Does Radio Testing Work?

As a music marketing consultant, I find that most independent labels struggle with finding success at radio. They need their records to be accepted by the gatekeepers at radio, but most of all, they need the listeners to vote “yes” in favor of the music once it hits the airwaves. The first hurdle is getting radio stations to add a song. That requires hiring independent radio programmers who call program directors at radio stations across the country to ask them to play the song. The program directors may have 100 new songs on their desk at any given time and they have the job of choosing 2-3 songs to add each week. Radio charts suggest that radio stations seem to favor songs from major labels as the major labels support them with advertising and promotions. Many call it legal payola. Like it or not, it does exist and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. So the question is how do independents get their records to stand out to the radio station program directors?

A label I work with recently hired Chuck Finney with Finney Media to do some radio testing. Finney Media gathers a sampling of people into an auditorium setting where they play them 20 second hooks from a number of songs. The audience ranks the songs on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the highest ranking. We recently completed a round of testing with some of the songs we think would make great radio singles. Some tested high while others tested low. The songs that tested over a 4.0 are now currently being worked separately to radio by two different independent promoters. In a few weeks, I will post results on how the testing impacted radio station add decisions compared to the test scores. If the radio stations add the songs, we will then take a look at how the testing scores line up with how listeners react to the songs.

Have you ever taken a radio survey via phone or as part of a live audience? If so, how was the experience?