You Don’t Need Radio To Make A Living

radio on the air image

By Johnny Dwinell

Terrestrial Radio is a hustle; it always has been and you don’t need radio to make a living. If you think that radio and the people who work for radio are in the music business you are sadly mistaken; they are in the ad business, just like the Newscasters. They PAY to spin every song; they get paid by selling ads. Remember that because they dont, nor have they ever given a shit about your music. Whats more is the ability to get a NEW single on the radio is all about relationships and money. Since DJs are no longer in charge of what is being spun, you have to go pretty high up on the mega corporate food chain to get to the PD that will convert your single and authorize spins.

The hustle started back in the 50s oddly enough with the invention of the TV set. Radio moved from dramatic programming to a top 40 music format. Consequently DJs exploded around the country as more and more music was being produced. Shortly after this happened, we got the Payola Scandal. Record promoters, working for record labels, had DJs in their back pockets offering Drugs, booze, and broads to the DJs in exchange for a guaranteed amount of spins. The subsequent scandal arose after the disgrace of the rigged game show 21 (You may remember the movie Quiz Show about this particular scandal). Once the Government was under public pressure for the dishonorable game show behavior, the radio outrage was next on the congressional agenda. The problem with payola for huge record companies like CBS was that CBS also owned radio stations and TV stations; which required massively lucrative broadcasting licenses. When the government threatened to pull the broadcasting licenses from any station accused of payola, these corporations had to change their strategies; after all, the record labels only accounted for maybe 3% of the gross corporate revenue. So, DJs like Alan Freed (who coined the phrase Rock & Roll) were fired for being a threat to the corporation along with any promoters who worked for the labels. Payola didnt go away. It just morphed into a 3rd party company system or Independent Promotion instead of all inclusive of the record labels.

Radio Promotion

At one point in the late 70s, a group of independent radio promoters named The Network came into serious power. Frank Dileo and Joe Isgro headed up this group of 6 guys who essentially controlled all the radio spins in the country. At one point CBS found that they were paying The Network 30% of their profits per year!


The majors averaged $100,000 per single to The Network to promote them on the radio nationwide; thats $100,000 of 1983 money which is worth roughly $385,000 today. CBS was giving so much of their profits to these 6 guys they hired Peter Asher from Polygram to get rid of The Network in either 1978 or 1979 in order to bring the books back in line and increase profits. This is when the Major labels figured out that the power of The Network didnt lie in their ability to put a single ON the radio; rather it was their capacity to keep a single OFF the radio. This was grossly proven to Dick Asher and Walter Yetnikoff at CBS with the Pink Floyd record The Wall. If youve heard the record you know that its epic! What you may not know is that Pink Floyd recreated the movie on the tour and because of the massive production expenses they only played LA and NY. Imagine Peter Asher getting a call from the manager of the biggest band in the world, 30 minutes before the LA concert was to commence asking,


Boom! 1 phone call was made and a huge check was cut. Another Brick in the Wall was on the air in less than 20 minutes. Holy Shit!

This is what Pink Floyd had to deal with and they were the biggest band in the world at the time.

You still have to pay to get your music on the radio today. Decent nationwide radio promotion is going to run you about $20,000-$50,000 per month. There are a limited number of spins available in a 24 hour period so you have a simple VERY low supply meets a VERY high demand situation; in the free market, that costs a lot of money.

Are you aware of the story behind Guns & Roses? Would you freak out if I told you that they were dead? They were DOA from Geffen records. Radio hated them. Nobody cared. You may not know that Appetite For Radio Appetite For Destruction imageDestruction actually came out in 1987. It was out for a full year with NOTHING to show for it. The band had a HUGE champion in Tom Zutaut their A&R guy. Essentially, Zutaut went to David Geffen and explained the challenges he was having with MTV not spinning GNRs 1st single Welcome To The Jungle. Zutaut asks Geffen to do something, or the record is surely going to die. Geffen then gets on the phone and calls the President of MTV and asks for a favor; please spin the 2nd single for GNR called Sweet Child O Mine at least once for me. MTV acquiesces and spins the single at 3:00 am on a Saturday morning; and the rest is history. The phones at MTV lit up that Saturday morning and MTV broke GNR; then radio came on board.

Wow! Can u imagine? After all the work you have to do to get a record deal, you have to lower yourself down into this sleaze.

radio Thriller imageAfter The Network did such a good job of promoting Michael Jacksons Thriller, Michael made Frank Dileo his manager. Sheryl Crow was Michaels back-up singer on that tour. There are 2 references to Frank Dileo on Sheryls debut record Tuesday Night Music Club. The first is in The Na-Na Song with the line “Clarence Thomas organ grinder Frank DiLeo’s dong / Maybe if I’d let him I’d have had a hit song.”The second is the song called What I Can Do For You where the whole song is about Frank. What I can do for you, no one else on Gods green earth can do you can read the rest of the sleazy lyrics HERE


You get my point? Total hustle, totally expensive, ZERO guarantees.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to submit to this when you have a mathematically predictable way of making a living with your music online? I mean this is why the labels have a 90% failure rate because they all relied on ONE MAIN METHOD for exposure.

Do you want a 90% chance of failure? HELL NO!! Why would you when its NEVER BEEN EASIER TO MAKE A LIVING IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS RIGHT NOW?

I have a great suggestion, if you choose to accept it.

First, be an artist not a fame whore. Fame whores today need to shoot for reality TV, because your chances are better there at getting famous; why do it the hard way?

Second, think just a little more like a business person. Start with defining your lane and the other lanes that are necessary for you to succeed. There are many different systems out there to help you understand this concept. I am familiar with one called Wealth Dynamics by Roger Hamilton. NOTE: I am not shilling for Roger, as his program costs money; Im just familiar with this system so it provides for a better explanation on my part. There are many different ways to describe this so I encourage you to find and research one that makes sense to you. Essentially, Wealth Dynamics helps you define the different lanes people have in business and put together lanes that are simpatico or symbiotic as opposed to confrontational and non-productive. This is not a new concept, btw. If you read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, there is a great chapter about Henry Ford an 8th grade drop-out who was on trial for essentially lying to the public about being an educated man. You see, Henry was aware of his weaknesses and argued that he didnt have to have all the answers to the scientific and mathematical questions the prosecutor was asking him when he paid people to have those answers for him!

Long story short, you need write KILLER songs to stand out in todays marketplace right?

If yours are not KILLER than you need to find someone to help you take your songs to the top level.

Then you need to record those songs either as demos to be pitched to Major Label artists or as Master Tracks to be exposed to the public making you the artist. These recordings have to compete, right?

If you do not have the skill set or equipment to do this, then you need to find a team that can ensure you have KILLER recordings.

Once the record is done, if you do not like marketing than you need to partner up with someone who can help you market your music to the world and ultimately MOVE product so you can get paid. There are literally tons of companies out there if you know what to look for. People are starving for good NEW music so why not yours? Fill in your weak spots. TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS.

Start your own little label that will take care of only YOU. Its mathematically proven. You just dont know how to do it yet.

Walter Yetnikoff gets it:

Heres a link to a great book about record promotion called Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business. I recommend you READ this if you still believe in Terrestrial Radio and Major Labels

Heres a cool article on Joe Isgro and Hit Men:,,317976,00.html

I got the GNR story from The Operator: David Geffen Buys and Sells the New Hollywood.

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