10 things to check when choosing a (digital) radio promotion partner
The internet has come a long way since it's inception. It has changed the way the world works in profound ways and has changed many industries. This can also be seen in every corner of the music industry, from digital music distribution to how musicians promote their music. Radio promotion and getting airplay for your music are no exception to this.
With more and more musicians looking for digital promo for their music and new ways to stand out from the crowd, we find it important to give artists and labels information on how you can spot good and great services, while avoiding the shady and bad ones. Some pointers can be applied to businesses in general, others to the music biz, and other specifically to digital radio promo companies.
There are a lot of radio promo services out there. Since the founding of iPluggers in 2010 we have seen radio promo companies come and go, some are shady, some offer a specific niche service, others offer a broad scale of services. Too often we hear from clients that they used other radio promo companies before and that they were not satisfied with the results and some even feel duped. We want artists and labels to avoid making bad decisions when hiring a radio promoter.
The pointers below are drawn from decades of experience in the music industry (including those before founding iPluggers). We hope you find these tips useful to guide you along your way to success, safely and avoiding the shady businesses out there.
1. Do radio stations want to receive promo from that radio promoter?
A lot of promo companies have collected a list with general email addresses from radio stations and just do an unsolicited email blast to them. This is a big no-go. Radio promotion and certainly digital radio promotion does not work this way.
Do you want to pay a radio promoter to send unsolicited spammy emails on your behalf with your music?
As can be expected, the success percentage for this way of working is low, extremely low.
2. Is the radio promoter doing a targeted approach?
A lot of radio promotion companies just send out a release to their contacts (or unsolicited contacts) without even knowing who they are offering your music to and if they are offering your music to the stations that are playing that genre of music.
They just send a Pop release to a Jazz station because that station was listed in their email list. This is wrong and is a waste of time and resources.
You also have the promo services that cater to everyone: press, bloggers, record labels, influencers. They have 100.000+ of contacts to promote your music to, but how much of these contacts are actually radio stations? An unsolicited generic email blasts with generic content to 'everyone' somehow related to the music industry is ineffective: a targeted approach is king.
3. Do they make a selection of what they promote, or do they take on everything?
A lot of radio promo companies simply promote every release that is offered to them, just to make money.
There is no control on quality or even if a release has a chance of making it onto playlists.
These type of companies are in it for grabbing as much money as they can, without love and dedication for the music they promote. This type of approach is reckless and hurts the results of their radio promo campaigns.
It's important to know for what kind of artists and labels your radio promo company is working. A bad catalog of music will have it's impact on your radio promotion and release. A radio station that continues to receive bad releases from the same radio promoter every time, will stop listening to new releases from that radio promoter.
4. Are they experienced enough?
This is a big one.
Of course, every company, service and career has to start 'somewhere'. But, do you really want to have someone inexperienced promoting your music? Radio promotion is a tough, competitive business not for the faint-of-heart and you need a radio promoter with the experience, knowledge, skill and grit to get your music onto those playlists. If they don't have what it takes, you're better off not wasting your money with them.
So ask yourself: 'do I know what experience this radio promoter has?'. How long have they worked in the music industry? What did they do before becoming a radio promoter?
A lot of industry moguls also have or had their own careers as artist. Did your radio promoter achieve success for his own career or for others?
If you cannot find this info publicly, ask.
5. Have they worked for “heavy” artists and labels?
Has the radio promoter worked for established artists or major labels?
Radio promotion companies that work with major artists and plug for major labels have credibility. Working with a company that works for the majors will benefit your image and promotion.
But, be careful when you check this!
A lot of music industry companies claim they work for the major labels or have done work for major artists. Can you check this claim? What exactly did they do for those artists and labels?
An often used trick to 'fool' potential clients is to plaster pictures of major artists across their website, without any explanation of what they actually did in terms of work. You'll see faces of heavy hitters on their website, giving you the impression that they have worked for these artists. If you see pictures of major artists on a website without caption, explaining what kind of work was done, it is highly recommended to ask the company what they did for the artist.
6. How much are you paying for the radio promo?
There are radio promo companies that ask 2000-5000 EUR for just one unsolicited email blast. The internet is full of review stories for these kind of companies.
Needless to say, paying for those kind of promos is a bad investment.
7. What kind of reports or feedback do they offer you?
Some promotion companies don't even offer reports, they just send out unsolicited emails and then you need to guess if your music has been picked up for airplay.
Always ask what kind of reports they will offer you before you make your decision.
8. What happens with your release once the promo campaign has ended?
Most radio promotion companies run a radio promo campaign and then stop. After your promo campaign has ended, nothing will happen. Your release will no longer be brought to the attention of radio stations.
9. Are the artists and labels they worked for satisfied with their service?
It makes sense that if a radio promoter does a good job in general, that other artists and labels will be satisfied and will recommend them.
However we have found that online reviews can be misleading.
Shady companies looking to boost their reputation publish fake reviews themselves on review sites.
Unfortunately some review sites do not check for fake reviews. Others do but even their filters do not catch everything they should and some review sites seem to have policies in place to leave fake reviews up as long as possible just so they have content on their site.
Some radio promo services even have their staff post great reviews for them. Those reviews definitely are not a legit experience of an artist that has used their service.
If you find a review, whether it's negative or positive, try to see if you can verify the existence of the reviewer and whether or not there's a conflict of interest (does the reviewer work for the company, is the reviewer paid for the positive review, etc).
Once you have some experience checking the legitimacy of reviews, finding the fake ones becomes second nature. This will also help you in other business dealings.
10. Do they promise to make all your wildest dreams come true?
Everybody wants their dreams and ambitions for fame and recognition to come true. A lot of the shadier radio promo companies out there prey on this desire. They promise you the world, mountains of gold and more.
In reality, things aren't that simple. Getting airplay is notoriously hard and a good radio promoter will be realistic about what you can expect. Radio promotion should be seen and used as a logical next step in your career as a musician. It's part of your marketing toolkit and should be used as such.
Promises such as guaranteed chart positions, a guaranteed amount of income from royalties, a guaranteed amount of spins... these are things that are all red flags.
Each radio station has their own playlist editor, music director or music department. How can radio promoters guarantee that every individual editor will pick up your music for airplay, your music will be playlisted on high rotation and that you'll be charting with your music?
Chart positions, a certain amount of income from royalties, guaranteed amount of spins all are impossible to guarantee. When a radio promotion company promises these things, it's time to look elsewhere.
What you can expect from a good radio promoter is that they'll be honest with you in terms of what is realistic to expect for your release and what they can and can't do for you.
And a bonus tip, which will help you in all business dealings:
Inform yourself on who you're doing business with and what you can expect from them. Communicate clearly: tell your potential business partners what you are expecting from them and ask them if they can deliver this for you.
We hope this article has helped you in avoiding bad and shady radio promotion services.
Are there any tips we've missed? Was there a tip that was particularly helpful?
Let us know in the comments below!