Independent Radio Promoter
The process of selecting songs for a radio station’s program rotation is neither arbitrary nor organic. Behind the scenes, independent radio promoters are pulling the strings, swaying the decisions of program directors.
The independent radio promoter is responsible for generating airplay for a particular song or album on behalf of his or her client. Contracted by a recording artist or label, the promoter must work with the client to determine the target audience and market area most appropriate to the artist’s music, then negotiate with the program directors at the radio stations to plug the song in the regular rotation. To accomplish this task, the promoter compiles publicity materials to share with the station, such as CDs, photos of the band, bios, a DVD, and other information typically found in a press kit. The promoter may also bring along swag like T-shirts, stickers, and other merchandise bearing the band’s name. Of course, program directors are not so easily persuaded. The promoter must convince the station that the artist’s music is compatible with the station’s format but more importantly, that the product is a quality one that will draw listeners—translating into increased ad dollars.
Over time, independent radio promoters establish strong professional relationships with certain stations. The promoters play on those relationships to continue to generate results for new clients. When a promoter has successfully plugged several new artists with a particular program director, and that artist has brought in an audience, the promoter gains trust from the station to play songs from future finds. A large part of the sales pitch—that’s exactly what radio promoting is—takes place at a bar over drinks or at a nice restaurant with a very expensive meal. Independent radio promoters often take program directors and disc jockeys out for social occasions in order to develop a stronger relationship with radio personnel. Schmoozing is a necessary part of the entertainment business. In the music industry, like most others, people prefer to do business with friends.
Skills & Education
A college degree in music business or broadcasting coupled with courses in marketing and advertising is encouraged for a career as an independent radio promoter. This individual must be familiar with the inner workings of radio stations and record labels, as well as understand how to properly place a client’s product in the markets that will generate the greatest return on investment. To properly serve a diverse roster of artists, a promoter must be knowledgeable about numerous genres of music and stay on top of the Billboard charts and sales trends within the industry. Promoters are strategists and negotiators; each client will require a customized approach, and every deal will demand a unique pitch.
What to Expect
An independent radio promoter may work as a freelancer on contract to several clients, or as a full-time employee of an independent radio promotions company—commonly referred to as “indies.” Larger record labels also staff radio promoters that server a similar function in representing a specific roster of artists signed to that label. Those interested in pursuing this career may seek out entry-level positions at an indie or record label, or they may apply for available jobs with a résumé that reflects several years of employment in the music business. A reputable promoter is one who carefully screens a client to determine the artists overall marketing strategy, and considers how that plan can benefit from radio exposure. Not every artist is adequately positioned to capitalize on airplay, and it is the promoter’s responsibility to reject an unqualified client.
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