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By Bryan Farrish 

Commercial Stations, Part 1

We've been covering more advanced topics for the last few months, so now lets make sure the basics are understood...


DISC JOCKEY:  He/she is also known as a DJ, talent, airstaff, or jock.

SPECIALTY-SHOW OR MIXSHOW HOST:  Does a one or two-hour show, usually on the weekend or late at night, using music that may not be suitable for regular airplay (rotation).

MUSIC DIRECTOR:  Handles most of the telephone calls from record companies and indie promoters; opens most of the mail from record companies.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR:  Decides who and what goes on-air.

PUBLICITY DIRECTOR:  Decides what free-mentions will be given, sometimes within special show-segments designed to highlight local activities.

SALESPERSON:  Also known as an AE (account executive) or rep (representative); works with local and national companies, attempting to get them to advertise on the station.

GENERAL MANAGER:  Oversees programming, talent, sales, news and engineering.  Very often, the GM comes from a sales background.

WHO DECIDES ON AIRPLAY.  On commercial stations, the program director (PD) is the person who decides which artists gets played and how much (i.e., the amount of "rotation" or number of "spins".)  If someone other than the PD tells you your CD is playing, then you may not be getting accurate information.  The music director (MD) does provide input to the PD, but the DJs generally do not.  Thus, calling and talking to a DJ on-the-air is of no use.  As for specialty shows and mixshows, the individual hosts do pick their own music, but just for their one or two-hour show that airs usually late at night. (These shows are sometimes called "new music" or "test" or "indie" shows.)

P1, P2, P3.  These are the sizes of the audiences of a station.  For example, a "P1" station might be a top rated station in Austin, while a "P3" station might be the bottom rated station in Austin.  However, a middle-rated station in New York would still be a P1, since it has so many listeners, while the top-rated station in a very small town would be a P3, since it has very few listeners.

MULTIPLE-STATION OFFICES.  One of the first things you will have to adjust to when calling commercial stations is that several differently-formated stations will have the same office, phone/fax, and employees.  When you are calling a Country station and you hear Alternative music on hold, this is why.

STATION REVENUE.  Stations make money with one thing...advertising.  Advertising is when a company pays the station to create and air a commercial which advertises the company's product.  This is why the station was built, why it operates, and why the station employees get up and go to work each day.  A commercial station is in the advertising is NOT in the music business.  Its job is to accumulate listeners, and then sell these listeners to advertisers.  It makes no money when you sell your CD, and it makes no money when it plays your CD.  As a matter of fact, it actually PAYS money to play your CD, through BMI etc. (albeit, very little.)  So it all boils down to advertising... the more listeners (ratings) a station has, the more advertisers pay to advertise.  Note: 80% of a station's advertisers are in the same city that the station is in (i.e., they are "local").


THE WEB.  Still a troublesome novelty to stations, the web is certainly gaining in importance.  Commercial stations use their sites to get listeners to stick around longer.

Next issue (Part 2):  How to promote to these commercial stations.

Bryan Farrish Radio Promotion is an independent radio airplay promotion company.  They can be reached at 818-905-8038 x56 or .  If you live in LA and want to be informed of any events, seminars or parties they do, email




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