December 30, 2010

Week 15: Steps To Advertise on Radio

Unlocking the Mystery of Radio Advertising

According to the Federal Communications Commission, there are 14,547 licensed radio stations in the United States as of September 2010 [source]. No matter how much you think you’re losing people to iPods, Satellite Radio, and CD Players, the number of people who actually listen to radio number more than the number of people who access any other kind of advertising (like print, TV, and billboard).

And radio is intrusive. It gives you sound… a voice… it enables you to provide a sonic version of who you are and what you stand for. Radio is also mobile, it’s playing at the store, in the car, and even streaming online.

Radio can be very effective, but you have to be very careful. You can easily spend a lot of money and be totally ineffective.

To be successful advertising in radio, you’ve got to drive many things home. It’s a mix of things you have no creative control over (listenership) and things you are totally in control of (message).

Before spending dollar one, you need to do some research. Here’s a few things to consider.

In business this is called “frequency.” How many times is the listener going to listen to your commercial before they make a decision to remember the information?

The answer to that question is a little complicated. After hearing a commercial about 3-4 times, someone will be able to recall it. The trick is, getting that person to hear the commercial.

What Time Is It?
Consider your audience. If you are trying to get someone out after 10p, you should cater to those who are up at that time. I’m going to tell you something that not many people will. Buy night time (7p-midnight) or overnight (midnight – 6a). It’s cheaper and you reach people who are listening to the radio at the same time as they could be at your gig. Don’t let them talk you into spreading it out to run all day. Cluster your spots so they run in the same timeframe each night (this is called “rotation”). That way you increase your chance of the same person hearing the ad again.

Buy Bulk
If you are able to do this, buy a big chunk of radio all at once. The best deals are 52 weeks. Of course, you have to have the cash on hand to make it happen. If you’re a member of a group of indie musicians, perhaps you can pool resources. If you don’t have the money for that, know that you should run an ad for about 3-4 weeks for maximum effectiveness. And run the same ad. Don’t change the message. Even if you don’t get someone out to this particular show, there’s going to be a whole lot of new people who now know your band’s name.

How many people are listening to that station at that time? Radio stations have actual data. Yes, they skew it to sell… and they’ll try and sell you the most ”important” times (which oddly enough is also the most expensive). If you visit you can get a list of radio stations in your area and their format (what they play). You can pick some of the lesser known stations for less expensive advertising. Remember, you’re not trying to reach a certain person, you’re trying to reach as many people as possible who might like your music. If you can reach more people on a lesser known station, do it.

Station Identification
If you were selling plumbing or shoes you wouldn’t have to think about this, but you’re selling your music. This is something that you need to think about. What is your music like? Does it fit into one particular genre? I’m willing to bet that you can find 2-3 radio stations that fans of your music may listen to (I counted 46 radio stations in Austin alone). Even if you are heavy metal, there’s a good change that the local pop/rock station could cater to your fans.

Now, if you’re metal, chances are you don’t want to advertise on a country station or easy listening. But don’t get too involved in this…if the guitars plug in and most of the music isn’t twangy, you can pretty much buy ads on any station.

How Long?
There are varying lengths of time you can buy an ad. I would suggest :15 or :30 seconds. Yes, you can buy fifteen seconds. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. You’re buying AIR. There is no preset compartment air fits in. Want to play with the sales rep? Get a quote for :30 second spots and when you have it at exactly the right price… tell them to split it into :15s and double your repetition and rotation. Yeah, they’ll get pissed. But you have the right. Warning, if you’re not spending a good chunk of change, they probably will not care about your business enough to play this game, so reserve this for a big buy… not a 2 week run.

What about the Ad?
If you didn’t notice, none of the above has ANYTHING to do with the show you’re promoting or the actual ad you’re writing. Who you reach is as important as what you say. If you write the best ad in the world and nobody hears it, did it work for you?

Now let’s get down to the ad itself. I’m not going to write it for you, but here are a few pointers.

Note: I can write your ad, but I’m not doing it for free. Contact me through the Outlaw Entertainment Group if you’re interested in that -

Write It Yourself
The radio station may offer to let their writers take care of the script and record it using their people. They will make it seem like it’s part of the “deal.” Don’t do this. Not because they aren’t good writers (although most of them aren’t). It’s because they don’t know you, your band, or the important things you need to get across in your ad. They are not invested in you. They will write the most generic ad possible because they are just writing 30 seconds of words like they did for the furniture store and the car dealership before you.

Ever wonder why spots promoting a radio station are interesting? It’s something the writer is invested in. It’s something they know by heart, and something they believe in. You’re band is not that. Write your own ad.

Information to Include
Think about your ad itself. What information NEEDS to be in there, what information would be nice to have, and what information is just extra?

Basic information – Make sure you include these: club name, bands playing, date of gig, time doors open, and cost.
Would be nice – Website to go for more information and free downloads or to print out a discount coupon (something you can actually track)

No, this isn’t the order of songs on your album. This is how you can have hard proof that the ad worked. Put something in the ad that will enable you to see whether the ad worked. Like in the above paragraph. You can track if someone visits a Website and downloads a coupon or music. Likewise, saying “mention (Name of radio station) for $2 off at the door” and you’ll definitely know they heard it there. Use this to see if you wasted your money or spent it wisely.

Make it Interesting
You’re show is going to be a great time… right? Well, the ad should sell that. It shouldn’t sound like a typical radio ad that is selling shoes or alcohol. Make it memorable. If you’ve got a crazy loud member of the band, they are the spokesperson. The less they sound like they should be on radio the better. You’re trying to make people remember.

If you have to yell – “Kazzoo Zazzoo February 5 is gonna be a great night at the Red Eyed Fly, I’ll tell you what!” Make it happen. You’ll get people walking up to you show night asking what the heck Kazzoo Zazzoo means. You know what it means. They HEARD the ad.

And THAT is what you want to happen, right?

Good luck and Happy New Year.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

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