Any college radio plugger worth their lettuce can get you some spins. They might even get your record to chart. But unless you've got your ducks in an aqua-robic class, I don't think hiring a college radio promoter is worth it. And I'm a college radio promoter.
I've been promoting music professionally for over a decade and I LOVE my job. Most days, I'd pay for an opportunity to do this job - almost nothing you can do recreationally is as fun as going to bat for a record you love and then having the pleasure of delivering excellent, better than expected news to an excited artist. It's one of the most wholesome, fulfilling experiences I can imagine.
It is also true that some records don't perform as well as others. When a campaign falls short of what an artist was expecting nothing is cool and everything sucks. Artists blame us, or worse, start second-guessing the good work they've done on their music. Bandmates turn against each other, and their belief in what they're doing, the jet-fuel absolutely required to get a project off the ground, gets shaken.
Worse still is that the band will have paid good money for the disappointing campaign. Boo.
I'm writing this blog post because we've been talking this week about how to set as many of our clients up for as much success as possible and how to make sure every single band we work with walks away in undeniably better shape than when we started our project. So here it is, the magical secret that determines whether or not an artists campaign will be successful: it's how active they are.
That's it. It comes down to how much it looks like an artist has going on. Music directors want to champion bands who have excitement surrounding their careers. They want to play music that they know people connect with. Seeing that you're staying busy and that other people love your music will quite literally change the way a new listener (see: college radio music director) hears your music and how seriously they take your project.
Here's what you can do to make sure you don't waste money on college radio promotion - or any music promo service, for that matter. The following advice is also great for artists who are trying to find a label, manager, booking agent, etc. and don't want to waste their time reaching out for those opportunities.
Do what nobody can stop you from doing. A lot.
Media opportunities (like radio and blogs), working with record labels, getting booked on a festival, etc. are all things that someone else has to green-light in order for you to do.
But nobody can stop you from playing shows and growing your audience in your region. Here's an article I wrote about how to tour without bleeding money, quitting your job, or pissing off your sweetheart. You might say that talent buyers can say no to you or bands can not write you back, but are you really trying as hard as you can and using your creativity and brilliance to commit to building your regional draw? If you don't have time to research bands and venues in nearby markets, I'd consider reaching out to Summer Moon & Co. They offer tour book services, where they research artists in your niche, deliver talent buyer contact info, and even give you a booking email template to use.
Not in the budget? Go out and busk in front of bars in nearby cities. Whatever. Figure it out. And take video of you playing in front of the bar, while you're at it.
Nobody can stop you from sharing your art in a way that's uniquely yours, every single day on social media. You're a musician and entertainer? Play music and entertain people. Don't give up on this if it feels weird at first, just allow yourself to fail publicly a bit and experiment with it until you find a way to have fun doing it that people connect and respond to. Your ego will recover after you figure it out and start seeing results, I promise.
This is the only way to "get good at social media".
Brainstorm with your bandmates for low-time-investment ways to create video content regularly. Brainstorm with your collaborators and collect and discuss artists you love that share cool content regularly and use them as inspiration. You have an opportunity to win over fans every single night from the privacy of your own recording studio - don't take that for granted.
If You Don't
Most artists in the world aren't going to go hard in either of these two areas, let alone both. And maybe you want to hire someone to promote your record anyway just because. If that's the case, here's what you need to know:
Your record won't do as well as it would if you were active.
Even if it does fairly well, you won't benefit from it as much as you would if you were out playing shows, meeting fans, doing in-studio performances on college radio stations all over your region. Your airplay will happen and then, it'll be over.
You can make the decision to spend thousands of dollars to promote your music without committing to get it off the ground in a national way, but I can't confidently tell you that you'll walk away feeling like it was worth the money.
In conclusion, kicking ass is fully achievable and within reach, and I hope this tough love article has motivated you to go kick some ass, with or without our help.