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Independent Promotion

by Ben McLane, Esq.

Once an artist has gone to the time, trouble and expense of producing and manufacturing an independent release, it is usually the case that the artist's goal is to earn exposure for the record, which translates into sales, and, hopefully, a career. Support from radio is key in order to make the masses aware of a new record. Unfortunately, obtaining radio play is difficult and competitive. Hence, an artist should budget for the services of an independent promoter ("promoter").

In order to compete with the major labels, the artist must be able to take the steps that a major label would take in order to promote a record. Since an independent artist does not have a promotion staff to service the hundreds of appropriate radio stations across the country necessary for an effective radio promotion campaign, a promoter is the vehicle to generate airplay. The promoter can gain the necessary radio "adds" for several reasons that the artist cannot, because they: (1) have years of experience, (2) have established relationships with program and music directors, (3) know how to properly pitch a record, and (4) know who to approach with the pitch.

Because a promoter is not cheap to employ, smaller labels and artists will generally just hire the promoter to work the record in a particular region. If airplay becomes significant in that region, often the record will then take on a life of its own and other regions will want to play the record. The hard part is developing the first important adds.

Promoters can be found in most large cities in the yellow pages under record promotion. Also, directories such as the Yellow Pages of Rock and the Industry Sourcebook have lists. Call and make an appointment to play the record for the promoter. A genuine promoter will not work a record unless they believe in it. The artist should check references and the track record of the promoter.

Once the artist has located the right promoter, a contract should be entered into. The two most important points to cover are the fee and the duties of the promoter. Although the fees vary depending on the type of music and scale of the campaign, a good promotion person would require around $500 per week; a proven hit maker may charge more. The promoter will want bonuses built into the contract to be triggered by certain happenings, such as having the record chart, entering the top ten, and hitting number one. Moreover, the promoter's expenses (i.e., phone, mail, travel) will have to be paid by the artist. The artist should require that the promoter specify the number and type of stations he or she will be contacting.

Finally, the artist should not forget that it is meaningless to hire a promoter if the record is not going to distributed in some way; otherwise, the listening audience cannot buy the record and this would defeat the entire purpose of generating airplay.

Copyright 1998, Ben McLane
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