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How Music Promotion Works

Updated on May 28, 2011

Ever wonder how a cd goes from the recording studio to your music player? Then this hub is for you. I spent some time as the metal dj for KTRM and worked with the music business for a while. The thing to understand is that any media product is always finished well before it's available. The people who own the record use this time to drum up excitement both in the general public and the stores that are going to be stocking the album. Here's what they do:

Layering. The process of reaching as many people as possible is the goal. The first people to reach are music industry insiders and die hard fans. The insiders know how to sell music. They do things like determining where and how to distribute albums, putting advertising in music publications, setting up interviews and (in the best case scenario) starting a tour to promote the album. Outside the industry the most important people are the die hard fans. These are the people that will tell anyone and everyone that a new album is out and when it's out. You really can't leave word of mouth out of the equation so these fans need to be reached as soon as possible. Often times songs are "leaked" from the album for these fans. (Having worked in promotions I'm convinced most of these leaks are planned by the promotions department)

The next phase in this process is sending out a large number of promotional copies of the release to the music world at large. Magazines and Websites are expected to make reviews. Stores are expected to play the new album in stores or at least put a poster up. Radio stations wanting to play current material for free are expected to play at least some of the records they receive and chart them for music charts like Billboard or CMJ. Charting boils down to figuring out how many spins a record gets, rating that number, and giving the information to the people that compile charts. Charting accomplishes a number of things. It gives people who want to sell the item insight into how many people want it. It gives the industry feedback on how well the album is going to be received. It also lets radio stations eager to play only the most popular songs know what's hot (is in rising on the charts).

When it all goes right, it should look something like this, week one:

  • The die hard fan buys the album, loves it, and plays it to everyone.
  • The committed fans of the band know about the album will buy it now or soon.
  • People will be talking about that catchy new song on the radio, find out about the artist and buy the album
  • The cd has charted well (stayed up at the top or near the top for a few weeks) so sellers are interested in purchasing more copies, and the label is prepared to make more copies.
  • The people with music magazine subscriptions will either read a positive review or see an ad that gets them excited about the album.
  • sample songs are on various internet sites like myspace or youtube, and digital albums can be downloaded from iTunes, Amazon and the like.
  • Working out the details for an album touring is going well.

I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that promoters would love for all of this to happen the first week the album is released..That album has to compete with other albums that are going through the exact same process. Songs and albums, even phenomenal ones, will tend to play out, especially if the song is on the radio all the time. Having charted myself, I know it's rare for an album to make the lists after three months. Once the album is out and a sufficient number of people have heard of it the industry will already be turning its gears. A music magazine has to fill every issue with new albums and artists. Radio stations are constantly receiving new music they like more. (I got about 3-5 albums a week).

The album, of course, doesn't disappear, but after a couple of months the album will already be on the a longer term strategy. There are several paths here: tours and public appearances, continued word of mouth, stirring up public controversy (especially with the religious right), and music awards, among others.

Take a look at some of my other hubs:


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    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

      Enjoyed your hub being a big music fan myself.