If you haven’t heard already, the radio industry is largely corrupt with payola, under the table deals, and various other dodgy activities that keeps the stations in business. I’m not saying every radio station works like this, but with more and more music fans flocking to music solutions like Spotify and Pandora, it’s becoming increasingly harder for traditional stations to attract advertisers, resulting in more desperate measures being taken to keep the station’s cash flowing.
I guess it was this trend that led to the birth of companies such as Jango Airplay, iPluggers, and Radio Direct X, which essentially allow artists to pay for radio airplay. In this post I want to share my perspectives on the ethics behind paid airplay, as well as outlining and comparing the various options for paid radio promotion.
What are the different options for paid radio promotion?
If you’re willing to pay for radio promotion you five main options; paying a music publicist / PR company with radio stations connections to send your CDs out, iPluggers.com, Jango Airplay, Radio Direct X, or a wide selection of ultra spammy websites offering online radio promotion, my favourite of which being the creatively named ‘OnlineRadioPromotion.com’ ☺
Paying a Publicist – £1000’s per month
Publicists are typically expensive and offer no guarantees. They usually have connections with radio station music directors who they send your CDs to in the hope of securing radio airplay.
When I released a song on a dance label several years ago, the label paid £800 / month for a reputable publicist, who delivered a grand total of four radio performances, all of which were small local radio stations. Admittedly, the song wasn’t brilliant, and this is only one instance (there are many great music publicists out there, my recommendation: Cyber PR). My only advice would be to only go down this route if your music truly is incredible (and judged so by a large sample of impartial people using something like Soundout.com).
iPluggers.com – £204 per single
iPluggers is a cool new ‘online music publicist’ service. You pay 250 euros to upload your single, and they then plug your music to their database of 30,000 radio stations. Their service is similar to Jango Airplays, but with the main difference being that they pitch your music to real radio stations, including national stations, Internet radio, satellite radio, FM, AM, and various others. Airplay is guaranteed and they do offer refunds if they are unable to achieve airplay for you.
Jango Airplay – £18.70 per 1,000 plays
Jango Airplay is another great service that has been reviewed by Brian Hazard previously on this blog. Essentially you pay $30 (or £18.70) for 1,000 plays on Jango’s network of radio stations. If music fans like your music and say that they’re a fan, you can get access to their email address and details, allowing you to keep in contact with them in the future.
It’s suggested that for every 1,000 plays you receive on Jango, you typically receive 30-50 fans.
Radio DirectX – £93 per single per year
Honestly, there are better ways to spend £93, but I though I’d include Radio Direct X out of fairness. Their service looks pretty spammy to me – you pay to have a page created on their website, which is then emailed to a bunch of radio music directors. I can’t say I’ve tried their service, so maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick but it doesn’t seem like the best option for radio promotion.
Is Paid Radio Promotion Ethical?
Naturally, this is a controversial topic and there’s no way I’m not going to piss off a few people here, but I honestly think that paid radio promotion is fine, providing it doesn’t compromise the quality of the music being played.
In fact, it’s very possible that radio stations could be improved and more jobs in the radio industry could be created if this model expanded. If radio stations are paid to play more independent music, first of all it reduces the need for annoying ads, and secondly it’s an effective way of sharing good indie music.
Okay, there are obvious down sides too, but most of them are based around the idea of payola being ‘unfair’ (i.e. favouring artists with rich parents / major advance-backed teen pop sensations) or reducing the quality of the radio stations, both of which can be avoided if the stations integrity is maintained high.