How Top 40 Radio Works

How is Music Promoted?

Music promotion is big business. Here is a typical scenario in a recording company:

You, the recording artist, have signed a recording contract with a major record label. The record label makes your album and ships it to a distributor that sells it to stores. The record label then begins the massive promotion of your music. This promotional effort requires a lot of work by a lot of people. Here is a short list of what's involved.

  • Marketing: The marketing folks create advertising and publicity for your album and tours, create the artwork for your album cover, do promotional videos, in-store displays, get promotional merchandise like t-shirts or hats with your name on them, and more.
  • Promotion: These people are responsible for getting your music played on the radio -- which is essentially the total goal of the program because if you can get played enough on the radio, you'll sell more records, see more demand for concerts, and everyone makes more money.
  • Sales: Salespeople are the ones who get your music into the music stores where it can be sold. Remember, unless you're also writing your own songs, record sales (along with touring) are your bread and butter.
  • Artist Development: Because some artists sell more records after touring and performing their music live, there is a need for "tour support," which is provided by the record label's folks who are responsible for artist development. By definition, "tour support" is the amount of money you lose while touring. In other words, if it costs you $80,000 to go on tour and you make $50,000 doing it, you need $30,000 in tour support. By artist development, we mean running promotions in towns where you will be touring and making sure the local record stores have your music. Most record labels aren't willing to provide tour support unless your music falls into the right genre of music for such an expenditure. Some types of music sell more records when the artists go on tour and some don't. In any event, the norm these days is that the tour support is recouped from your record royalties. This means you're still paying for it yourself.

But, in the world of music promotion, this only scratches the surface.