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The Musician's Corner: Radio & Records
By Tom Leu,

I recently attended a music conference in Nashville where I gained some interesting insights about the radio and record business relationship. How do radio stations decide what artists and singles to play? Unless you're getting regular airplay on stations across the country, you might want to read on.

Record companies have to lobby to get their artists played on radio stations from every format. There are radio and promotions personnel at record companies whose job is to visit radio stations in their territories and push their latest releases to the program and music directors. Radio trackers are usually independents that do essentially the same thing. Airplay usually equals record sales, and enough record sales equal profits for the labels. The labels literally take out want ads in the radio trade magazines to create interest for their artists. These ads are basically snapshot resumes for the latest singles the labels are pushing to radio. The ads contain what chart the song is targeting, Soundscan sales numbers, last week's charting position, movement, number of plays, and the stations the song is being played on.

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And what do the radio stations get for their "generosity" by playing these songs? They attract large quantities of listeners tuning in to hear the latest and greatest artists and songs. These listeners are of course, consumers for the radio station's advertisers. These advertisers will continue to pay the radio station premiums for airtime as long as the station continues to pull a large listening audience. This is the way of the business world and the music business is no exception.

This process is more complex than it first appears however. There is more music out there than there are radio stations and airtime to play the music. This scarcity of programming slots creates intense competition and high stakes for record companies, artists, and radio stations. Which single and whose single to play becomes a science of history lessons. What is working and what has been working recently becomes the modus operandi of the day.

The twelve main radio chart categories are: CHR/Pop (contemporary hit radio), CHR/Rhythmic, AC (adult contemporary), Hot AC, Rock, Active Rock, Alternative, Urban, Urban AC, Country, Triple A, and Smooth Jazz. Recent revenue increases and growth in the Christian music genre may find this chart added to the "mainstream" yet.

If you happen to be one of those artists who claim to care less about radio airplay or fitting into a certain format, disregard this entire column and please send a copy of this to someone interested in learning something about this often misunderstood industry. Whether we like it or not, radio does affect consumer buying decisions. This should matter to all artists regardless of our genre or aspirations for airplay.

The Bottom Line: Research how the radio business operates and understand the different formats that are charted. Many musicians and artists are in the dark about how radio works and it shows in their approach. Understand the charts to figure out where your music may fit. Study what's getting played and where it's getting played. Look at how many spins per week the various charts are reporting from their reporting stations. Check out to get an inside look at this medium that helps make and break upstart as well as veteran artists. Do this before you call up your local Program Director griping because they're not playing your CD.

Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © Tag It 2003 - Republished with Permission