A Number One Radio Hit Costs $200,000, Says Quality Control’s Coach K – Rolling Stone
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A Number One Radio Hit Costs $200,000, According to One Label Head

Coach K, co-founder of the hip-hop label Quality Control, talked about the price of radio promotion at the recent Revolt Summit

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Kevin "Coach K" Lee speaks onstage during day 2 of REVOLT Summit x AT&T Summit on September 13, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Revolt)

Kevin "Coach K" talked about the cost of radio promotion at a Revolt event.

Paras Griffin/Revolt/Getty Images

In April, P. Diddy’s Revolt Media announced plans for a “Hip Hop Summit,” with Diddy promising to “empower young people with sessions on the issues they care about.” “From entrepreneurship and economic empowerment to social justice, we’ll have the provocative conversations not happening anywhere else,” he added.

Sure enough, in a session that featured the rapper 2 Chainz and Coach K — who helped found the label Quality Control, known for breaking Migos, Lil Yachty, and Lil Baby — there was a brief-but-provocative detour into the cost of radio promotion.

“Everything costs money, it’s the way of life,” Coach K says. Radio is no different. “When you sign an artist, [they’re like], ‘so, when am I going to radio?'” the executive continues. “To take a record that y’all see on the radio become Number One, that’s $200,000.”

Coach K did not say what the money was needed for or how it was spent. A representative for Coach K did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In an August article in Rolling Stone, radio veterans detailed the process of buying their way onto the radio chart by paying to get added to different stations’ playlists. “At a format like Triple A, it probably averages about $500 [per add],” one radio promoter explained. “In Hot AC and Top 40, could be anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the competition.”

Two other radio veterans estimated that the total cost of promoting a song to “urban” radio and transforming it into a hit was between $100,000 and $125,000. Coach K’s estimate of $200,000 suggests that burden for artists hoping to win at radio today might be even higher.

However, the cost is down somewhat compared to the 1990s. In Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business, Fredric Dannen’s detailed history of radio pay-for-play, he writes that it cost more than $350,000 to get Semisonic’s “Closing Time” significant airplay in the Alternative, Top 40, and AC formats. Despite that expense, “Closing Time” did not become a Top Ten hit. 

 

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