As someone who spent more than a decade working in radio, I often confuse folks in my seminars and my mentoring program when I tell them not to spend a whole lot of time worrying about getting played on the radio.
That’s because a little over a decade ago, radio shifted from being about breaking music for eager audiences to collecting the largest audiences possible to serve up to advertisers. I’m not knocking advertising, but the radio business has, for the most part, become like that third-grade soccer match where eighteen kids are all huddled around the ball while both nets are empty.
Audiences, despite what they say they like, don’t listen to stations that play a lot of unfamiliar music. Two songs back to back can kill what ratings researchers call “the quarter hour.” So we have radio that — despite the creativity of folks still working in the business — struggles to reach a lowest common denominator. I was in Subway the other day, and the station on the sound system proclaimed, “we’re the only station everyone in your office can agree on.” Yes, we all agree. Your station sucks.
We got confirmation of just where radio stations place their loyalty, when KZLA in Los Angeles flipped from country — where they owned the format and dominated a niche audience — to Hot AC, where they’re gonna join the rugby scrum. Val Maki of Emmis Broadcating, the station’s owner, confirmed what we knew all along when she told an interviewer, “we work for our advertisers.”
Your perfect audience isn’t waiting to discover you on the radio. So stop worrying about building a huge radio promotion budget into your CD release, and focus your attention on getting in front of your fans in places where they do want to see and hear you.