Radio is another important piece of the puzzle when it comes to bringing an artist to the masses. For many artists, success on radio translates directly to the overall success of their song’s performance. While the field has evolved over the years, its importance in launching artists to the top of the charts remains the same.
In honor of National Radio Day on August 20, we spoke with Billie Jean Sarullo, VP of Promotion at The Orchard, on how The Orchard’s promo team works with our distributed artists and labels to bring their songs to stations, how our promo team differs from the traditional label structure, and the structure and evolution of radio within the music industry.
Tell us about the makeup and structure of The Orchard Radio team. Do people cover certain genres, regions?
The Orchard promo staff are experts at the following U.S. radio formats: Pop, Alternative, R&B, Urban, Rhythm, Adult Top 40, Rock, AAA, and Non-Comm. Our priority is to have a unique structure to our department so we can best accommodate The Orchard’s distributed artists and labels.
We have a more non-traditional structure for our radio team. For example, in a traditional structure, national reps are tailored to a specific format and regional reps are solely focused on specific territories. Instead, our entire team has a hand in national responsibilities and everyone maintains curated relationships with stations in several territories and across a variety of formats. This type of structure allows us to move quickly at radio on records that are raising their hand.
How do you work with The Orchard distributed labels and artists to bring their music to radio stations?
It’s important we have a comprehensive story on a record when we go to radio. We work closely with all the departments within a label, which include A&R first, followed by sales, marketing, advertising, and PR to create an undeniable story on why a radio station must play the song! We also work directly with the artists to create meaningful promotions with the radio stations that include interviews, contests with radio listeners, meet-and-greets and special VIP experiences, performances at radio festivals, as well as creative social media campaigns between the artist and our stations.
Back to our unique structure, it’s very important that we provide a more entry-level way for our distributed artists and labels at The Orchard to work with radio. Recently, we’ve created “tastemaker campaigns” which allow us to create an introduction for new artists at radio. This approach is more targeted and enables new artists to familiarize themselves with radio. We focus on artist features and radio spotlight programs across a hybrid of formats that include AAA, Non-Comm, & Alt specialty shows.
Without getting too nitty-gritty, what does a typical radio campaign look like?
A typical radio campaign is an intense grind and can take months to a year to see the results! Once a radio campaign begins, it’s imperative you gain new station airplay and radio rotations each week in order to move up the charts. Therefore it takes passion and focus from our team to super serve our relationships with over 300+ radio stations that comprise the published radio charts.
What’s a campaign/project you are proud to have worked on?
We’re very proud of our recent success with Rimas Entertainment artist Bad Bunny at U.S. Radio. We successfully took “DÁKITI” to #3 at Rhythm and #18 at Pop! For those who listen to those radio formats, you’ll know it’s almost unheard of to hear an all-Spanish track in between these stations that power primarily English-speaking pop artists. It just really shows the brilliance of Bad Bunny. He has a little bit of everything and his music translates across a wide audience.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the job is collaborating directly with the artists we work with on their records. When taking a record to radio, you really need the artist all in on the process. We’re currently working with Black River artist Kelsea Ballerini on her single “I Quit Drinking” featuring LANY at Adult Top 40 radio. Kelsea’s dedication to her career is inspiring. She really puts in the work and has done multiple Zoom calls with our staff and over 50+ radio programmers.
There is nothing like being able to create that one-on-one relationship between the artist and the curator. It creates an authentic connection which is what the music industry has always been about: creating a relationship between music and listeners. Recently, one of our premiere radio partners Jayn, who runs KLLC San Francisco, used her significant radio platform to engage with Kelsea and her radio listeners in a very unique way; check it out here!
What is something about the field of Radio that most people might not know?
A typical radio campaign for us looks like a lot of… DATA! (I hope I surprised a few with that answer!) The Orchard promo team utilizes all the research tools that are provided to us; The Orchard’s mobile analytics app OrchardGo, Apollo, MRC, Spotify For Artists, and Apple For Artists which include Shazam, as well as custom Looker reports that pull detailed US DMA data. All of that data helps provide us with a plan for where market airplay can begin, gauges if the airplay is connecting, and helps us differentiate our record against others that are competing for the same airplay slot.
How has the Radio field evolved over the years?
Overall, radio has evolved into a platform driven to play the hits rather than develop them. Research shows that the average radio listener is a casual listener who enjoys songs that are already familiar to them. This makes available slots for new songs on the radio few and far between. Nowadays, a new record needs to have an incredible story such as: a collaboration with an already well-known artist, strong consumption and collection rate, credible press, meaningful syncs, and engaging social media campaigns across TikTok, Instagram, and more to capitulate familiarity!
Where do you see the future of Radio heading?
Radio is still the most accessible media in the world. Billboard reports that U.S. radio is increasingly a tool to slow the decay of a single streaming, rather than propel it to its peak. We’ve seen radio help maintain streaming levels by reminding consumers of a track, taking them back to it on streaming, while reaching a new more casual audience – AKA a radio listener!
Finally, there will always be demand for terrestrial radio, and it will continue to evolve into different ways to reach and target audiences with music such as podcasts, DSP playlists, radio streaming platforms, and more. Most importantly, our job is to be “buzzmakers” for our artists. The Orchard promo team will continue to do that and create new relationships as the media landscape changes.