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13 Mistakes Artists Make when Promoting Music



As the owner of RFFocus , I have dealt with all kinds of clients trying to push their brand to radio. From established major label artists to the most independent. Quite often the majors know exactly what they are doing when they promote music to radio but the independents quite often make some extremely costly mistakes. First and foremost they are often not prepared and they trust the wrong people.  Believe it or not this is not always relegated to strangers. Many times, it’s family. The artists brings them into the fold to build his brand but they are not experienced.  Now he’s got a frustrated label and a house full of people who know absolutely nothing about the music business. I believe in giving our clients the most for their money and some of the tips I give to them, I’m sharing with you here so that you can save time and money when your goal is to promote your music to the industry and beyond. Here are some tips on getting the most out of the industry when you are new to it….(click “Next” above or below to see next segment)

Be Prepared


There are many if not MOST opportunities that will only knock once… and NEVER again. The best way to be  prepared for an opportunity?  BE PREPARED FOR AN OPPORTUNITY!!! Be bold in your approach, ask questions and make sure you know as much as possible to take you to the next level of success. You see it all the time especially in sports and it happens to artists too, poor planning leads to a dismal and financially flawed future if you want it to last do the work NOW so that you can make sure there is no turning back.  Click “Next” for the next advice”

Know who you are dealing with


There are people in (or who USED to be in) the industry that will tell you that they went to high school with Jesus and ate lunch at the same table as the President Bush. if you are stupid enough to believe it without doing your research you will get ripped. Know that people think of themselves FIRST when it comes to business. How is this going to benefit me, the BEST business deals in my experience is where it is a win/win situation which is my philosophy.  Understand, the BEST price is not always the best DEAL nor is the highest price. You want the best PERSON…FIRST. Make absolutely sure you have several sources that you can bounce information and questions to about the person you are looking to hire. They should also freely offer you CURRENTLY WORKING references. Don’t hesitate to call them.  Quite often many of our independent label clients from the states and abroad will ask us about a particular independent promoter, for example. I’ve been in the game well over 20 years and I have never HEARD of some of these people and I believe our job is to look out for the client’s best interest. What I do is refer them to a qualified independent promoter.  One of the greatest disadvantages to being young is you have not figured out how unscrupulous and underhanded some people can be and you may trust the wrong people which, in the black community we use one bad experience with one black person and relegate ALL black people to be dirty business people when the blame is on YOU. I’ve seen it time and again when people have used other sites to promote their music which claim to reach the industry and they waste their money, then they come to me and expect me to help them but with a limited budget which does not work for us. Note, there are many white people who will rip you off too. Would you like a list of singers who can tell you about their accounting nightmares? Click “Next” for the next advice”

Ask questions, then more questions


The music business is actually NOT about hype, contrary to popular belief, it USED TO BE but now it’s about RESULTS. The greatest advice I can give to aspiring musicians is BEWARE the man or woman who uses Hype as a way to lure you in. They are the types that talk about how they got screwed by a major star who they gave their start to or how that star stole their ideas..yadda yadda whom pity whom… For those of us who are experienced in the industry Hype is a MAJOR turn off and we look at people like that like used car salesman because we are aware that the person is usually full of shit. We want to know how many spins the song has, what are the social media numbers, what markets is the artist hot in, what does radio think etc. We don’t care about the next Beyonce, we already have the original one. Note that those who talk the most to convince you quite often usually do the least.  You want to look for the person who has a very cavalier presence as if he or she can take the account or leave it. You know when you come across the right person and when you smell sh*t. The greatest industry people are those that you have usually been referred to by other WORKING industry people.  Click “Next” for the next advice”

Get to know someone at your local radio station


Radio program directors are often very busy and burdened by heavy workloads but they could be your BEST ally to get into the music industry if you can get to know them. DJs (mix show DJs NOT radio announcers) usually also have a lot of power and influence.  An idea is to make a way to get to know either a PD or a DJ at your local radio station or even club (make sure you can stomach the club business scene, it’s not for the weak). Go see if they need interns (they usually do, black stations love to for people to work for free). Don’t go in talking about your goals, that will get you kicked out. Look at it like college and go in and earn the degree in your field, the music industry. Be ready to learn how the industry works and do the work. It is how I started in the industry and I got sidetracked into doing radio for yeas when I actually wanted to be an artist. You would be amazed at the contacts you can develop in just a few months.  Click “Next” for the next advice”

Watch what you say


I was watching a video of the Breakfast club when a well known rapper was on the show stating that he had paid to be on the show. He was joking but the hosts made SURE the audience KNEW it was a joke.  There are three words that are industry kryptonite “pay for play.” Do business wisely.  Click “Next” for the next advice”

Surround yourself with the right people


Uncle Caught-a-Case and Auntie EBT are not business people and they should not be doing business for you if they don’t understand it. It is understandable that you want to be around people you trust but keep in mind that family will often turn at against you in the WORST way in certain situations … beware.  Click “Next” for the next advice”

If it sounds too good to be true… IT USUALLY IS


If you are an independent artist and an independent promoter who’s last project was an MC Hammer record tells you he can get you on major market radio stations with your first project.. RUN….don’t just run, I mean run till you get to the freeway then RUN to the next STATE. In all honestly as a new artist who is not on a major label, your radio airplay is going to be limited.  Click “Next” for the next advice”     

Create a Buzz

People Marching with Bullhorns

Just make sure it’s with the right people. For example RFFocus is the leading urban radio and music industry site. We deliver the most news, email blasts and a podcast about the industry along with updating our site daily with the best rankings and if our clients don’t ask we show it to them anyway because these are things you need to know. If you are going to spend money on a campaign realize you want the MOST exposure. There are a LOT of small so-called industry sites that don’t put in the work and will take your money and not reach the target they claim they reach. I have sent clients to other sites to buy ads if I can’t help them but do your homework. Look at the sites Alexa.com rankings. Anything above a 500,000 is going to offer you VERY limited exposure. Anything BELOW that is much better.  Also, can they do a report of how many impressions your campaign got at the end of the campaign?  This is information that you need.  We do it for our clients per ad and they love it.  Click “Next” for the next advice”

Beware of the Money Mongers


As stated above, there are people out there who will take all your money and bring you zilch results. Once they have paid their rent they are out looking for the next person to screw. Compare prices AND services. Ask them what was the last project they worked. If it was something from more than 2 years ago… move on. A great promoter is CONSTANTLY working NEW projects. That’s not to say some great promoters have not worked in a few years but I have never seen an industry tha tis more out-of-sight-out-of-mind. If you are not working, you are forgotten about in less than a week. You don’t have time to weight the pros and cons of someone who was working and is working. I would always go for the one who IS working.  Unfortunately, it’s just a factor of business the man who is working has more perceived value… For our independent clients we have a few of the top independent promoters that we refer to for work. Click “Next” for the next advice”   

It’s all in the Presentation.


Just because everybody else doesn’t care about the way they present themselves doesn’t mean you should do the same. As a matter of fact it may work to your advantage to be the opposite of what everybody else is.  Today’s musician MUST also be an entrepreneur that means you have to be able to walk into a room with great confidence and esteem and you need to understand how the industry works  which is why I stated earlier to find a way to work in the industry locally so that you can be around the wealth of information others are often not privy to.  Click “Next” for the next advice”

Take someone out to lunch or meet them in their surroundings.


If you want someone to help you then you need to go to them. Even if it’s a quick meeting at McDonald’s make sure you go out of your way to go to one close to them or ask them where they want to meet if you have a chance to get a meeting. Getting a PD or a DJ on the phone is a challenge in itself but getting them to meet you? That’s damn near unheard of. If you get the opportunity, respect for one’s tenure in the industry goes a long way. We work in an environment where everyone is coming to you  for something, what can you BRING to the table? if you do get a meeting make sure you are prepared. Don’t get too friendly or familiar with the person  Click “Next” for the next advice”     

Never put established artists Down


Nobody gives a loaded baby diaper what you think about Lil’ Wayne or the current state of Hip Hop. That’s NOT going to get you the gig, your project is, but in order for a real industry person to even listen to it, they have to feel good about you. You are your own walking resume. Why would someone trust a person who says negative s*it about another artists. Understand business people know that what you do to others behind their backs is what you will do to them behind theirs so avoid the negative banter. Know that the artist that you are talking about has arrived and you are still knocking on the door and they are where you are trying to go …You would be SHOCKED at how the person that you are talking about could be the person to introduce you or work on your next project. Click “Next” for the next advice”   

Don’t Over Hype


Tell the person what you have, don’t build it up or put it down, let THEM be the judge. Ask them what they think of it and how much you would appreciate their opinion. That will go much further in the long run. The first meeting if for them to get to know YOU not your project. For more information on advertising, contact kevRoss [email protected]

CEO of RF Focus, Radio and Music Industry Veteran. Radio DJ, Programmer, Musician and Voice Talent. Graduated from Performing Arts in Buffalo, N.Y. and worked at the legendary KKBT (92.3 The Beat) during its nationwide heyday in the early 90s. Also worked for Stevie Wonder at KJLH.


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