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How will you get your record played on radio?

To get your records played on radio you need a plugger. So what is a plugger? How do you find one? Could you do it yourself?


Getting radio plays is the key to successful sales of a record or CD. But how do you get radio plays? Every band and artist wants those plays too, so how can you get to the head of the pack?

The answer is that you employ a plugger. A plugger is someone who maintains a close contact with radio stations and gets to understand their needs intimately, far more than an artist, band, publisher or label ever could.

So the plugger saves the radio station a lot of work listening to tracks they probably wouldn't playlist anyway because they don't fit the station's demographic. The plugger is also a sales person. He or she sells the record to the radio station, tempts them, persuades them, almost compels them to play the record. Salesmanship is a rare talent, and you need plenty of it to be a plugger.

So how do you find a plugger? If you are working with a well set up label, they will know the pluggers already. If you are not so well advanced, then you will have to rely on word of mouth (for preference, followed by a trawl through industry directories).

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Of course, you will ask a potential plugger about their track record of success, backed up by phone calls to make sure they are not blagging you.

Pluggers can be paid in various ways. If you get someone to work for you on a regular basis you can pay them retainers. Retainers are regular payments, probably monthly, which can vary according to the amount of work you expect them to do.

Retainers are good, but they encourage people to be lazy since they get the money whether they work or not. Of course they will get fired after a while, but it could take some time to find out that they are slacking.

So bonus payments based on results are better - a negotiated payment for example for getting playlisted by a certain station, and further agreed payments for getting other stations on board.

Without doubt the best pluggers can command royalties (sometimes known as 'points'). For a top plugger, the royalty could be in the region of 0.5% to 1% of the recommended retail price of the record. But of course, the really top pluggers will only want to work with product that is likely to sell well anyway.

So when other people's records are getting played on radio and yours are not, you need a better plugger.

By David Mellor Monday February 20, 2006