A specialty show or a mix-show is a one or two hour show on a commercial station, usually late at night, and many times on the weekends, which plays music that the station normally does not play. A disadvantage of these shows is that you get only one or two spins per week on any particular station (which is even less than some college stations give you.) The advantage of these shows, however, are:
1.) The number of listeners to these commercial stations are much higher than with college stations, since commercial stations have promotional budgets which they use to attract listeners (billboards, vans, bus benches, TV ads, etc.)
2.) Commercial stations have a steady listener-ship level year round (compared to college) although, listener-ship does peak somewhat in the spring and summer because of increased outdoor activities. Interestingly, with more people tuning into radio via the web, commercial radio just might get increased listening during other parts of the year too.
3.) A song's prominence on commercial stations is higher, due to most commercial stations higher visibility.
4.) One more often-overlooked asset of specialty/mix-shows on commercial radio is the fact that the folks who host these shows, many times, also sit in on the music meetings with the station's music director and program director. Therefore, if your long-term goal is to be in regular rotation on these stations, the specialty/mix-show route is a great preliminary step.
The specialty and mix-show circuit is about as far as you can expect to get without getting into some heavy commercial promotions. With college radio, heavy promotion is not required, but since specialty and mix-shows are on commercial stations, you should start looking into this area. Specialty/mix-shows are generally alternative, rock, techno, dance, urban, jazz or blues, and there are separate charts for each of these. Relative to college radio, specialty/mix-shows are fewer in number (usually less than 100 commercial stations,) but are more difficult to obtain. Relative to regular rotation on commercial stations, specialty/mix-shows are far less costly to work.
The biggest opponent to the several-radio-releases technique is the artist, who often get tired of working with the same material for a year or two... especially when they think their newer material better represents them. The answer to this situation is to remember that your later releases will always do better at radio than your first, because nobody knows who you are at the start. Thus, you should go through the "awareness-building" stage using your older material, so that when you go back through later (and people are listening closer), you will then be using your newer and better stuff.
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