Radio promotion executives have always been the titans of T&E, jetting around the country to convince programmers from Miami to Milwaukee to play the new single they’re working. “It used to be, ‘Can we bring in the artist and put him on a Ferris wheel with the morning show?'” says Skip Bishop, a former Sony promotion executive in Nashville who now owns his own consultancy, Studio2Bee Entertainment. “But it’s not about that anymore.”

There just aren’t as many programmers anymore. The pandemic has supercharged radio consolidation, and iHeartMedia, Entercom and other big radio companies are gradually replacing local personalities with syndicated shows and remote DJs recorded elsewhere. That could mean label promotion departments will focus on fewer programmers, mostly in big cities — and highly paid top executives like Joe Riccitellli, a longtime radio-promotions exec who just lost his job as RCA Records’ co-president, may be no longer crucial to label operations.

Labels “still need promotions people, but when you get to people who make seven figures, you start to question the sustainability of that,” says a major-label executive.

The pandemic has also forced promotion executives to do their glad-handing over Zoom rather than in person. “Is there a need for someone in Denver to just cover Denver? No. Someone from the national team could just cover Denver on their own,” says Risa Matsuki, vp promotions at indie Beggars Group, which has a small staff for radio. “Labels are going to let people go. It just doesn’t seem fiscally relevant; the bottom line sucks for labels now when it comes to radio promotions.”

After laying off over 100 programming staffers in November, iHeartMedia said in a statement, “Listeners care about what our personalities are saying, not where they’re sitting.” And while some of its rivals like Entercom and Townsquare Media say they’re committed to a “live and local” approach, they’re also sharing on-air talent among different stations. Says executive vp programming Jeff Sottolano: “We’ve got a lot of talent broadcasting from basements and closets and garages with no perceptible impact on the consumer.” Read more in Billboard.

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