A conversation with Shil Patel, who owns radio promo company Tiger Bomb Promo. He’s done promo campaigns for Sufjan Stevens, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Hiss Golden Messenger, Julia Holter, The Magnetic Fields, Daniel Romano, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – and many many many more.
If you want to know more about how a radio campaign works – Shil is going to break it down for us. He shares the components of a campaign, how he gauges if the campaign is successful, the hidden benefits of doing a radio campaign, and some of his best advice to up and coming musicians.
EP 1: Shil Patel From Tiger Bomb Promo
Hello everyone and welcome to the first episode of the Music Rookie podcast. My name is Rachel Hurley.
Now, there’s plenty of info about me all over the internet – so I’m not going to waste your time with a long intro about who I am or what my qualifications are. I’ll just say that I have been working in the music industry for over 20 years and I currently own a publicity firm called Sweetheart Pub, and I owe most of my success to my very deep list of contacts. So in order to help you learn more about the music industry, my partner, Frank Keith, and I have decided to start sharing with you our conversations with those contacts.
We hope to teach you the ins and outs of just about every facet of the industry, and we’re gonna share with you the knowledge that we wish someone had told us early in our careers.
BTW, Frank is in a band that’s on the charts right now – so you’ll get a working musician’s perspective too.
Today, I am going to speak with Shil Patel, who owns Tiger Bomb Promo – which is a radio promotion company. Using a radio promoter is how most indie artists get their music played on the radio. He’s done promo campaigns for Sufjan Stevens, Steven Malkmus and the Jicks, Hiss Golden Messenger, Julia Holter, and many more – just check out his website.
He’s gonna share with us the components of a campaign, how he gauges if the campaign is successful, the hidden benefits of doing a radio campaign, and give us some of his best advice to up and coming musicians. So thanks for joining me, and here we go.
Rachel Hurley 1:45
Well, why don’t we just start at the beginning, then? Just tell me how you got started in the music business. I know I remember you from working at Team Clermont. When I was at Ardent (Studios), you worked at Team Clermont. And I think that’s how we came to know each other a little bit. But tell us that storyline. How did you get from there to here?
Shil Patel 2:05
Yeah, I am from Texas, and went to the University of Texas at Dallas. And there was a small radio station that had just launched there as I was starting to take classes there. And I got involved with the radio station at that point – it’s called radio UTD. And it was internet only and still is, you know, broadcast on the internet exclusively. But it was, I think just six months old at that point. So got involved as a DJ first. And then over the course of the next few years, I ended up being the music director at the station for a year and a half. And then, the station manager for a year and a half. And the music director is the person typically at a station that handles all the incoming music from labels and promoters and artists directly, and determines like, what’s appropriate for the station for airplay purposes. And then makes that music available to DJs. So that was my first kind of position at the station.
Rachel Hurley 3:16
Let me stop you there real quick because I didn’t know that you were a station manager. And that’s very interesting. Because obviously a lot of independent musicians are mailing out their CDs to different stations. Were you like, at a ranked station? Were you getting just tons of music all the time that you had to go through? Were you on the CMJ list? Tell us all about that.
Shil Patel 3:41
Yeah, this is back in the days of CMJ- R.I.P. Well, I guess CMJ is resurrected now. They’re coming back. Yeah, this was in 2003-2004 when I first got involved. And you know, at that point, since the station was new, we were really establishing ourselves and trying to make new contacts. So initially, a lot of what we were doing is reaching out to people and saying, “Hey, we’re one of the few independent radio voices” even though we are on the internet in Dallas and Fort Worth. In particular, in Dallas, there wasn’t really any college radio presence at that point. And Fort Worth has KTCU from Texas Christian University, which is a great station, but you couldn’t pick it up in Dallas.
And so there wasn’t really a lot of you know, like college radio presence there. There’s a great independent radio station but so initially part of our pitch was saying, “Hey, we are one of the people one of the places to go to in Dallas for getting new music out.” And we started by basically getting labels to do the basic thing of just sending us their records as they were coming out. And then a lot of the labels were saying, “Hey, we work with this promotion company, you might want to just reach out to them, they’ll be more on top of it in terms of getting you new music every week.”
So then we started establishing relationships with more and more promotion companies, as well as getting on the direct mailing lists for a lot of labels. And at that point, it was still getting CDs in the mail. And those promoters are basically like, working for a lot of different labels and artists directly. So it’s, it’s kind of like a one-stop-shop. So, a company like the one that I’m running now, it’s considered an independent promoter, as opposed to a label promoter, which is somebody in-house as a label.
Over the course of the, you know, even just a few months, we ended up getting on the servicing list at a ton of different record labels. And then we started doing, you know, artist interviews and stuff like that, to really kind of establish ourselves and got involved in getting to get this station established, we reached out to Dallas Observer in The Met in Fort Worth. And there’s a couple of blogs that were publishing our charts, like our weekly charts, just to kind of help us, you know, get the word out about the station, but also let people know what we played at the same time. So that was that kind of how we got started.
Rachel Hurley 6:15
Were you in cahoots with Chris from Gorilla Vs. Bear.?
Shil Patel 6:20
Gorilla Vs. Bear started publishing our charts, I think in 2004-2005. You know, it’s funny, Chris and I never met in person, but we both went to UT Dallas, we both were involved in the music community there. And then I finally just met him at South by Southwest in 2019. We finally met in person for the first time, he’s like, “I used to publish your charts.” And I was like, “Yeah,” but, yeah, Gorilla Vs. Bear was one of them. There’s another one called “We shot JR,” which is a Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton specific blog that we published our charts as well.
Yeah, that’s kind of how you know how we got the station kind of up and off the ground. After I left UT Dallas at the end of 2006, I moved from Dallas to Athens and started working in Team Clermont in the radio promotion department. They do both, they had PR and radio promotion. I think they started as a radio promotion company and then added a PR department. And I think in the early 2000s, kind of as music blogging was taking off, they kind of were, you know, doing a lot of outreach to online music outlets when it wasn’t really a thing at that point. So, the PR department came later. But yeah, I started in 2000, basically at the beginning of 2007. And then in 2009, I ended up taking over, like becoming the head of the promotion department in 2009. And I worked there until 2016, late 2016. And then in September of 2016, I left and started Tiger Bomb promo, which is on my own, and we just strictly do radio promotion.
Rachel Hurley 8:13
So tell us about what that entails when you’re approached to do radio promotion, you know, from start to finish, what do you do for a musician?
Shil Patel 8:24
Yeah, so you know, we, the way that we come about you taking on projects, there’s a few different ways like, you know, somebody will approach us and say, like, “Hey, I’ve got this new record,” either that they’re putting out on their own, or maybe the label’s putting it out. Or we will follow up with people as well. We might see a Stereogum premiere for a song and say, like, “Hey, I like this band, I like the song” when I reach out to the label and see if we can get on board in terms of being the promoter.
So that initial conversation that we have with either the artist or the label or manager, basically is getting a sense of what their goals are for a radio push – a lot of times, we might work with one artist who isn’t going on tour. And so they just say like, “Well, we’re not touring. So radio is important for us to get the word out, you know, in lieu of touring.” And then there’s other people that come to us and say like “We have 120 dates this year, we really want to make radio part of the touring promotion side of things.” So in that case, you know, then they want to make sure that we’re getting interviews and in-studio performances when they go into different towns.
So we first try to get a sense of what their goals are, and the timeline that they’re working with as well. So typically, when a radio promoter comes on board, the timeline for album release is kind of already in place, or most of the gears are already in place. You know, over the past few years, a couple of years at least, I’m starting to see more and more. So like, when we are approached, there’s usually not just the release date set, but also individual singles. And when those are coming out that’s been much more structured over the past couple years than it ever has been before.
And I think that has a lot to do with getting things lined up for DSPs, and things like that. So now we’re more aware of like, album announce date, when each individual single’s coming out and the release date, and that informs our approach in radio as well. And so that initial conversation, you know, is us kind of assessing what they’re looking for, the timeline, and then also just talking about the music itself, where it fits into the radio landscape, what formats of radio stations it works at, there’s specific genre pushes that we need to make, like, if it’s an electronic record, or a hip hop record, do we want to, you know, make sure that we kind of specialize our campaign to focus on music directors and stations that deal with electronic music and hip hop music. So there’s some pieces of the initial conversation that we have.
Rachel Hurley 11:15
So let’s talk about the different formats. I’m obviously most knowledgeable about the AMA charts, because I work with a lot of Americana artists. And I know there are AAA stations, and I know there are college stations, but tell me all the different stations and formats that someone would have to choose from when they came and spoke to you.
Shil Patel 11:41
Yeah, so there are a few that we kind of have a better understanding of and better relationships with. I would say the primary one is what is most commonly referred to as college radio. In the past couple years, I’ve been trying to give it a little bit more of a nuanced description, because college radio includes a lot of stations that aren’t necessarily campus or university-affiliated. So we, for example, you know, KDHX and St. Louis is a community radio station. You know, that doesn’t necessarily fit the non, you know the name, but it moreover describes a lot of noncommercial radio, campus and university radio, and then kind of just independent stations as well. And the best way I can kind of, like, categorize it is there’s a chart, we talked about CMJ a minute ago, CMJ hasn’t compiled any charts since the beginning of 2017. And then they closed their doors and just recently kind of announced that they’re relaunching – in CMJ’s place – There’s an organization called NACC, which is the North American College and Community chart, which basically is, like, this organization that takes data from stations across the country in Canada, and compiles them on a weekly basis into different charts. The biggest one, that’s the most prominent one is this chart called the Top 200, which is basically just the top 200 albums or records at radio, at college and on commercial radio in that week.
They also compile like genre charts, again, you know, like, hip hop, folk, electronic. And that is kind of what I use as a descriptor for people, like I’ll say, like the NACC panel, and that kind of refers to this kind of collective of stations that, you know, are cross format in some instances. Because there’s a lot of overlap between these three, for instance, a lot of the Americana stations that you’re familiar with, are also considered, you know, Triple-A or non-com or college radio. So there’s a lot of crossover. Non-comm is basically what it sounds like, noncommercial radio, which does include a lot of public radio and NPR affiliates. Some good examples of non-comm stations would be like WXPN in Philadelphia, WFUV in New York and the Bronx. Stations like that. KUTX in Austin.
Rachel Hurley 14:34
We have WEVL in Memphis.
Shil Patel 14:36
Yeah, WEVL is a good example, like independent or kind of public radio and a lot of instances. And typically, what we see with non-com stations is a lot of them have a full-time staff, so they might even be based at a university. WXPN is based in UPenn but it’s more of a full-time staff, like a kind of dedicated full-time staff, as opposed to being student-run.
And then there’s AAA, which AAA is, you know, Adult Album Alternative. A lot of the AAA stations are commercial radio, they’re owned by a commercial radio entity. But there are some non-commercial stations that are considered in the triple-A panel as well, there again, there’s a little bit of that crossover there. Basically, the triple-A and non-comm stations, they’re a little bit more adventurous in their programming and a little bit more willing to play independent artists and newer artists than a lot of mainstream commercial radio. But they may be not as wild and experimental and freeform as college radio can be. Because I think a lot of non-commercial and AAA stations are really kind of in tune with listeners and what listeners are wanting to hear or what they expect their listeners to want to hear. So there’s always this kind of back and forth between like, making sure that they’re programming stuff that’s a little bit more accessible, but also not something that you’ll get you’re going to hear on every other station on the dial.
Rachel Hurley 16:13
So when you live in a city, and you have your big country station, or your big hip hop station, or your big pop station, where did those land? What are those? Those are triple A, right?
Shil Patel 16:25
Yeah, we usually, you know, like a broad blanket term would be like, commercial radio. Yeah. And then there’s, there’s formats within that, you know, you have Active Rock and Hot AC and there’s all these various kind of specific types of nomenclature for all of it based on the genre that they most often play.
Rachel Hurley 16:59
But you’re not pitching to those stations, correct?
Shil Patel 17:08
No, we don’t really do much in the, in the sense of commercial radio, aside from there are what we call specialty shows, which typically are on alternative radio stations that are maybe commercial alternative radio. Usually it’s a station that has a host that gets to pick what they want to play on their own outside of what’s already in rotation at the station. So that’s our one kind of inroad at a lot of the commercial radio stations, his specialty shows, because we can send, you know, on a weekly basis, we can update those hosts with “Hey, we got this new song that actually might be a good fit for your specialty show,” And they can choose to play it or not. Typically, those songs get played on a two or three week cycle, I’ve noticed. They get cycled out for new music a lot of times because it’s a lot of those specialty shows or or new music shows. So they try to focus on stuff that’s coming out that week or in the past couple of weeks. But it’s a good opportunity, because a lot of those shows have a really good following, and some of those hosts have been doing it for decades.
Rachel Hurley 18:19
So talk to me about exactly what the process is. Are you still mailing out CDs to your list? And then once you do that, what’s the follow up like? What is the service portion of what you do?
Shil Patel 18:37
Yeah, so the beginning, or the point of the campaign, where we start sending out music is basically when the first single gets announced. Usually it’s with the album announcement, it’s like the first thing we’ll drop. At that point, we make it available for stations to start downloading and playing. And we have a couple of ways of doing that. We have like, a thing that we call the singles pack, which is basically a folder where all the songs from upcoming releases can go and get downloaded in one easy place. And there’s also links to individually download new tracks as well. And we update that weekly on Fridays. So, if a single drops on a Tuesday, on Friday, we’ll add it to that singles pack, kind of a passive way of making it available to everybody. And then we also have, you know, we try to follow up with stations directly in instances where we might know that “Hey there, the station is a previous supporter of this, this artist, we want to make sure they get the single right away,” So we’ll reach out to stations directly as well.
The format of stations that we work with primarily are album oriented. So a lot of times we want to make the singles available to people early on. But they might not necessarily add them into rotation. At that point, they might say, “Hey, this is cool. Thanks for giving us a heads up. We really want the album when we’re closer to release date, that’s when we’ll probably be able to do something in terms of adding into rotation.” So a lot of times we’ll get that feedback from people. But there are a lot of stations that will go ahead and add in a song to rotation early on in the push, like maybe even around, announce date.
So we will make singles available as they’re coming out in that way. And then closer to the release date, we typically do a mailing. We have a list of around 200 that we try to ship to and that list changes, it shifts over time. So it’s not the same list on each mailing. We try to make sure that it’s active stations, stations that are relevant for the release. When touring is happening, we usually try to make the list lineup with places on the tour date or on the tour route, and then try to include previous supporters of the artists that have the history of radio, that sort of thing. So we try to tailor each list. It’s something that a lot of stations still ask us to do.
I would ideally love to just get away from doing mailings at all. And you know, I don’t know if this is something you’re discussing in the podcast or in the series. But you know, because of the pandemic, we’ve had to reassess what that looks like. So we actually haven’t done any mailings since late February. And because a lot of you know, music directors were just not going into the office and checking their mail. And a lot of people feel uncomfortable about getting packages. And then in the early days, especially people were disinfecting every piece of mail that we get, and it’s just overwhelming. So a lot of people have told us, “Hey, just add us to your digital only list now, and we don’t need CDs anymore.”
But there are a lot of stations that still need CDs to go in the booth for on air purposes. They still want a disk because a lot of times, you know, they just don’t have the infrastructure, some of them don’t have a musical library that a digital music library is set up, especially a lot of college stations that just don’t have the funding where they can digitize everything. So it’s still something that we do. But I anticipate over the next few years, the you know, the idea of sending out CDs is going to slowly fade away and I think we’ll probably move towards digital only radio, you know, push in the future.
But for now, you know, we still mail out. We typically would mail that disc, and those would go out about two weeks before the release date to stations. And we also supplement that with a digital servicing of the album a week before, typically, before what we call the ad date at radio. And the ad date is basically the day that we want stations to have reviewed the album and made it available in rotation for DJs to start playing it by that date,
Rachel Hurley 23:17
I think that also this pandemic is probably going to push a lot of people that didn’t want to do digital to go ahead and accept that and get with the program on that I’ve found. Because in the past, I did have a lot of people that I would pitch that had to have the disk to even consider reviewing it or writing about it. And now people are more apt to just download it before when they would not want to.
Shil Patel 23:51
Yeah, and I think like, you know, it’s something that is inevitable. Like, I think it’s something that we’re gonna have to inevitably say like, “Hey, we are using a lot of resources,” both financially and just the idea of mailing out all those CDs, the carbon footprint of it, is another thing to consider. But yeah, I think it’s something where we’ve been talking, I’ve been involved in radio and you know, this conversation for 16 years. And it’s the very first theme today I went to. I think there was a panel about “let’s move towards all digital,” and that was in 2004. And I think that hasn’t changed. You know, it’s something where, eventually we’re gonna have to have that conversation and make it the final one and say like, “Let’s all make a move towards digitizing.”
Rachel Hurley 24:41
Something that I’ve always been curious about is you pitching to college stations. Does it suck that they graduate due to making good connections with people there, and then they’re like, “Okay, see you!” and then you got to, like, start over with the next person.
Shil Patel 25:00
Yeah, it can be because a lot of times, like, I end up becoming friends with people, you know, through this. A lot of the music directors that I’ve talked to have ended up being, you know, good friends for life. And that’s great. But a lot of times, that means that when a station has turnover like that, it affects the station in general, if the next music director isn’t as motivated as the previous one. So a lot of times, you’ll see a station really on top of things for a few years, and then the new staff comes in, and they just don’t have the same enthusiasm or the same kind of connection to the station that the previous staff did. And you start to see that they just don’t communicate with you as much anymore. They’re not really adding new music in general. I don’t want to get mad about it necessarily, because I understand how it goes. It’s more so just sad to see the progress that one person makes towards getting the station really up and running, just kind of like, fall after they graduate.
Rachel Hurley 26:12
Right? It can be the same thing with pitching writers. There’s high turnover in music writing, and you can create like great relationships at different outlets, and then they decide that they don’t want to do it anymore, or they go to a different outlet, or whatever it is, you know, then it can like, put you in a hole that you have to kind of dig out of and reach out to new people and create new relationships. You can never really get comfortable in the music business because it’s constantly changing.
There’s no, I can see how a music director at a college station might think that, “Oh, I want to do this, it sounds like fun.” Sounds like something you know, could go play records all day. And then you see like the business side of it, and all the work and you’re like, “Oh, maybe I don’t want to do this.”
Shil Patel 26:58
I think it’s the best job on my campus, I couldn’t have imagined having a better job than that. And I got paid when I was a music director, which not every station has paid staff, but we were lucky at the University of Texas has it in their charter that the people that work at stations get paid. So we were really fortunate we had the best job and we got paid on top of it. But, that also helped, knowing that I had to do this because I was getting compensated. There were times where I was like, “Oh, there’s like 100 discs waiting on this desk in my ad to review all of these. And I also had to take the phone calls from promoters who are going to ask me about what I’m doing with them. And there were times where I just felt a little overwhelmed by it, but also realized I’m pretty lucky to be able to do that.
Rachel Hurley 27:47
Right. So that brings up two questions that I was going to talk to you about. One is, is it a phone relationship with program directors and radio stations? Because I hear that a lot about radio promoters calling station managers and it being a conversation versus with PR, it’s more of like an email relationship.
Shil Patel 28:09
When I first started, phone calls were the the main way of getting someone to pay attention to a record, and weekly calls with people were really important. And it’s still something that is important. I’ll be honest, it’s not something that I like, do as much as I did when I first started in 2007. But we still have phone calls with stations that are receptive to it. But more and moreso, people have kind of moved over to doing email tracking, and I think that’s fine. It’s sufficient, you know, but it is nice to get on the phone with somebody and have that kind of personal connection with them, you know, you can kind of get to know somebody a little bit better. And I think they take it a little bit more seriously when you do that.
Rachel Hurley 29:07
Right? Well, I try to go to a lot of conferences and panels and showcases and that’s where I do more of my like one-on-one getting to know someone, I think that there’s so many pitches that writers get it, would be impossible for them to really talk to all the people that are pitching them, their inbox is already overwhelming. So I try not to call people because I know that that’s like taking like, an extra chunk out of their day. Unless I’m like, very close with them. And we are friends outside of this.
Shil Patel 28:43
And I think in the PR world a lot of writers have, you know, like writing is maybe one of their many jobs. And so they’re not maybe not just sitting at the desk, waiting for publicists to call them. Whereas a lot of music directors make themselves open to that they’ll have office hours that they publish and say like, “Hey, I’m in the office at this time, give me a call.” So they’re a little bit more receptive to it as well.
Rachel Hurley 30:06
And then the other question that I have from what you said about being paid, can you tell, at college stations at least, can you kind of tell which students are being paid and which are not? By the level of their work?
Shil Patel 28:43
Nah, I can’t really say that, aside from them, just telling me like, “Oh, I get paid for this job.” Otherwise, I don’t know. But because there are some people I think that work in stations where they’re not compensated for, that are super motivated, and just do it for the love of it. And for the pride of like, making their station really good. So I think like, it would be really hard to gauge just by their performance.
Rachel Hurley 30:45
They’re supported by a university, then the money should come from the university.
Shil Patel 30:50
Yeah, it’s just something where a lot-
Rachel Hurley 30:52
They’re kind of actually paying to be paid. You know?
Shil Patel 30:57
And a lot of the, you know, university, like, it’s something that was especially happening a few years ago, where a lot of campus radio stations were getting sold off, like their licenses were being sold to, you know, other organizations, and you saw several stations have to close down that were affected by it.
There was a station in Nashville, that was on Vanderbilt campus, that ended up having their license sold. Rice University station in Houston had that happen to them. There’s a few others where the university, I think, saw that we can sell the FCC license to another entity for however much and and they were kind of taking that to basically say, “Well, you know, the University needs funding, or you need these extra money right now.” And so they were selling that and basically just getting, you know, getting rid of the student run station. And there, there’s a few years ago, I think there’s actually like a person, like one individual person who was going around and kind of alerting universities, the administration, basically telling them, like, ”Hey, you have this, you know, FCC, this FM licenses that’s worth this much, you should sell it.” And a lot of the administration didn’t realize it was that valuable. And so they were making that call, and it was a real kind of concern for a lot of people and still is, you know, just the idea of being vulnerable to that.
Rachel Hurley 32:41
So basically, a corporation probably came into Nashville, Music City, and purchase their FCC license to start another commercial radio station?
Shil Patel 32:52
I think on that end of the dial, it’s not commercial radio, but lot of times it will be because there’s a certain range on frequencies that are for nonprofits, which is why you’ll see a lot of like, public and non-commercial and not for profit Christian radio, on like, one kind of the lower end of the numbers as far as like the frequencies go, can’t remember exactly what it goes up to 90. Maybe like 92.9, or something is cut off. I can’t remember exactly. But basically, anything below that on the dial is set aside for nonprofit. I can’t remember exactly what the deal was with the station in Nashville, but I think it was more so like, in general, a lot of the a lot of Christian Broadcasting companies were kind of going in. They had the funding- They have a lot of money to go in and buy those frequencies, and then change the format basically.
Rachel Hurley 33:47
Let’s wrap up with talking about when you do a radio promo campaign. What are your factors that make it successful?
Shil Patel 33:56
Yeah, I think you know, it’s a really important question, because it is kind of a nebulous thing. Radio promotion in general differs from PR because with press, you can send somebody a link and say, “Hey, here’s this article that you can always refer to.” But with radio, a song that goes out on the air and then without tracking it, you don’t really have much in terms of knowing whether or not you’re getting any traction. So, there’s a few things that we look at.
There are the charts, which I mentioned earlier. The one that we look to for a lot of the community and college radio information is called NACC. So for example, there’s one chart called the top 30 ads, which basically means in a given week, stations will submit up to 10 ads. They don’t have to submit 10, but they’re allowed to submit up to 10. And those are basically 10 records that they think are going to do the best at their station, or better, the best fit at their station for that week. So that is a chart that is just a tally of, if if a certain station submitted 10, they’ll tally up all of the individual ads, and then make a list that’s like, this record got the most ad that had 70 ads, and that was the number one most added record. The next one who had 65, and that was the second most added. So that’s a good baseline. It’s a good starting point to say like, “Okay, how well was this received in the first week?” It doesn’t guarantee airplay, but it’s a good indicator of like, you know, the reception was good. And this makes us believe that we’re going to get some good airplay and, and eventually, you know, get charts from it.
So, when we talk about charts, that same NACC also has what’s called the Top 30 chart that a station can submit. So basically, they can plug in the 30 most played records at their individual station that week. Usually, number one is the one that gets the most airplay all the way down to 30. And each individual station will submit their chart, and they compile those on Tuesdays. And that is weighted so that the ads are just to create a tally of how many things are getting played. But the top 30 charts are weighted, and there’s a specific formula they use.
Each individual station has a ranking between one and five based on a few different factors. I’m actually not even aware of what NACC criteria are for weight ranking. But I know in general, it’s things like listenership frequency, those sorts of things that give a station a higher weight than somebody who might not have as many listeners or might not have you. They might be a 10 watt station and not have a big range. One through 30 is weighted, and then they compile all of that, and then they put out a Top 200 chart every week. So that’s another milestone that we look to- Are we on the Top 200 chart? Specifically in the first week of the campaign, we’re trying to get on the ads chart. And then in the weeks after that, we want to see the record get onto the Top 200 chart and hopefully move up in each week.
Those are just two of the kind of things that I think most people look at when it’s talking about radio, because it kind of gives numbers, you know, and you have some kind of metric there. But the other things that I look for are airplay to see our stations playing this. And we have a few different ways of seeing which stations are playing records. We try to keep track of who’s playing what playing which songs, and then also just engagement in general. So for example, if the band is on tour, and we’re setting up a lot of interviews and in studio performances, while they’re on the road, that’s another good indicator that the campaign is going well. Sometimes that works where we’re seeing a lot of engagement with a station in those ways, like interviews and sessions. But you know, there might not be a ton of chart activity or airplay. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not going well. It just means that one aspect of it is really kind of taking precedent. And that might be the live performances at stations versus making it on the Top 30 chart.
Rachel Hurley 38:51
And when I work with a client, they don’t always have a radio promoter. But I always like it when they do because then the radio promoter can set up those live sessions and those interviews because you guys tend to have, like, a lot better relationship with radio stations. I have good relationships in certain cities. But that is a good thing that they can take with them and use for promo and always have, you know, if you can use that when you’re trying to like book your tour, or you’re putting in your electronic press kit or on your website or on your social media. And a lot of that stuff happens through a radio promoter versus a publicist.
Shil Patel 39:32
Yeah, and we really, you know, I think there’s a lot of when things are going well with a campaign. I think I usually see that there’s a lot of interplay between the press and the radio. We use press so much to get the word out about the records that we’re promoting. Gawker social media is basically sharing good press that comes in for the artist we work with and we share that with stations directly as well, when we’re trying to set up sessions. So like, “Hey, look, they did this really cool Audiotree session in Chicago. So this is what it could look like if they came into your studio and did a performance,”. And I think vice versa, I think a lot of publicists use that same kind of info, and they’re going to Audiotree, they look at the KEXP session.
Rachel Hurley 40:15
And, and it’s funny that you mentioned audio tree, because I believe they set up their sessions through tour managers.
Shil Patel 40:23
Yeah, I see a lot of those.
Rachel Hurley 40:26
You kind of just have to know the outlet and how they work. And every outlet might work a little differently. So, and we all overlap a little bit, but not a whole lot. You know, I send out a press release to all the AMA stations, but I don’t talk to anyone there directly. So, I can get on people’s radar, but they need someone like you to actually be able to speak to someone specifically and find out, you know, has the record been listened to? Is it going to go into rotation? Are people liking it, all that kind of stuff. Or they won’t get that information for me.
Shil Patel 41:05
Yeah, I think it’s one of the big reasons why somebody hired you. I think anybody could theoretically run their own radio promotion campaign. And we do offer that sometimes to people. If they really are on a budget, we can offer them some options to do it themselves. But a lot of it comes down to just the the relationships that we already have, and the name recognition when they see that it’s coming from us that we’ve vetted it, you know, and that they can say, “Well, you know, we play a lot of other records in Tiger Balm’s census.” So more likely than not, we will be more interested in playing this. Because they know where the source is coming from. So a lot of times you as a client, you’re kind of hiring a promotion company, just to get your foot in the door in terms of name recognition as well.
Rachel Hurley 41:55
Right, you’ve hit the nail on the head. when you talk about relationships being kind of the most important thing. You can reach out to anyone yourself, but getting them to actually put any time or effort into checking out what you send them is going to be harder doing it yourself. You’re welcome to try, but I always tell people, you know, you’re not paying me for sitting at my computer and sending out an email. You’re paying me for the years that it took to get in the good graces of a writer or be especially known as someone who represents this type of artist or, you know, just to be able to kind of get past that gatekeeping system.
Are there any outlets that you look to that tell you more about the radio business? I mean, for the general business, you know, we look at Billboard and those kind of outlets, but is there one that caters to radio promotion, and tells you the ins and outs of radio?
Shil Patel 43:02
There’s a few outlets that kind of have radio specific news and updates. You might see, you know, when a given station hires a new GM. You might see that pop up on Billboard. But in general, there’s some specific places. There’s an organization called FMQB that also compiles charts, and FMQB will often have news updates as well. And then there’s All Access, which also does a lot of updates for the radio specific kind of news as well. They’ll basically take like, staffer at a certain station, or maybe a publicist or something like that. And do an individual feature on them, but I think All Access kind of has a lot of kind of radio news all in one place.
Rachel Hurley 43:57
Right. So I’m gonna wrap things up with asking you two final questions. One is, is there a piece of advice that you give to your clients?
Shil Patel 44:10
You know, there’s, one thing that I think is kind of a common thread when I’m talking to clients, especially when it’s artists that are coming to us directly, like artists that are self releasing, and hiring. A lot of label people kind of know how this works.
With artists, one thing I like to recommend to them is to take their time and not rush their record release and the plan that they have for it. You know, I think there’s definitely an impetus. A lot of times as an artist, you know, you’ve written these songs over the course, especially if it’s your debut record, right? These are songs that you’ve been writing and working on your entire life up to that point. So this is the culmination of your life’s work and you’re ready for people to hear it, you know? You really want people to get it out there. And I think like, there’s definitely the desire to just put it out.
There’s nothing stopping anyone from doing that these days, right? You can put out a record, you know, immediately if you want to, but I usually recommend people like, kind of, you know, think about all the different aspects of what goes into releasing a record, what makes the most sense for you in terms of like, do we want to hire a publicist? Or do we want to hire a promoter? Take your time and don’t rush it. Don’t get the masters and then put it up on Soundcloud right away.
If your goal is to, you know, get a publicist and get a promoter and do these things that a lot of people do, just take a breath, and, and kind of, you know, do some research, put the feelers out and try to put together a little bit of a plan that might stretch it out three or four months, or five months, or whatever. But at least that way, you’re, making sure that you’ve at least looked into it. Kind of consider some of the alternatives before just going head first into it.
Rachel Hurley 46:01
All right. I know, I’ve gotten emails from people before that. They made a record and they just released their first single, and then nothing happened. And then they contact me, and they’re like, “Okay, well, we now know that we need press,” and I’m like, “Well, you already released the best song. It’s already out there. So there’s not much I can do with it now.”
Rachel Hurley 46:24
Yeah. And it’s, it’s something that, people often were like, “I messed up,” and I’m like “You know, these are things that you learn,” and I think a lot of times people will consider that there’s one right way to do things. And there isn’t, especially now, you know. There’s a lot of different ways, and there’s a lot of creativity and flexibility in how you release something. But I think the key is really before you start making decisions on releasing stuff publicly, is to really just kind of sit back and say, let me put some thought into how I approach this first, put it put a game plan together.
Rachel Hurley 47:03
And then my final question kind of works with that a little bit, because it’s, what’s the biggest mistake that you see musicians make? Would you say that’s it? Or do you have something else?
Shil Patel 47:15
I think, you know, like you said, it does connect with that. And I hesitate to call it a mistake, because I think that also implies that we have everything figured out on the industry side, like we’re doing everything right, which is definitely you know, not the case, we can see that there are a lot of changes that need to happen in the on the industry side as well. So I always hesitate to tell an artist like “You’re doing this wrong.” But I do urge them to take the time to research things.
I think the one thing I would say is like, if you are paying somebody for a service, take the time to research them, vet that person like me. If you’re hiring me to do radio promotion, don’t just hire me out of nowhere, like, you know, take a look at our roster, if you know other artists who have hired me in the past, go to them and say, “Hey, what was your experience with Tiger Bomb? Was it worth it? Was it worthwhile? What are some things I need to be aware of going into this?” You can ask people, “How much did you spend on this campaign?” You know, what are you getting into before you pay somebody for services? I think that would probably be the one thing. I would say, don’t just go into something blindly. There are resources available to make sure that you’re partnering up with the right people when it comes to getting your music out there. It’s your art. It’s something that you’re passionate about, something that you put your energy and your soul into, and you want to make sure that the people who are representing you, match your values and represent your values as well.
Rachel Hurley 49:07
I think you’re probably like me, where sometimes we say no. Sometimes we can see that we’re not the right person to work with that. Whether it’s the genre of music, or how far along they are with their career, what their expectations are. There’s a myriad of factors. It’s not like hiring a mechanic where you show up and they take the work no matter what it is. We do like seek out projects that we think that we are going to be successful at versus just taking whatever comes through
Shil Patel 49:44
Rachel Hurley 49:51
So that might mean you need to check out several different people and then compare what they’re offering and you know what their style Is and all that kind of stuff.
Shil Patel 49:55
But that’s exactly right. Like there are specialists, you know, like talking about Americana, for example. There are promoters that are much more well versed in Americana promotion than I am. And so in some instances when I hear a record, I’m like, you know, this could could get played at college radio, but it really is a good fit for Americana, then I’ll say like, “Hey, we might not be the best fit, but I’ll recommend you some other people that I know who I think could do a better job for you.” And your resources would be more well used for that. Just like taking a car to a mechanic. Like, if you drive a Mercedes, and there’s a mechanic that specializes in German motors, it might make sense to just take it there, you know, like, so they really can do the right job.
Rachel Hurley 50:42
Right? And we want it. We want to be successful at our jobs. Like the last thing I want to do is take on a client that I don’t think I am going to be successful working with, and then have that hanging over me the whole time. So, anything else you want to talk about? Anything we didn’t hit that you think is important to talk about when you’re talking about radio promotion?
Shil Patel 51:05
Yeah, the only other thing really is like, you know, there’s one other thing that I let people know about when it comes to doing radio promotion. That is kind of unseen, in terms of what you get out of it. And that is a lot of the people that we’re reaching out to especially these college stations, you know, they’re just getting kind of started in this process of like, kind of figuring out what they want to do in the music industry. So aside from this, the airplay and interviews and things like that, a lot of the people that we work with at college radio ended up going on to work at record labels and venues and writing about music. And you know, in PR firms, you’ll find that a lot of people who are in the music industry got their start, because they went to college radio and kind of fell in love with the idea of like, being part of that world. So it’s a kind of unseen benefit, I think in a lot of ways of getting your music out to this kind of panel of people who are going to be really active and vocal in their community about, you know, the music that they’re playing on air and the music that they love. I think that’s an important thing to remember as well.
Rachel Hurley 52:16
Yeah, so you’re getting in there while they’re young, probably making some of the strongest connections that they’ll have for life, right? Because they’re still very enthusiastic about everything.
Shil Patel 52:29
I think so, yeah. I think you know, and I’ve often had our conversations with artists who have said, like, “Hey, we played at this venue in Philly, and the person who was, you know, in the green room was like, I used to play your record at Drexel,” you know? and that kind of thing is, common. It’s a small world, for sure.
Rachel Hurley 52:47
Do you know how many records you’ve done promotion for?
Shil Patel 52:50
I started in 2007. And I have no idea since then, but I know since starting Tiger Bomb. We’ve roughly promoted around 300-320 Records, something like that in about three and a half years.
Rachel Hurley 53:09
So if someone wanted to hire you, they just go tigerbomb.com?
Shil Patel 53:13
I wish I had Tigerbomb.com. I can’t afford that URL. But tiger bomb promo.com. That’s where you’ll find all the info.
Rachel Hurley 53:24
Well, thank you. So I really appreciate you coming and talking to me and giving me a lot more insight into radio promo.
Shil Patel 53:31
Oh, yeah. It’s great to talk to you. Thanks for inviting me and I like what you’re doing. I like this idea a lot.
Rachel Hurley 53:36
Rachel Hurley 53:37
And there you have it. Thanks to Shil for taking the time to chat with me and being on our first episode. If you’d like more info on him or his services, go check out his website or shoot him an email. Be sure to tell him that you found out about Tiger Bomb on the Music Rookie podcast. Thanks for listening, if you’re interested in more insider information just like this, be sure to check out our weekly newsletter. You can sign up on sweetheartpub.com. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast to be notified when the next one comes out. If you have a specific question, feel free to tweet me, or shoot me an email- I am not hard to find. Now, go do something useful.