By Andrea Morris
A radio tracker is someone who not only takes your single to radio but they represent you. Prior to doing so they decide if the single is ready in various ways to help increase your chances of getting radio airplay. For example does it meet Cancon requirements, is it under four minutes long, how is your website and social media functioning, what is your history and where do you want to go next? You don’t want to release a country song when you only have the one country single and the rest of your music is pop and you look like a pop artist. A radio tracker only takes your song to radio when they think they have all the right elements to work with in order to give your song a fair chance at being heard and played.
So why do you need to hire a radio tracker? Well, you can try to track your single by yourself, but you will have to spend several weeks researching all the different radio stations in Canada to find the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the program directors and music directors of the stations in the format you want to target. You will also have to figure out when they take their music calls, when they send out their playlists and have their music meetings, and how to send them reports in order to keep them posted on your release and your career in general. You should also have a Mediabase or BDS account to track your airplay at major market stations. This can all be incredibly time consuming and expensive. And there no longer any industry trade papers in Canada with this information or radio lists that are readily available to you. The other issue is that many radio programmers will not take calls or listen to music from people they do not know. Radio programmers receive anywhere from twenty to forty new songs each week. Obviously, they don’t have time to listen to every single one of these, so they rely on trackers and promo reps from major labels to help them set their priorities.
Hiring a radio tracker helps you get your music noticed by programmers. However, there is NEVER a guarantee of airplay when you hire a tracker and anyone who promises you with 100% certainty your song will be played at a station is probably misleading you. If radio trackers could guarantee radio airplay, they would all be millionaires. Radio airplay is a crap shoot. You need a GREAT song to get their attention but you also need a savvy radio tracker to help build a relationship for you at radio. They will help decide the best release date of your single to radio, how to feed the appropriate information to radio about your accomplishments in the most professional manner and so much more i.e. time of year, appropriate branding of your music, song times, Cancon requirements, your bio content – radio trackers always try to be in the know about what radio is looking for at any given time. Most of all, remember that this is a team-effort. You can never sit back and stop working for a minute if you have a song out to radio. You radio tracker needs constant ammunition and to prove to music directors that you are a hard-working artist so that you stay at the top of the priority pile in music meetings.
A radio tracker will help you choose the song that will most likely get airplay for you. The first single you release to radio should be a strong song that aptly represents YOU as an artist. The tracker will also direct you to the proper format for your music. Sometimes you can approach two formats with your song. This is called crossing over. It does cost more to work double formats, but there is an added bonus of more exposure, which translates into more sales. And sales mean money, which we all love!!
When you hire a radio tracker, you are paying for their relationships with programmers and their expertise. As you can guess, music is subjective. Many times, programmers have two or three songs of equal merit to add to their station. Their choice of the single to add to their station can come down to who they have a relationship with and who they want to help. That is why you need a great radio tracker on your team.
Before you decide to hire a tracker, speak with several trackers first. You need to work with someone who has a good track record and who you feel comfortable communicating with. Check out their websites. Speak to their former clients to see if they were happy with the work done. Remember, success is not always about having a charting single first time out. It’s about reaching the next level of your career and establishing relationships with music directors and creating an interest in your music. It’s a confidence game that takes time and rarely happens the first time around (though it is possible and we’ve all done it, you never know which ball is going to hit home on the first try). Try to chat with a programmer to get their recommendation. Be sure to do your homework in order to be sure you have hired a reputable radio tracker who will secure adds on your single. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Also find out how many artists the tracker represents. If a tracker works more than 5 artists to one format at a time, you are NOT being properly represented. Always try to get a guarantee in writing that you will be part of smaller, more manageable roster – people are busy and radio is unlikely to return calls to trackers who keep them on the phones for too long with a list of artists to pitch. You may think you are getting a great deal on radio promotion, but in reality, you are part of a laundry list that is read off to programmers. No one wants to hear about more than three priorities from a tracker. A reputable tracker will limit the number of artists they work with in order to insure you are a priority at radio.
Remember - no question is a dumb question. You are spending your hard earned cash on your dream of breaking into the music business and you have every right to get the answers you need. And always, always get everything in writing. Now go write that hit single so we can deal with the next step in your musical success!