Getting Airplay for your CD

By: Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

I would like to express my thanks to my good friend and colleague, Gail Wein, a former NPR producer and currently a communications consultant and publicist in New York City, who provided the information that is the basis for my column below.

Dear Edna:

What is the best way for an unknown artist to get airplay for a CD (say, NPR in particular)? —Patricia Goodson

Dear Patricia:

Thank you very much for your question, which I am sure will be of interest to many of our readers. Like so many aspects of career building today, success in getting airplay for a cd is largely dependent on its special appeal and the excellence of the performer(s) involved. It is unlikely that NPR would feature a recording of standard repertoire by an unknown artist unless there were an unusual story surrounding that artist or they were brought to their attention by several individuals whose opinion they highly respected. If the repertoire is unusual, the chances are greater. For example, I recently met a gifted saxophonist, Christopher Brellochs, who had access to the unpublished manuscript of Aaron Copland’s original version of music for  Quiet City, which was written for chamber ensemble. He adapted it for concert purposes, making a few small orchestration changes, and with the blessing of the Aaron Copland Estate and Copland’s publisher, Boosey and Hawkes, made the world premiere recording.  This recording, rounded out with music by other American composers, was featured by both American Public Media and National Public Radio (Performance Today and Weekend Edition), alongside interviews with Mr. Brellochs. It is not hard to see why it captured their attention.

In attempting to get airplay for a cd, you can work at both the local and national level but the objectives will be somewhat different. A local station (which may be a member station of NPR) might play your cd as a stand-alone item, perhaps with a little introductory explanation that could include information about a related performance in the area. An approach to NPR in Washington, D.C., would be made in hopes that the recording would interest them enough to produce a feature story about it or invite you to be interviewed. There is also the possibility that you could be asked to do a live, in studio performance.  In approaching a local classical station, you would begin by going on the radio station’s website and looking for the name of the Music Director. If that is not apparent, the next choice would be the Program Director. The third choice would be the individual host of a specific show. The next step would be to send the cd by mail to the particular individual with a short bio of the artist(s), a press release about the cd, if you have one, and a cover note that explains why you think that it is of particular interest. If you are based in the area or have performed there, it would be wise to point that out. It is advisable to simultaneously send an e-mail to this person with the same basic content and also alerting them that you are sending a cd to them and would be most grateful for their consideration.  It may be a bit challenging to get the e-mail address but you should call the station and if you are not successful in getting through to anyone, ask for the membership department, which almost always answers. Be aware that these stations probably get dozens of cd’s a week and, therefore, they are not likely to respond to you. However, it is fine for you to follow up with another e-mail or phone call, saying that you hope they received your cd and will consider it for airplay. You can leave your phone number in case they have any questions. It is not advisable to approach everyone whose name you come up with because they are likely to be in close communication and feel as if they have been bombarded by you. If you already know someone at the station, albeit not in one of the above three categories, feel free to send them your cd and ask if they can shepherd it along. Ms. Wein advises me that even though press kits and performances are often shared digitally, some media outlets prefer to receive cd’s. Therefore, it is probably safest to go that route, unless the station’s website advises otherwise.

If you are seeking national exposure on shows such as NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition or Weekend Edition, it will be all the more crucial that your cd has a story associated with it that would justify national exposure (premiere recording of certain repertoire, unjustly neglected composer, newly formed ensemble of great interest, etc.) You can indicate your availability for a live interview or studio performance, should they be interested. You will want to go on the NPR website and follow their instructions in the section called “How do I submit materials (cd’s, books…) to NPR for possible review”. Please note that they ask you not to contact them for follow-up as they will contact you if they have any questions.

I wish you the best of luck in gaining wider exposure for your recorded performances.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012

Comments are closed.