A radio add date is the date you want a radio station to add your music to their song library. It can be your single release date, but it doesn't have to be - in fact, you may have good reason for the add date differing from your release date, whether you're trying to build a buzz a week or so before the actual release or you're releasing your single to commercial radio long after your actual release date because it did so well on college and non-commercial stations.
Here's how it works: you (or you, working in conjunction with your radio promotion company) decide on a date that you want radio stations to start playing your song. You put that date - clearly labeled "add date" - on all of the promotional communications you use to get the station interested in your song. That add date will also set the schedule for your campaign. You'll start reaching out to stations and convincing them to add your single or album around four to six weeks prior to that add date.
Up to the add date, the world is your oyster - at least in terms of radio. You've got all that time to get program directors at radio stations to agree to add your song to their station on that date. You'll work hard to actually tell you that yes, they'll be adding your song, in advance of that date, so you know who is on board and who isn't. You probably won't get a commitment one way or the other from absolutely everyone, but you've got up to that date to win over as many stations as you can.
The rub comes once the add date passes. After that date has come and gone, any station that did not add your single isn't going to add it. You don't get to go back and ask them reconsider that decision and add it at a future date. Your add date is also a deadline, and once it is has passed, so have your add chances with those stations for that song (or album).
That sounds scary, right? Why would you put that kind of pressure on yourself? Why not skip the add date and let the stations get around to your stuff whenever they want?
Well, although there may be some flexibility with add dates in promotion to some college and small non-commercial radio stations, using an add date is absolutely crucial in almost every radio promotional campaign. You should certainly never approach a commercial radio station without an add date. Add dates communicate a seriousness about your radio promotion and overall plans for your music that stations want to see in you before they put your songs on the air.
When choosing an add date, the most important thing to consider is selecting a date that gives you ample time to work your single to the stations.
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