The Most FAQ: How To Hire A Radio Promoter

As an independent record promoter, the most frequent question I get from artists or their representatives is how many projects are usually worked at one time. This question is so intuitively perfect that it may be the most important way of evaluating whether to use one promoter or another. Yet I rarely ever get a follow-up question. In fact, the average response is silence, which leads me to believe that the layperson really does not have a barometer to evaluate the response.

Here are some parameters and perspectives from which to evaluate the information you get from the promoter (assuming they are honest). You would be right to assume that it is hard for the average radio station music director to absorb the stories and pitches on numerous releases, particularly since they are hearing from about thirty other promoters covering more than 100 releases that week. I find that six to eight projects can be served effectively. For projects submitted to me that go over my limit, I usually try to schedule their campaigns for other times (which sometimes causes a loss of business). Within those numbers there is another dynamic that makes this number manageable: Some campaigns are just starting, some are in the middle, and some are winding down. These stages create flexible emphasis on different aspects of each project. Ultimately the effort is to give every project their days in the sun and make sure all their potential is fulfilled. It takes a bit of juggling, but that is what makes for a professional. I must know how much a particular programmer can absorb and what to emphasize with each call.

There are some promotion companies that are working fewer releases; they are usually ones that are still getting established. There is no real advantage to that smaller number. As long as you are conveying all that needs to be conveyed to create a positive impression you are doing the job.

How am I assured that my project will remain a priority?
Some promoters have so many releases they just naturally start to emphasize the ones that seem to be happening or hot and neglect to give special emphasis to those that need the most help. When that happens you need a promoter to promote the promoter. There are ways to make sure you are not in that position.

In order to assure that your project will not slip through the cracks, you must stay on top of the promoter, asking every question that occurs to you each week. Check to see what stations are priority targets in a particular period and make sure you get the details of their conversation with those stations. You should get extensive, detailed reports weekly. Do not hire any promoter that does not provide that.

Also, keep them posted on developments like gigs and press; everything related to your career and this release may have some relevance. Do not worry about being a pest. You deserve face time at least once a week, if not with the head of the company, then the rep who is actually handling your project. (More on that later.)

Here's the question that should be asked right after how many projects are they working: How many major label projects are you regularly working? By "major" I would include all labels associated with the major conglomerates or established independents. Let your common sense tell you what the number should be while keeping in mind that you would be right to suspect that major label clients could get more emphasis. What promoter would not want to make sure to deliver for the regular clients? Securing that Add at a good station may come down to you or the major's project.

Should you hire a promoter who has a list of "name" artists on their resume?
If they delivered for Norah Jones or Death Cab For Cutie, they must be good for you. Well, maybe. Of greater importance is how the promoter expresses him or herself about your music. Listen closely to the tone and enthusiasm they convey about your project, you will get a hint of what they will say to the stations about you. Ask not only what the promoter thinks of the music, but what are they going to say about it. What will they highlight as the "story" to introduce the artist? You are listening for details, nuance and maybe even something no one has ever noticed about this music before.

Who will do the actual promoting?
Who exactly are you interviewing when you call a promo company for information? In many cases, the head of the company or the person you talk to is not the point person calling the bulk of the stations. When you contact a promoter who personally sells you on the services you absorb how much of an expert they are, how they sell and, most importantly, if they are showing some passion for your music. When the promotion is delegated to an underling, you don't get any comparable impressions.

All these intuitive questions that occur to you are right on the money. and you probably have a sense of what is right even if you don't have specific references. I hope I gave you something to back up your gut instincts.