Posted on January 22, 2011 with 0 comments
Most people’s conception of how the music industry works seems to be derived from movies and television. The movie That Thing You Do!, a film directed by Tom Hanks, is a perfect example. It tells the story of a fictional band called The Wonders in the early 1960s. They write a couple of songs. After sending their record to a radio station, something wonderful happens – it gets played. The Wonders are a hit! The music labels come knocking, and in no time at all the band members are thrust into fame and a national tour.
Unfortunately, although this type of story gets repeated over and over, it’s just not true. While this might be shocking to some, the music industry doesn’t quite work the way Hollywood portrays it.
Possibly the most common goal that bands have for their music is to get it played on the radio. Unfortunately, commercial radio is mostly inaccessible to independent musicians. There’s a reason why you rarely hear of indie bands getting discovered due to commercial radio. You can certainly do it, but it will probably cost you a minimum of $20,000.00, and that’s no guarantee.
Think back to when rock and roll was starting to make a splash. In the late 1950s, record labels were routinely sending record albums with piles of money – and even drugs to DJs to get their songs played on the radio. DJ Alan Freed was convicted in 1962 of accepting bribes to play music. Shortly after, payola laws were passed.
These payola laws have been on the books since then, but there is still payola. Today, it’s just done through intermediaries. While it isn’t permitted for a record label to pay a radio station to play music, it is permitted for them to pay a third party to help get their music played. Thus, the independent promoter was born.
These promoters aren’t allowed to pay money to the radio stations either, but they find other incentives, such as providing vacation packages to radio programmers, giveaways for the stations’ listening audiences, and even payments to cover miscellaneous expenses. The promoter will form alliances with a station’s general managers and cut deals. Typically guaranteeing a station in a medium-sized market $75,000.00 to $100,000.00 annually in what is termed “promotional support”to buy a station van, T-shirts, billboard ads, etc.
The annual promotional payment secures the promoter as the station’s exclusive point man. Once that promoter has claimed a station, he sends out a notice to record companies , letting them know he will invoice them, on average $1,000.00, every time the station adds a new song to the playlist.
So contrary to belief, none of the music on commercial radio is chosen by DJs from submissions by artists. Nor is it made a hit by radio programmers “discovering great music.”
Today, plenty of other distribution channels ARE available to indie musicians, such as college radio, podcasts, and music blogs, to get music heard by music fans. Commercial radio is losing listenership daily. The truth will set you free.
Source: The Indie Band Survival Guide