What does an Independent Radio Promoter do?

In the internet age, musicians can accomplish on their own many tasks for which they once relied on record labels. They can release their music through web-based platforms such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, and use social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter for marketing. But one thing continues to be almost impossible for the average musician: finding radio airplay for their songs. That’s where independent radio promoters come in. Acting as middlemen, radio promoters are hired by artists and labels to market new songs to program directorsmusic directors, and DJs. To do so, they rely on a network of professional connections at radio stations across the country and highly specialized knowledge of the field, ranging from which stations play what sort of music to each station’s preferred way of receiving submissions.

Radio promoters are excellent listeners, capable of hearing a record and breaking down its musical appeal to understand which radio stations are most likely to put it into rotation and which markets will benefit it the most.

Most radio promoters have a specialty, which could be a radio type such as college radio, a specific format such as adult contemporary, or a region of the country. Although revenue from terrestrial radio has decreased in the 21st century, the continued power of radio to introduce music to new audiences—especially newer forms of radio such as Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music—means that demand for this career isn’t going away. 

At a Glance

Career Path

Most independent radio promoters gain their initial connections by working for a radio station in some capacity, or by working an internship in a record label promotion department. Once they've acquired a firm grasp of the different radio formats and developed the connections necessary to get songs onto any music director's desk, they might become record label promotion managers, overseeing radio promotion within a large territory of radio stations, or go freelance to work with clients in the growing unsigned market.

For some independent radio promoters, success might mean securing a promotion manager position at a large, successful record company—a job that can grant a steadier salary, benefits, and the opportunity to promote big-name artists. For those who enjoy the freedom of working freelance, however, success comes by developing a pervasive network of industry contacts and a rock-solid reputation for promoting tracks by top independent artists. Radio promoters might also use their knowledge and skills to become radio consultants or radio researchers—high-level analysts of airplay trends.

Finding Work

Radio promoters might work for record label promotion departments, for independent radio promotion companies, or as freelancers. It’s difficult to break into this profession, as radio promoters rely on established relationships and connections to do their job. The only way to do so is to make these same relationships and connections in another context, which is why aspiring radio promoters should seek music-related positions within the radio community, or radio-related positions within the record industry.

Professional Skills
  • General knowledge of radio (formats, styles, conventions)
  • Good ears
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Strategy
  • Music history
  • Verbal communication
Interpersonal Skills

Radio promoters are excellent listeners, capable of hearing a record and breaking down its musical appeal to understand which radio stations are most likely to put it into rotation and which markets will benefit it the most.

At the same time, the real challenge inherent in radio promotion is getting somebody important to listen to the record when there are hundreds of other new releases competing for their attention. To do so, radio promoters must be persuasive, passionate, and persistent—but the latter in such a way that it doesn’t compromise their connections. After all, there's always the next record. The radio promoters who tend to succeed are unerringly polite, optimistic, and patient, understanding that long-term relationships are far more important than individual placements.

Work Life

In the internet age, radio promoters no longer live out of their cars, but the position may still require a fair amount of travel. The bulk of the job consists of meeting and strategizing with artists, sending emails to and phoning radio stations, and paying in-person visits to important stations and markets in order to maintain connections. Networking at music and radio industry events is a must. Radio promoters who choose to go completely freelance do so at the expense of a steady salary and health benefits, but gain the freedom to work wherever and whenever they choose.

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