are southern in their sound, so I usually focus on radio in the south initially and then spread into the Midwest. I choose which radio promoter to use based on my target markets.

Each radio promoter has key relationships, and what you are buying IS his or her relationships with program directors in key markets. You also need relationships with multiple radio promoters because when one is overwhelmed with a lot of records to work, you don’t want to hire him or her to work your record. It could easily get lost.

I always focus on a workable area so we can back up our records with contests, give-always, performances, etc–for example, I don’t really want the single spinning simultaneously at radio in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, and Baltimore. They are too spread out for a small label or an indie artist to affordably work them. I prefer to stick to regions: Southeast, or Mid-south, or Midwest. I back up the radio spins by continuing to promote on the streets (promotional tours work wonders) in each area where we get radio play.

I don’t initially go after major markets like Houston, Dallas, Chicago, or Atlanta. I secure the surrounding smaller markets and then build into the larger cities once we have a story to tell about the single–once it has legs. I do NOT have people call in to request the song because I believe real reaction is superior over fake results. I do, however, print thousands of flyers with radio request line phone numbers for each market to inspire fans to request our song. I also use targeted social media to encourage my artist’s fans to support our single.

With rap music, there are 3 radio formats we can target depending on the sound of the song (and subject matter): Urban, Rhythmic, and Top 40 (Pop). Urban is the easiest to get added, Rhythmic a bit more challenging (and more costly), and Pop is the hardest (and most expensive). Think of them as 3 steps, provided your song fits at all three formats; you can start at Urban, grow into Rhythmic stations, and then expand into Pop. Again, IF the sound of your song warrants that–most do not.

I’ve never seen a record climb backwards, meaning I would never go after Pop radio and then try to secure Rhythmic or Urban. Urban, Rhythmic, then Pop. If your song is more mainstream, I’d bypass Urban and go right to Rhythmic and then Pop. In charting single sales, Urban spins rarely turn into single download sales, while Rhythmic and Pop almost always directly correlate to single sales. Urban spins do help build a rapper’s initial popularity at securing shows or being able to increase his or her show price.

Each radio format has a limited number of slots for songs. These slots are filled by hit records and the most well known artists. Remember, the goal of the station is to keep people from changing the station to the competition and most listeners want to hear songs they know so they can sing along. Each week there are usually only one or two slots available yet the Program Directors receive many songs vying for those slots. It’s very competitive at radio and the best songs don’t necessarily survive.

Once you’ve got an idea of your territory and chosen the radio promoter, it’s time to start getting the spins. The radio promoter will give you an add date at radio (always a Tuesday). This date will be chosen based on the timing of what else is dropping in the marketplace, so your record doesn’t get passed over for the superstar records (a risk that is always there) or lost in a sea of other priorities. The reality is that if it’s a choice between your record or a major label record, the radio program director will most likely support the major label because there is a strong relationship there. Major labels have been supporting radio for many years before your one little record, and will for many years after your one little record. Having said that, a hit record has value to everyone and gets attention.

Program Directors (PDs) are the decision makers at radio stations that choose what gets played on the radio. Music Directors (MDs) are the people directly under the PDs who usually suggest music and often meet with artists and labels. They are rarely the decision makers but run interference for the PDs.

Payola is illegal. There is not one radio station in this country that will take money from you to play your record. There is not one radio station that will even make a move that could be interpreted as payola (like accepting a gift, or swapping a performance for increased spins, etc). But you will pay the radio promoter. You police the success of your record via BDS or MediaBase reports that track the amount and time of your spins daily and/or weekly.

If you hire a radio promoter to get you spins on twenty stations, he or she will. Whether those stations benefit you is another story, but you got what you asked for–spins on 20 stations. It’s human nature to go where there’s the least resistance, so those 20 stations might be the easiest ones to deliver, as opposed to the best stations for your project. It’s YOUR project, so it’s your job to know which stations are beneficial and which stations are not. You must know what your needs and goals are and work with the promoters to deliver what you need and what you can best afford. Radio is an expensive game. You also need to work within the realistic confines of what the radio promoter can deliver. It’s not like you make a list and say “I want these stations at this time everyday.” Those would be advertisements.

Radio is a wonderful medium to reach large amounts of people, mostly women, with your music. You focus on one single at a time and the life of a single at radio is 12 to 16 weeks. Make sure your timing is right and make sure you can back up that single with street promotions, Internet promotions, a promo tour, etc while the song still has life in it.

I work my records slowly–meaning I spend slowly at radio. I never give a radio promoter $75,000 and say ‘go get me the south.’ I test my records, usually spending around $10,000 initially to see if my record has legs. This tests a few good markets and I can see if the record stays only in the overnight slots or if it moves into better day parts. I want to see if it’s “reacting.” I can see if the Program Director embraces the record (it increases in spins naturally every week) or not. My plan is that if I’m going to lose money on a single at radio (which is unlikely because it has a strong street and club buzz, so I already know fans like it), I’m going to lose as little as possible.

Much of what I want to teach you, I can’t because it’s based on feeling. You learn to feel records and you can tell when they are reacting or not. You light the spark and then hope it catches fire. Sometimes emotion and our own love of a record can cloud our judgment of whether or not we have a strong single. I’ve seen many people chase a record and spend $50,000 or $75,000 only to learn that the single did not react at radio. I’d rather learn this after $10,000 or $20,000 is spent. The ONLY folks who determine if a song is a hit record are the fans–the listeners. You don’t know, I don’t know, your consultants don’t know, the radio station doesn’t know. Only the fans can determine if it reacts or not by whether they embrace it or not. You can’t really force a hit…I’ve tried.

Lastly, radio is a great way to reach a large amount of people at once, as long as people continue to listen to the radio. Your BDS or MediaBase reports tell you how many thousands or millions of people are potentially hearing your record. If your goal is to get a deal from just radio spins, you haven’t done enough research on how to get a record deal. If you think you can spend $20,000 to get 500 spins a week at urban radio, you haven’t done enough research on how radio works. If you don’t have a goal for your radio play, you’re wasting your time and money, and taking away the few open slots at radio for those of us who have a goal and a plan! Get out of the way.

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If you’re an artist  waiting to be “discovered” or hoping to be given a record deal based on your perceived talent or the “uniqueness” of your sound, it’s time to educate yourself on the basics of the music business. The belief that major labels are LOOKING to sign new artists because of their talent is very far from the truth, and the sooner a person who desires to be an entertainer learns this, the better.

The process of getting “on” doesn’t require a co-sign or “hook-up” from an established artist or record label executive. You get on by building relationships with people who like your music, support it by buying it, and actually listen to it – these people are called FANS. When you get enough fans talking about you and your music, you’ve created a buzz. how to succeed

If you’re able to create a buzz around your music you’ll first attract the scammers, douchebags and con-men. These bottom feeders are the people who want to “sign” you to a “development” deal, or in other words, they want to pay for your studio time in exchange for owning half (or more) of what you create. If you’ve educated yourself on how the business of music works you’ll be very wary of these types of offers. Today’s artists have NO EXCUSE for getting shafted.

All aspiring artists coming up in this “internet age” have heard of or read about the ways that artists have gotten used, abused, and swindled in the past. From the earliest days of recorded music all the way up to the latest headlines, the music industry has been a place where you lose everything if you don’t know the business. Too many of our favorite rappers who were once superstars are living day to day or paycheck to paycheck because they made the hit music while someone untrustworthy handled the business. You’ve seen it happen enough to KNOW that you need to learn how the business works in order to protect yourself.

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Now, more than ever, whether you’re a musician, singer, rapper, producer or other kind of recording artist, you can earn a living doing what you love. Don’t let the desire to be “popular” override the necessity of getting paid. If you’re doing music for fun or “for the love” then these words aren’t for you. I’m speaking to those people who aspire to be professionals in the music industry, the people who expect to be properly compensated for their hard work and talent. Believe me, if you’re making music only “for the love”, there is no shortage of people in this industry who will make sure that you get ALL the “love” (i.e. attention) you desire…..as they walk away with the money.

Tony Guidry is Senior Marketing Manager for A ScratchyThroatA Scratchy Throat – the brainchild of industry mainstay Wendy Day – provides professional social media marketing specifically designed for today’s aspiring artists.

Building A Buzz

February 25, 2013

by Wendy Day (wendyday.com)

In the early 1980s, when rap started, there were few rappers and producers, so they had no difficulty standing out. Today, it seems everyone wants to be a rapper or a producer. I sometimes think we have more rappers than fans…

As more people want to get into the rap music business, it gets cheaper and easier to do so. The price of production equipment, recording equipment, and microphones has dropped substantially, making rapping and producing open to more people. And it has become easier than ever to get music to the masses by uploading finished songs to the internet to share them with the world on free social media pages (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc), music sharing pages (SoundCloud, BandCamp, ReverbNation, etc) or inexpensive websites. Marketing has become cheaper and easier as one can sit at home and use the internet to market, promote, and drive traffic to one’s website or Tumblr page. Because of this, it seems that everyone wants to be a rapper.

Distributing music is easier than ever. Today, an artist is rare if his or her music is NOT for sale at iTunes or available for streaming at Pandora or Spotify. The playing field has been leveled. Any artists smart enough to market and promote their music, and who have some money (budget) to invest into themselves can build a career in music–or at least feed themselves with their music. Hopefully.

The days of needing a record label are over. So why do so many people still want to be signed to a record label?

Regardless, there are less labels, less money in the industry, less people buying CDs, and less positions for artists to get signed to record labels. So if you really want to be an artist, and have your heart set on being part of the traditional music business, you will need to STAND OUT!

You stand apart from all of the others by building a buzz.

As I travel around the country, I meet tens of thousands of people who say they want a career as a rapper (and even more who say they want to be a producer) yet very few stand out. Handing a demo CD to anyone is a waste of time, energy, and has never been very effective at catching someone’s attention. What I do see, are the artists who stand out because they are putting in the work and building a buzz.

Grinding. An artist’s grind is far more important than their talent. Talent is easy to find—people who will work hard are less easy to find. You may think you are the most talented rapper around, but the truth is that talented rappers and producers are a dime a dozen. There are more than 300 million people in the United States.

Not only are you competing with other artists from your area, but you are competing with artists from all over the country. The odds of winning a lottery are probably greater. So how will you stand out?

The best way to do so is to choose an area that’s workable. I suggest taking a map and drawing a circle around your city that extends about a 5 hour driving time away from where you are based. That will become your territory—your marketing area. Your first step is to own the city or town that you are from, and then expand out slowly in that territory (the 5 hour circle around your home).

After you’ve made your songs, you will choose the best one to focus on as a single. It’s best to ask for feedback from strangers (malls, gas stations, and high schools are good places to get feedback) as to which song is your best one. Strangers will be far more honest than people who know you, plus they are your potential fans. To build a buzz in your own area, you will work that single locally. That means you will attend all of the legitimate open mics and showcases, perform as much as you can (if a major artist comes to town, you should be the opening act and you accomplish this by building relationships with the key clubs and promoters in your area), hang posters, distribute flyers—basically get your image and song in front of as many people as possible. Make sure all of the local DJs know who you are (club DJs, mixtape DJs, and even eventually the radio DJs). All of the employees at the local record stores and nightclubs should also know who you are.

It’s important to promote your song in as many places as potential consumers who’d buy your music will be. So, marketing yourself to retirement homes and nursery schools would not make sense, but college campuses, high schools, and ‘hood malls make perfect sense. Anyplace where large amounts of your potential fans gather is ideal. As your song and name catch on in your own area, you can begin to expand your buzz within that 5 hour circle. You can also begin to attend the regional conventions and record pools. You should already have some sort of buzz before traveling, unless you are attending to learn more about the business (there are many free websites these days where you can go to learn how the music industry works, however).

On the record label side (I’m talking about the real record labels—the ones that have a track record of success in putting out rap records, not Lil Rey Rey from down the block who printed up business cards saying he has a record label), the people who sign artists to their rosters are called “A and Rs.” Their job is to help the artists who are already signed to the label make their records, and to find new talent. Since there are tens of thousands of rappers and producers, it’s hard to catch their attention if you do not stand out. Almost all of the major labels prefer the A&Rs to find the artists making noise in their own areas: getting radio spins, building viral followings, and selling music on their own.

Last year, I attended 12 music industry conventions/gatherings/record pools. I received over 1,000 demo CDs, and I can’t even sign anyone to a record deal. Additionally, I receive over 100 emails, tweets, Facebook posts and links to music each week. So someone that CAN sign an artist, how many CDs and MP3s do you imagine they get in a week? The ONLY way you are going to stand out is if you put in the work and effort to build a buzz for yourself. Instead of going to them, you want them to come to you.

The chance of you sending a CD to a record label and getting their interest is so slim that the odds of you getting struck by lightning or winning a lottery are greater. Even someone very connected in the music business (like me) can’t help you if you don’t stand out among all of the other rappers and producers out there. Great music is no longer enough. You have to have a strong buzz, and you have to be willing to work harder than everyone else—not just in your own area, but in your own region. Without a buzz, you may as well just go get a job and make music to be happy as a hobby. By the way, there is nothing wrong with doing it for the love!!

Meanwhile, how will YOU stand out?