Most radio stations only put a handful of new releases on the air each week, so slots in the rotation are limited; this translates to intense competition between promotion departments at different labels for their slice of the pie. It takes a certain vigor and unwillingness to accept defeat to survive in the music business as a promotion associate.
First and foremost, the function of the promotion associate is to secure radio airplay for new singles and to get the artist’s latest music video on MTV and VH1. Service to Internet radio, satellite radio, new-music blogs, and other new formats may fall to the promotion department or to a dedicated new media department. Promotion staffers may specialize by genre (pop, hip-hop, rock & roll) and typically are assigned to cover a particular region.
The first step in the process is for the promotions associate to identify the appropriate station formats and locations to release the record; the promotion manager supervises this determination. Local record sales and statistical analysis of regional demographics must be taken into account before a promotion strategy can be implemented. Next the associate will set up meetings with station managers, music directors, and disc jockeys to play the record in the hopes that the decision-makers will like the song enough to put it in rotation. The promotion associate will bring along several copies to pass around, press materials about the band, and label swag to grease the wheels of the schmoozing process. Charming the crowd is a major part of the job; a promotion associate will often take station heads out to lunch or for drinks in order to socialize and develop a positive relationship.
After initial contact is made with a radio station or television network, the promotion assistant must regularly follow up with phone calls, send out mailers with new promo materials, and maintain the relationship for future releases. Additionally, he or she will assist the promotion manager in the creation and deployment of merchandising, advertising, and publicity campaigns.
Skills & Education
Many promotion associates start as interns or in other entry-level positions such as administrative or mailroom assistant. There are no standard degree requirements, but education in marketing, advertising, and public relations is helpful. A music business degree or prior experience in the music industry is also a good start to pursuing a career in this field. You must have a strong understanding of statistical analysis and demographics and have a passion for music. Most importantly, you must be personable, communicate effectively, and be relentless in the support of your brand.
What to Expect
Promotion associates work around the clock and are always wining and dining someone. Get a mobile plan with unlimited minutes and data—you’ll need it. This job is about making a career out of making friends; you’ll need an encyclopedic memory of names and faces in the industry. Professional networking is paramount to a successful promotion associate. An ambitious person who has proven to be effective in this role can seek advancement to promotion manager. At larger record labels, a great track record in the promo department can cross over into similar roles in marketing, advertising, or publicity.
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