Interview with Peter Hay by Pete Harris for IndieSoundNY
- What is Twin Vision and what does it do?
- What's your background in music? How did you come to form Twin Vision?
- Is there a particular genre of music, or segment of the radio industry, that you concentrate on? How does your approach differ by genre, etc.?
- What does a radio campaign consist of? What do you do? How long does it take?
- What are practical realistic goals and how does a client monitor the results?
- Typically, what might you charge to conduct a radio campaign? What factors affect what you charge?
- What does an act need to provide you in order for you to be effective? How important is packaging? The look of the CD itself? What kind of press kit should they provide?
- Do you include satellite, cable, internet radio stations in your campaigns?
- In the current world of Clearchannel and Infinity, etc., what's the good news for independent acts wanting radio exposure?
- Can you mention any recent campaigns where there's been some success in gaining exposure?
- Why can't I do this myself?
- How many artists are you promoting at one time?
Twin Vision is an independent radio promotion service, sometimes referred to as an "indy promoter" in industry parlance. We are hired by artists, managers, labels, publishers, or anyone who wants radio exposure for music they have an interest in. Our specialty is triple-A and college radio, what I consider artist development radio. We have been in this business since 1988.
We developed a specialty working independent artists and independent labels. There are specific approaches to acquiring radio air play for such projects, and many promotion companies geared to major labels or established artists do not effectively mold their approach and priorities to the aspiring artist with minimal label clout.
The core of the service is making the radio programmers aware of the release and artist, but we also always provide consultation. While we are working a promotion campaign I am available to answer any industry-related questions or provide resources and contacts which I draw from my over thirty years in the business.
I try to help clients not only reach their pre-conceived goals but inspire new ones. I provide ideas as to how a radio promotion campaign relates to attracting labels, increasing sales and getting gigs. Whatever the goals are for this effort, I want to make sure the results are viable.
In 1970, I graduated from Seton Hall with a degree in Communication Arts and immediately got a job as an A&R staffer and publicity copy writer at London Records, where I worked for eight years. I was responsible for the emergence and initial success of ZZ Top, Dave Edmunds and Thin Lizzy. I also worked with the Moody Blues, Savoy Brown, John Mayall, Tom Jones and Al Green. I learned every aspect of the business during this time and professionally associated with some of the music businesses' most legendary luminaries, characters with storied pasts from the '30s, '40s, '50s and '60s.
Twin Vision emerged from my experiences running independent labels (including my own, called NEO Records) from 1980 to about 1988. These indy label adventures included working for Genya Raven's Polish Records, a punk/new wave imprint where I dealt with Ronnie Spector and Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys, then on to sundry other labels whose tortured histories included promotion and marketing of reissues, imports, all kinds of dance music, adult contemporary artists, Christian, jazz and blues. I took all my acquired indy label wisdom and bulging database and began to farm out my services as a consultant.
One of my clients had a roots rock band that lead me to stations around the country that played such groups (e. g. Los Lobos, Robert Cray). A year or so after I started working these stations I suggested to a major radio tipsheet (The Hard Report) that they should classify them differently than all the AOR Rock stations that were playing the likes of Bon Jovi at that time. Hard eventually ran with the idea and created the first triple-A (Adult Album Alternative) chart. Soon all the radio trades were tracking these stations, and more sprouted up all over the country; A format was born and Twin Vision was born right along side it as I boiled down my consultancy to just working this radio area along with college radio which I had always done.
We work with the only radio formats open to playing and on a mission to develop independent artists, i.e. Triple-A, Americana, and college radio.
With Triple-A, we target about 200 stations nationally that we have found will play, new, independent artists. Most are non-commercial (a/k/a public or "NPR") stations, but there are many commercial outlets as well. We key off of the major trade publication reporters: FMQB, R&R/BDS, CMJ, AMA, Mediabase. The genres we work fall into what these stations play: e. g. artists like Ray Lamontague, Sharon Jones, Vampire Weekend, Lake Street Dive, St. Vincent, Feist, (singer/songwriter, soul, folk, blues, world, alternative). By the way, Triple-A has been the launchpad for the broad success of Norah Jones, Lorde, Mumford & Sons, Lumineers, Adele, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys among others. They all crossed over to mass market exposure after receiving strong support from Triple-A.
For Americana, we target stations reporting to national charts like Americana Music Association, Roots Music, FAR and Euro Americana (which covers stations throughout Europe). The format is typically thought of as being a roots/country leaning sound, but many are more eclectic than that (in fact more than half are also Triple-A stations). The core performers are Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle, Amos Lee, but blues and soul artists like Mavis Staples, Sharon Jones, Gary Clarke Jr do well too.
Americana programmers are typically even more open to new, independent artists than Triple-A. One sees more artists with no label affiliation reaching the upper levels of the Americana charts than most any other format. Some we have worked having that kind of success include Bow Thayer, Dan Bern, Charlie Faye, Joe Fletcher, The Kickin' Grass Band #and Jonah Tolchin and The Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash.
College genres, often lean more alternative than Triple-A with artists like Animal Collective, Deerhoof, M.I.A., Swans (i.e. dissonant, eccentric, lo-fi or very hard-edged). We key off of the 300 most important CMJ reporting stations. Most Triple-A or Americana artists can have success with college radio and we sometime combine these formats in an overall campaign.
Our approach comes from studying station play lists every week and knowing their history (which in most cases goes back many years); it is also governed by knowledge of what key aspects and developments specific programmers are impressed by, what they are looking for, and our idea on how a project fits in a specific time frame. Some of the relationships we have developed with programmers go back over a decade. Besides all the research we do, there are personal touches that come into play.
I recommend a minimum of eight weeks for any radio campaign. A college campaign can more or less be covered in that time, and a triple-A campaign, if it is going well, will probably need another two to four weeks. Tour support can extend any campaign beyond these time frames.
We provide a mailing list to the label, who sends the CDs plus a one-sheet/bio (no press kits anymore). We then call all the stations each week. The first few weeks involve describing the project and having the music or program director track down and listen to their copy. We then start to accumulate feedback. The reactions will range from enthusiastic acceptance to dismissal. Often these early rejections are based upon cursory attention, and the response is to the sound or style being too far away from the stations� approach style. We generally get all those that pass to reconsider at some point later in the campaign.
The stations interested will start to experiment with air play for it. We monitor that play while continuing to get other programmers to consider it in a positive light. We get many of those early rejections to reconsider once they see others playing it. Any project I choose to work with stands a chance to get effective air play. I cannot remember ever being wrong about this.
Every week we provide detailed reports to our clients, which includes air play status (usually rotations such as Light, Medium, Heavy, ) specific comments from the programmers, tracks being played, and short facts about the demeanor of the staff and the impact of the station on it's market.
The immediate goals of the promotion are to develop pockets around the country where the artist will build substantial audiences. The broader goal would be to develop awareness, exposure, and impact for their name and music with major format reporting stations and industry charts. This can be helpful in attracting managers, agents, labels and publisher/ licensors.
We provide weekly reports that show the air play and market significance of each station along with comments and anything else we think is pertinent. We gather specific status details not only from the stations directly, but from various tracking services to which we subscribe.
As the airplay develops, they can use the reports to map out possible regions for gigging. The airplay in most cases will be steady from eight to twenty weeks after it starts. As the campaign develops, we will help arrange interviews and other promotions wherever possible.
Everything we develop airplay-wise can work in tandem and be enhanced by social media promotion and a publicists efforts.
Our fees are based on the going rate for these services, and are low compared to most companies. To work a national campaign aimed at industry chart-reporting stations (the most significant in terms of audience size) budget at least $1,800.00. That is the minimum level; rates increase based on the numbers and types of stations and length of the projected campaign.
After an initial consultation, we will create a proposal that takes into consideration all the options and maybe even inspire a reach for higher goals.
Many bands and artists who make great albums spend no money exposing it. They will move on after about a year to the next release, spending to record and package what it would cost to do a good promotion. Now they have two great albums that virtually no one hears. If they had put the money for the next release into promotion for the last one, they could be heard by a few hundred thousand well-targeted, pro-active listeners. A percentage of those people will be moved to manifest their attraction to it through sales, response to the radio stations or in direct contact with the artist. This can lead to attention from labels, publishers, managers, licensors worldwide (remember, most of these stations are streaming and have international audiences) and it can create gigging opportunities. If you make music, why would you not want as many people as is possible within your power to hear it?
When an artist or manager thinks of getting exposure, they usually immediately think: "I need a PR agent". Their budgets go to publicity before radio promotion, without reviewing the distinctions and current needs.
Ask yourself what creates a more profound impression for new music by an unknown artist, hearing it or reading about it. Press creates ephemeral interest, the exposure/impact comes and goes in a few weeks; radio play creates fans; the exposure can impact multiple times weekly and extend for many months. Press is like advertising; to be effective, it needs to accompany the music's exposure.
This is all not to say that publicist's services are not valuable and eventually needed. The work can be effective in being a megaphone, establishing impact for an artists name and image. But for the kind of music that fits for the radio formats we are discussing, a publicist should be hired as a supplemental enhancement to a radio promotion not as the main supplier of the bulk of exposure.
Despite all the changes in the technical/digital landscape, CDs are still the preferred presentation for new artists at these radio formats. There are Internet delivery systems (both streaming and downloads) that we use to supplement the mailing of the CD. But CD is the requested format by numbers of stations; for a new artist it is particularly helpful presentation because it creates a physical presence. The cover art is effective part of the process of building an image.
The mailing is made up of one CD and a one sheet. We advise on the look and content of the latter. The CD and all materials should look as good as anything on a major label. Presentation is a first and lasting impression. It is also good that the packaging is compatible with the music in terms of image.
A good one sheet replaces the press kit. A radio one sheet has obvious features like bio material and quotes along with references to the artist's web site (which is essential). And it also has a number of bullet points specifically pertinent to radio programmers. A "Radio Contact" being foremost. When they see it is being "worked" (as they term the process) by an established promoter, they will prioritize it.
We will help design the radio one sheet and review all the copy so that it resounds positively and illuminates who the artist is and what this release is all about.
We also suggest a SoundCloud page for the release which we send out as part of our communication where the programmer can sample (and even download) the music.
We indeed go to all three systems. There are a thousands of Internet outlets but we have researched those that are the most effective programing and largest audience reach for the genres we work. We key off of many who report their playlists to the industry charts.
Remember that most of the Triple-A and many major college stations are streaming, so they are also Internet stations.
With Sirius/XM, we get projects on the main progressive channels all the time. They are truly adventurous and a boon to new artists, since their audiences are proactive music consumers and the numbers are large.
I have no association with any other part of the radio landscape than the one I work, because the others are all part of a system controlled by the major labels and all have their hand out in one way or another. The stations we work with are very committed to the purity of their mixes, and their goals are to surprise and delight their audiences. They will play releases based on the music presented to them. You can't beat that.
Nell Bryden, an New York singer-songwriter you may know of, had a self-released EP that I worked to triple-A recently. I know an R&R reporting commercial station in Sante Fe and the program director there for ten years, and I had him listen to a certain Nell track. He liked it very much, Added and reported it. The phones lit up with listener responses. The station moved the song up their charts. It is a Clear Channel station. This programmer always has been successful in the market, and they are smart enough not to mess with his methods. In the meantime, this air play has helped Nell's manager open the door to major label interest.
I am having wonderful response to Brooklyn's own Alexis P.Suter on Hipbone Records. She's being compared to Macy Gray by many stations. She went to #1 on the charts of two important triple-A's and is charting on 30 more. How did we get this for her? We asked them to listen.
You don't want to do it yourself because you will waste time not knowing who the best stations are for you and more importantly you will not be taken seriously by the significant stations. If they hear from a respected promoter they immediately know the release is being "worked" to the format and they, along with the other stations (their colleagues), may be in a position to break a new artist. The release will be considered as any major label project. If you do it yourself, you will be relegated to DIY, which will probably mean no airplay. You can easily say something wrong that you won't recover from.
Our main effort (and the main thing you are paying for along with knowing exactly who the right stations are) is that we call all of the programmers every week and have known many of them for many years. There is a rather sophisticated strategy at play here and one has to know what's going on. We not only get the music listened to, we make them think they are missing something if they are not playing it. To do that you need to know what impresses them (usually specific other stations playing the release).
All this said, probably the main reason you can't do it is that it takes considerable time; effective promotion is not a part time effort. Every hour you spend will cost you in other ways. Ultimately no matter how you balance it, time is indeed money.
This is the most frequently asked question and because of that I wrote an extensive blog on it, found in the section "Hiring A Radio Promoter."