Due to the name, record promotion is often confused with publicity and marketing. However, the difference is clearer than it sounds: while the publicity department takes care of television appearances and magazine articles, and the marketing department develops artists’ long-term brand and social media presence, it’s up to the promotion department—and the promotion manager as one of its senior staff—to pitch new tracks, records, and artists to radio stations across the country, securing radio airplay and growing the audience for the label's releases.
To do so, promotion managers cultivate a broad network of connections with music directors (MDs) and program directors (PDs) at key radio stations across their territory, which may consist of a small geographical region or a cluster of high-profile national stations. Promotion managers might also analyze record performance data in order to develop regional and national promotion strategies, as well as supervise field representatives and other entry-level members of the promotions department.
This is a job that requires excellent communication skills, the ability to speak persuasively about music, a strong knowledge of and appreciation for radio as a medium, and persistence.
Besides the numbers game of getting as many records as possible into radio circulation and onto the charts—which is ongoing—promotion managers also handle a number of more occasional promotional duties. When the label's touring artists come through the region, it's often promotion managers who develop and coordinate promotional events such as meet-and-greets, merchandise and album giveaways, and radio visits, performances, and interviews.
And as the most up-to-date source of information on how records and artists are performing on the charts, promotion managers frequently collaborate with the other label departments to ensure that all aspects of marketing strategy are moving in tandem. Sometimes promotion managers are made responsible for increasing airplay on music video channels and internet radio. All in all, this is a job that requires excellent communication skills, the ability to speak persuasively about music, a strong knowledge of—and appreciation for—radio as a medium, and persistence.
Promotion Manager at a Glance
Many promotion managers start as field representatives, working a small region of radio stations and other music-related businesses. Others begin in radio, working at local stations, before switching over to work for record label promotion departments. An experienced promotion manager might become the director of promotions at the label, overseeing a team of managers and staffers, or transition into working as an independent radio promoter, which is a freelance position that utilizes the same contacts and knowledge-base but allows for more freedom in selecting clients.
An internship in a label’s promotion department is an excellent jumping off point for an aspiring promotion manager, and frequently leads to an entry-level position in the department. However, one should be aware that these internships are rarely paid anymore.
Working in music radio can be an alternate path to radio promotion, as doing so helps one to develop an understanding of what radio stations look for in the songs they pick up, knowledge of different radio formats, and an initial network of contacts.
- Information management
- BDS (Nielsen)
Communication is the most important skill for a promotion manager, whether it’s getting and relaying reports, giving directions to field representatives in the promotion manager’s territory, convincing a program director at a radio station to take a new track from an unseasoned artist, collaborating with the marketing or publicity departments on a promotional push for a label artist, or discussing the label’s priorities and overall strategies with a promotion VP or format head. Promotion managers must be persuasive salespeople when they’re working on their own, intelligent analysts when planning broad promotional strategies, and wise delegators when distributing tasks to their staff. An excellent memory, a pleasant and personable demeanor, and a love of music and radio are also helpful.
This is a field that is competitive by definition: every day, dozens of people in similar roles at different labels are competing for a limited number of spots on the same radio station playlists. As a result, most promotion managers work long hours, sometimes rising early to assess charts and Nielsen BDS reports.
Some managers fulfill an almost entirely supervisory role, in which case the bulk of the work is remote or office-oriented: conducting meetings and calls with radio stations, advising and supervising field staff, and communicating with other departments and higher-ups via reports, email, meetings, and conference calls. Other promotion managers, especially those employed by smaller labels, travel to and from radio stations to maintain valuable business relationships and to find circulation for songs.