Q&A with Bill Miller at Pitbull Promotions – Radio Promo
MB: What is the roll and importance of a Radio Promotions Company?
Bill – Our job is to generate conversation, dialogue, listening and the serious consideration of our clients’ music. This is done with the radio programmers who inevitably decide whether or not they are going to provide airplay for the song on their station. At the risk of over-dramatizing, we paint a picture of what’s happening with the project. This would include background info on the artist, tour dates, relevant videos and any additional highlights around the project in general.
MB: How are you able to take an artists career to the next level?
Bill – Well, it’s an exciting time for artists without a doubt. The internet affords many new and emerging ways to reach new listeners and to build additional fans. At the end of the day the goal is really to grow an artist’s fan base, build brand awareness and drive sales. There’s also the financial rewards in the form of performance royalties that come with a successful bona fide radio hit. Commercial terrestrial radio still remains to be one of the most effective ways to accomplish these objectives assuming the song is indeed a hit and goes on to receive substantial airplay. Now let’s say a song doesn’t take off in a big way but it does get ADDED into rotation at a handful of stations. The artist still comes away with great value. With regards to those “handful” of stations, you now have various markets where you can go perform. Radio airplay for your music in the given markets lets you get better gigs for better pay, festival gigs, etc. It also means that you have developed a relationship with these stations and their listeners. We all want an instant game-changing smash however that’s just not how it always goes. You need to build and earn your supporters.
MB: What is one word of advise you can pass on to artists who are looking for radio airplay on their own?
Bill – It’s very conceivable and in fact likely that you will never hear back from various programmers. You can do your own radio promo, it can definitely work, however I still believe that you will be disadvantaged overall. Some Music Directors will be leery of dealing directly with the artist. (Due in large part to artists that don’t have a clue what they’re doing and seem to be void of understanding the concept of professional communication and boundaries.) The radio stations by-in-large would feel more comfortable knowing that a song that they really like is going to be professionally promoted across Canada. Not too many stations are interested in “going it alone” on a song, so if a song is not being properly promoted it becomes more likely for this to be the result. There’s a lot of homework involved to do radio promotion well and for you to come across as a pro. The consequences for your brand are at jeopardy if you screw things up and end up irritating highly overworked and saturated Music Directors.
MB: What do you think the key to a radio hit is?
Bill – I think we’d have to be specific about what radio format we’re talking about. For example if we’re talking about the Top 40 format also know as CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) then I would examine the radio airplay charts, scan slowly through the top 50 charting songs and start listening. The top 10 songs on the CHR chart will typically be the huge North American smashes and contain many songs by US artists. (Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe” #1 at US TOP 40 aside…incredible and well deserved…Go Jepsen!!) With this said, it’s essential to have a world class chorus hook, world class production, a professional grade recording and inevitably a world class song that can run with the big boys! My advice to artists is to go right to the hits themselves as listed on the radio charts. What are the current stylistic trends? Does the production of your song sound comparable and current? If you see your song as a CHR type track and you’re going for a high energy rock/pop song with “wall of sound” guitars…but….there are no other songs in the top 50 that have guitar driven production similar to your song, then you might very well be in trouble. If we’re talking about a Rock band then there are other factors in play. Vibe, energy, cool factor, etc, but it still always has to be a GREAT song in order to have a radio hit.
MB: Any words of advise/tips when dealing with music supervisors/ radio station employees?
Bill – Well, to start off, I would say that relationships and connections in any business and especially the Music Business are always going to be hugely beneficial. Any artist that ends up succeeding at radio will have very likely also succeeded in building positive relationships with the various radio station personnel. Most important I would say is to demonstrate respect, stay cool, be humble and know that your music and your songs do the ultimate talking for you. What can I say, it’s cliche, but first impressions are important. Being real, charismatic and respectful tend to make good impressions.
MB: What is the average of a radio single “shelf-life” and until the next single should be released?
Bill – There are a number of factors that will affect a songs shelf life in terms of length on the charts and additionally the total amount of spins that it may receive. We had a Rock client who’s single reached #20 after 6 months of aggressive radio promotion. It was the classic two steps forward, one step back. If a song instantly takes off and gets playlist ADD’s at major market stations then you could have a hit that will be on the charts for many months. In other cases where it takes awhile to build the chart numbers you will usually have a song go through varying levels of rotation spins. Low, Medium, High, Heavy and Power rotation depending on the station. The release time for a subsequent single will again potentially reflect how well it’s predecessor performed. The old saying, “You’re only as good as your last song” is pretty brutal but not completely off the mark either. For example, if you release two singles in a row that don’t react well and assuming these were deemed to be your best radio friendly songs then it’s very possible that by the time you get to the third and forth singles, that programmers will feel that you’re just dumping songs on them. If on the other hand you are coming off of a massive smash I would tend to want to keep the irons hot and release the next single as spins for the predecessor are winding down.
MB: Does a Radio Promotions company get hired to work on a single base ?
Bill – There are a lot of different possibilities. You can have label clients on retainer or just really positive relationships and experiences with labels, managers, publicists, etc, which leads to ongoing projects and work. These scenarios only occur if you have really delivered and established trust and confidence with your client. Accountability is a huge reason why there are so many labels and managers looking to reputable independent radio promotion companies to represent their records, their clients and in essence their brand as a label as well. Of course, as you mention, in some cases, yes, you we will do one offs but we still have to feel the song is killer and that we have a reasonable shot for success. When you have success and prove to be a great team member then typically it leads to additional work and releases down the road.
MB: How much money should an artist expect to pay in order to push their single to radio?
Bill – I would say that most typically for a CHR, HOT AC, AC or ROCK radio campaign, where the targets would be national commercial chart reporting stations, secondary market stations, satellite, internet and if applicable College radio, you would definitely be looking at several thousand dollars. I’m hesitant to be more specific because again, there can always be varying circumstances that factor into the cost and different goals for a project that have to first be determined.
MB: Any other piece of advice you want to pass onto up and coming artists?
Bill – If you’re serious about succeeding then you just can’t do the “fun” stuff. You have to be prepared to do everything, to be your own manager and teacher as well. The more that an artist can incrementally develop their knowledge of the music business, the lingo and terminology, how it works and how the business is changing, the more advantaged they will be for effectively captaining their ship. Lastly, be brutally honest with yourself. There is a difference between the thrill and exuberance of the creative process and the realty of whether or not you have indeed created a world class song. Good and very good will generally not cut it in this business. You have to be great!