Does Radio Airplay Matter?


Posted on May 7th, 2012 by Kristin Thomson in What We're Learning. 5 Comments

Radio helps musicians rise above the noise

A lot of interviewees talked about how radio helps them to rise above the noise of all the music being released.

I read that 400,000 independent CDs a month are put out in this country. How do you make it that people listen to you?  So you wind up doing a lot of radio interviews because you get your three songs in an interview then it was worth your time really…the NPRs of the world become very important, the PBS in New York becomes very important. Getting your ugly mug on TV is important.
  – Independent Performer/Songwriter

Sometimes radio airplay can drive recognition in an accelerated way. A few interviewees mentioned instances where atypical, outside-the-genre airplay – appearing on a game show, or NPR fund drive, or a syndicated show – has led to useful exposure:

It’s a long road to critical mass. For instance, the difference between being a top-20 artist on the country chart and a top-10 artist on the country chart is almost doubling the audience impressions and the amount of people who are hearing your music. Any time there’s an opportunity to get exposure through the radio format that’s unique or atypical…I think we’ve had those experiences and we do see that they move the needle more so than typical airplay. To us that can be everything from an NPR interview to getting on to the syndicated and countdown shows.
 – Artist Manager A

I really believe that an NPR [feature] is better than television. You can be on Letterman but it’s so late and people expect there to be a band all of the time.  When you’re crossing over into a place where people are not really expecting that hole to be filled with a band necessarily, there seems to be real traction with those things.
 – Indie Rock Band B

Radio’s local relationships and adoption of new tools makes it easier for fans to take action

The general consensus amongst interviewees was that radio, combined with a way to buy music or see live shows, are where musicians see a difference – and that these efforts can really reinforce each other.

I’d say NPR probably worked better, particularly because they’re really good about it on the website, about saying “This is what we played today, this is how you can buy it or find out more about it, just click on this.” So I don’t know that most other radio stations, regional radio stations, do anything of this sort.
 – Jazz Bandleader A

You can go into a market that’s got a non-com Triple A station that’s very supportive of certain artists.  And if you get a handful of spins here and there, they make the effort to work with the local record store in that market to make sure that people know where to go and get that music.  Local stations can make it really easy because they have a playlist of what they’re playing on the walls at the local store, at the counter, so you can figure it out. They kind of lead you to there a little bit. That, to me, is more important than a chart position overall through the whole nation. You can have a top-10 Triple A record that might not sell anything even if it’s getting played on a bunch of stations, because it’s not benefiting from those kind of reciprocal relationships between radio and local music outlets.
– Christopher Moon, Anhedonia Management

Others talked about how they use radio airplay as a bellwether to identify good target cities to generate other revenue streams.

There are certain cities that embrace independent rap more easily than others. I would look at the radio stations. I’d look at their playlists to see if they played independent music because some radio stations will and some won’t. So if there is a viable station in that marketplace that will play independent rap, then that shows me that it’s a good market.
– Independent Hip Hop Manager

Next: Radio airplay and income





5 responses to “Does Radio Airplay Matter?”

  1. […] extent. Our artist revenue streams study found that significant commercial radio airplay remains out of reach for all but a tiny handful of artists.  And our earlier radio-centric research demonstrates that […]

  2. […] extent. Our artist revenue streams study found that significant commercial radio airplay remains out of reach for all but a tiny handful of artists.  And our earlier radio-centric research demonstrates that […]

  3. […] extent. Our artist revenue streams study found that significant commercial radio airplay remains out of reach for all but a tiny handful of artists.  And our earlier radio-centric research demonstrates that […]

  4. […] extent. Our artist revenue streams study found that significant commercial radio airplay remains out of reach for all but a tiny handful of artists.  And our earlier radio-centric research demonstrates that […]

  5. […] of music, from live performances to digital video (especially in the noncommercial sector, as a recent Future of Music study illustrates). The presentation suggests that there are new ways for radio to expand into both […]