Radio Plugger Career Profile

Radio DJ
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Radio pluggers are a subset of public relations people who specialize in getting clients' music played on the radio. Getting a good plugger can make the difference between a single becoming a hit or a flop and between a band having a successful career or disappearing into obscurity. Radio pluggers are the link between bands, their labels, and radio station managers, producers and DJs.

A plugger is essentially being paid for the contacts they've built in radio. A good plugger will have a range of contacts across different radio stations, covering DJs and producers as well as music and playlist programmers. He or she will also have a database of detailed info about his contacts; the format each contact prefers (digital, vinyl, CD, etc), and past results. 

What is a Plugger's Job?

Basically, the job of a plugger is to get the acts they're representing exposure on the radio. Depending on the act, this could mean inclusion on stations' playlists, spot plays or plays on specialist music shows, live performance sessions and interviews for the act on radio.

When it comes to the internet there's a blurred line between press and radio plugging. The plugger should be aware of the differences between streaming, podcasts, and downloads. Some internet stations ask artists to waive their royalties to avoid paying a licensing fee, but many large labels won't allow this, nor will they allow their material to be used in podcasts or as downloads. Many smaller labels and acts are happy with the publicity that these avenues provide.

How Can I Find a Radio Plugger?

Some labels will have in-house pluggers to work with their clients. Independent pluggers will often only take on acts that they believe in and like, and ones that will appeal to their contacts. Getting a plugger is like getting any other music industry professional to work with your band. Do your research and approach pluggers that work with acts in a similar genre to your own band. There's no point trying to get a plugger who works predominately with rock to take on your hip-hop act. Pluggers will be more likely to work with an act that has shown they're prepared to work hard.

If you can't find/afford a plugger, consider doing the job yourself

How Do I Become a Radio Plugger?

Plugging companies often take on interns, which is a good way to build up contacts and experience. To set yourself up as a plugger you'll need to build up your contacts list. There may be bands looking for pluggers, but be picky. Don't necessarily start working with the first band that approaches you, or the one that will pay the most. It's important to build up your reputation as a plugger, and that will be best done by working with an act you believe in.

The Pros of Working as a Radio Plugger

Although it's hard work, working as a radio plugger has a lot of upsides. You get to work closely with both with musicians and the media, and you can watch and help develop a band's career. Experienced pluggers can be well-paid. 

The Cons of Working as a Radio Plugger

Of course, life as a radio plugger isn't all sunshine and flowers. There are some cons to consider.

It can be extremely depressing when a track you really believe in fails to get any exposure. And there's no regular income; you'll only get paid job by job. Although good pluggers can be paid very well, reaching that status takes a lot of time and a lot of working at low wages to establish yourself.

It can be repetitive sending CDs to, and phoning, the same people over and over again. Like most people working in PR, radio pluggers have to become accustomed to being ignored on a regular basis. 

Making Money as a Radio Plugger

It's up to a plugger to agree to a fee with the client. Some clients will pay based on results. The problem with this model is that a radio plugger can put in a lot of work, yet the track could get very little exposure. Conversely, a track may get a huge amount of exposure even though the plugger has done hardly anything. 

A good compromise is that the plugger gets a basic fee, with bonuses for achieving certain results. On top of any fee, the client will be expected to pay the costs of the campaign. 

Many new pluggers will do a campaign for free, or for a greatly reduced rate, allowing them to get experience. Even established pluggers will do jobs for cost, or cheaply if they really believe in an act. They may work for free if they think the band is going to go on and become successful so that they get work from the band later on in their career or for the kudos that will be associated with working for the act.