To make a song into a hit, all you needed at one time – other than a catchy tune – was to be featured on big ten radio.
You know what I mean.
Those old classic shows where they play the top 10 hit songs over and over again.
There are still a few around, but the fragmented nature of the internet has shrunk their impact.
These days you just need to pop on Soundcloud/Spotify/Youtube/or iTunes.
Don’t believe me?
Go google how Justin Bieber and Post Malone were discovered.
The gatekeepers are shrinking.
Big Radio is still the best way—some would argue, the only way—to create hits. If the song seems to be playing everywhere at the same time, all at once, so that Zapoleon’s Rule of Three is fulfilled in a day or so, it is perceived to be a hit, and becomes one. To make that happen, a radio promotion team—either on staff at the label, or working for an independent promoter—needs to visit every PD in every important market in the country and make sure they know about that song, and follow up with a steady stream of phone calls and e-mails. Only a major label has the resources for that kind of campaign. According to an NPR investigation, it can easily cost more than a million dollars to promote a single song.
-John Seabrook, The Song Machine