An Event Marketers Guide to Radio Advertising

Event Marketers have a very unique challenge to find the right advertising channels to reach a very specific audience. It’s not as simple as purchasing a demographic, like so many advertising agencies do. You are after a fan that listens to a particular artist or a fan of a particular type of entertainment. Radio can be one of your most effective mediums to reach a big chunk of your audience at once.

This guide is meant to help you make the most of your radio budget.

Benefits of Radio Advertising

About 92% of people tune in to terrestrial radio each week. More importantly, many of the artists that event marketers are promoting shows for may currently have a song playing on radio. Here are a few benefits of radio advertising:

  • Targeting: Radio formats create natural niche audiences that help us with targeting. Someone that listens to NPR has a very distinct set of characteristics & you can make a pretty solid guess on what type of events make sense for that listener.
  • Low Cost / Frequency: Radio advertising is very affordable. This presents an opportunity to reach your audience multiple times during an on-sale or as a reminder for an event.
  • Trust: Most local radio stations have fairly loyal listeners. If a jock is making a recommendation for an event it carries much more weight than a normal :30 spot.
  • Promotion: In most cases, event marketers are able to double the reach of a paid campaign with a promotion.


Event marketers have a special bond with radio that most advertisers don’t have. You promote concerts for the artists that your local radio stations are spinning. It is in everyone’s best interest to work together when promoting concerts. Even if the event you are promoting is not a concert it normally makes sense for radio to be involved. Radio stations are great at connecting with their listeners in the community & you provide those opportunities.

Selecting The Right Radio Stations

If a radio station plays or has played the artist you are promoting then your job is easy. If you have a good relationship with your radio station they will pull a spin report for you. Not only will you see if their station is spinning your artist (and how frequently), but it will tell you if any other stations in your market are spinning them.

Many times, Objectively considering your target audience & what type of radio stations they listen to can give you the answers you need. Sometimes demographic information from your reps will help, but you will start to recognize trends.. Wrestling fans are typically younger males, so they tend to favor rock stations. Family shows are typically after the female head of household. Sometimes they like to target Grandparents too. When in doubt just ask the tour or promoter.. Every once in a while an event’s target demographic will shock you.

Exclusivity / Presents:

A lot of tours coincide with the release of an album. In those cases the record label is likely going to be involved & will recommend that certain stations receive exclusivity. This is normally given to stations as a reward for supporting the artist. Tread lightly.. If there are multiple stations in the market that want to be involved then you should try to remain neutral.


Radio stations typically have an entire department of folks dedicated to coming up with unique ways to reach their listeners. Your first call when you are putting together an advertising plan should be to the promotions director at your target radio station. If you can, try to offer up more than tickets when pitching them. Here are a few ideas for radio promotions:

  • Ticket Giveaways: Plan on offering up between 10 - 30 tickets per promotion. They can use these for on-air giveaways, online contests, or part of a larger promotion.
  • Pre-Sale: Give the radio station the opportunity to offer their listeners a pre-sale. This is a good way to encourage them to send an e-mail to their database.
  • Interviews: If the artist/event spokesperson is willing to give interviews then most people will be more than happy to create a piece of content for your event.
  • In-Studio / Acoustic Performances
  • VIP Tickets / Merch / Exclusive Items
  • Meet & Greets
  • Emcee: Many local radio stations like to send their on-air talent to emcee the event. This is denied 90% of the time by artists management.
  • On-Site Presence: Everything from the ability to park a van out front, set up a table, place banners inside, or add a gobo to the lobby. Remember that signs on the stage or in the performance area are usually denied by artists management.

Use their response to gauge the accuracy of your targeting

If you are on the fence as to whether the station is a good fit for the show or not this can be a good litmus test. If the promotions department doesn’t want to run a promotion then they must not feel like their listeners would be interested in the event. Your money may be better spent elsewhere.

Don’t abuse the promotions department

It’s good business to place an ad buy with stations that are running a promotion with you. They understand that not every event has a budget for a radio buy, but you don’t want to become known as the person that always takes advantage of them. The last thing you want to do is run ads with a competitor & not them because you feel like you had adequate coverage with your promotions. This business is mostly built on relationships & that’s a good way to start getting ignored. Unfortunately, so many promoters have done this that many stations have a policy in place that states you must place an ad buy to receive a promotion.

How Much Does Radio Advertising Cost?

The short answer is that :30 second radio ads can run from $5 - $300+. The better answer is that radio advertising typically runs $10-$16 CPM (Cost Per Thousand). Don’t get fooled into thinking that because a spot is cheaper that it’s a better deal.. You just aren’t reaching as many people.

Many tours make you buy their radio spot

If you are marketing an event on tour then you are likely going to be provided with a :15 or :30 from Bill Young Productions, Tour Design, or Global Tour Creatives. Plan on spending a few hundred dollars to purchase and localize the spot.

Here’s a quick tip: Most tours do not create :15 second spots, so if you want to save a few hundred dollars then load up your schedule with :15’s. The station will create the spot for you for free.

You can also ask about unique ad units like bumpers (short snippets that run before/after an artist you are promoting). If you have a good relationship with them, ask them to send the spot to you for use on other mediums (Spotify, YouTube, etc..).

Non-Commercial Radio

As the name suggests, you can not run traditional ads on non-commercial radio. Most NPR stations fall into this category, so you will find yourself working with them quite a bit on concerts. You can still run ads in the form of underwriting. Most stations prefer to create the underwriting scripts themselves. The only real difference is that you can’t have a true call to action. So, “Buy Tickets at” becomes “Tickets and more information are available at”. Silly, I know.

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