By Bryan Farrish
(part 1 of 5)
Nothing in the music business sparks more inquisitiveness
from grassroots artists than payola. Although established label
people (and radio people) realize that it's a red herring for a new
indie, the response to our previous article about Clear Channel was
the greatest of all the previous fifty Airplay 101 articles. That's
funny, since the purpose of that article was to explain how focusing
on things like payola or Clear Channel is a waste of time for the
indie artist... because it's not what's holding the artist back.
Most indie artist readers did not even see the purpose of the
article, and instead thought we were either defending or condemning
Clear Channel (we were doing neither). But I wont' give up... I'm
going to clarify and expand my argument, and take the next five full
articles to do so, starting with this one.
For a grassroots indie artist or label to think that a radio
group owner (CC or otherwise) is "holding them back" by
only offering airplay to "big" labels who can
"pay" them, is putting energy into the wrong area. By
grassroots-artist or indie-artist, I mean an artist with no
distribution, no touring, no press, and a marketing budget of
$30,000 or less, which will have to pay for all upcoming
manufacturing, promotion, PR, retail, booking, and everything else.
This category applies to 99 out of 100 readers of Airplay 101 (about
44,000 people). The remaining 1000 non-grassroots readers, who are
working on projects at the medium and major level, might indeed have
payola or CC as concerns. But by "indie", I do not mean
labels the size of Curb or Roadrunner... those are majors in the
grassroots world. Again: These Airplay 101 articles on payola apply
only to absolute beginners, and not to the more experienced
marketers (for them, we'll have Airplay 201 in the future.)
Here are some perspectives: For a grassroots artist to think
that payola or CC is holding them back, is like a 16 year old
hostess at a restaurant wanting to open her own 1000-seat restaurant
in Manhattan, and then, when she is turned down by the banks (or the
banks' secretaries) for the ten million dollar loan, she blames the
problem on corporate corruption, thinking that you can only open a
restaurant by paying people off. Forget the fact that she only has
worked as a hostess (the only job she ever had) for three months...
this could never be the problem. This situation might seem funny,
but this is how experienced label (and all radio) people view indie
artists who are complaining that payola is what is stopping them
from getting exposure.
Now, if the person seeking the ten million dollar bank loan
had been a 20 year food service veteran, having worked as hostess,
waitress, cook, bartender, head chef, assistant and general manager,
well then, if you heard her complain about corporate payoffs being
the reason she were being turned down for her loan, you might
actually listen. But the real answer for the 16 year old hostess is
the answer for the grassroots indie artist: Why are you wasting your
time focusing on things that are so high level that they don't apply
to you? They may apply to other people in larger marketing
situations, but not to you at your level.
The real reason that the 16 year old hostess can't get the
restaurant loan (and thus can't "move forward") is that
she knows almost nothing about the restaurant business. She knows so
little, as a matter of fact, that she does not even know what she
doesn't know. But the bank knows, for a fact, that she has no chance
of success... so they don't even talk to her. So she complains about
what she DOES know about... corporate corruption, which she sees on
TV. That is the ONE and ONLY reason that she can't get the ten
million dollar restaurant loan, and also the ONE reason she is not
being promoted to waitress. What else could it be? If there were any
other possible reasons, SHE would know about it (right?), because
after all, SHE is working in the restaurant business, and SHE knows
how it works. (well, she sort of works in it, because she also
baby-sits on the side.)
Point: 99 out of 100 of the people reading this do not know
enough about the radio business (or music marketing) to understand
the very basics of what is needed to get airplay. So, they pin the
lack-of-airplay on what they have read about: Payola. What else
could it be? What other music marketing can one possibly do besides
make some CDR's with stick-on labels, and mail them out to Clear
Channel stations in markets 1 through 20?
is not a tool for a small indie to get airplay.
Bryan Farrish Radio
Promotion is an independent radio airplay promotion company.
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