“Airplay 101” by Bryan Farrish
October 19, 2016 – Los Angeles: How To Use Radio To Boost Your Online Sales
With indie distribution now firmly established on the web, we’ll now cover how to use radio to make online CD sales happen. We will focus on album CD sales that are purchased through CD Baby, the largest online CD sales site devoted to indie releases; and we’ll focus on commercial radio, which is much more suited to doing this type of thing than non-commercial radio is.
There are two main ways of using radio to drive people to buy your CD on CD Baby, both of which may also help you obtain spins:
1) Buying radio spots (commercials) that drive listeners to your CD Baby page, where you then benefit from album purchases, or
2) Doing a Per-Inquiry (PI) setup at stations, whereby the stations run your spots for free, and then they get paid from each CD sold. While everyone reading this will of course want to try the second option first, you should know that it is at least a hundred (100) times harder than the first one. Here’s the easy one…
Buying spots on a commercial station is straightforward, controllable, and has predictable costs. If your band name is XYZ, you simply tell the station to record a spot for you that plays the song’s chorus at least twice, and then tells listeners to “buy it online at CD Baby dot com slash XYZ” at least three times. Simple, and it works every time. But it’s expensive.
Now the tough one: The PI option is difficult for two reasons. First, a “per-inquiry” setup means that the stations may or may not actually get paid later, based on how many sales you TELL them occurred (yes, they have been lied to before.) Second, there has been a long-standing resistance in the radio business with regards to them participating in music sales. There are many reasons for this, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll say that the way to work around it is just to contact a large number of stations (at least 100) if you want to end up with just one that will do it. Once you find a station that will participate: Create a “partner” page at http://partners.cdbaby.com/ (you’ll need a separate partner account for each station.) If your band name is XYZ, and the station is KPOP, then create a partner page with a username of “xyzkpop” (or, if the station is WBIG, then make it “xyzwbig”), and I’d recommend a very easy password too… maybe even the same as the username. Then give the username and password to your contact at the station so they can verify sales for themselves, and so they can compare these sales to the spins they are giving you.
Now create a simple “radio click-to-order” page on your band site (you’ll need a separate page for each station.) If your site is www.xyz.com/, then make the KPOP order page www.xyz.com/kpop (this is where the your commercial will direct listeners to). On this page, put the link that CD Baby gives you, which will then send listeners to your place on CD Baby for purchase, where it will pay $1 per CD purchased, to KPOP. Confused?… see this diagram: www.radio-media.com/CDbabyRadioDiagram.jpg
However, this $1 is just the standard amount that CD Baby pays out (you can’t change this amount). It is not enough to make a PI radio deal work. I’d recommend paying at least another $4 per CD from your own funds. Even if you make zero profit from the sales, you’ll benefit greatly from the gigs and merchandise that you can sell in the cities where you are spinning.
You will also want to get an 800 number so people can call from their cars. Get one from your phone company (about $5/month,) and “piggyback” the number onto your regular phone number and answering machine. The message should tell callers to leave their email address, and the station they heard you on, so you can email them a link to buy the CD (and of course, the link will be specific to their station, so that station will get credit for the sale.)