Respected industry vet Chris Hauser gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the role of a radio promoter in this exclusive interview:
Company: Hauser Promotions
Current Clients: Lauren Daigle, Tenth Avenue North, LeCrae, Danny Gokey, Bethel Music, Unspoken and more
Artists He’s Worked With: Delirious, Gungor, Darrell Evans, Newsboys, Point of Grace, Building 429, DecembeRadio, Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Aaron Shust, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin and Bebo Norman, among others
TSO: For those who don’t know, briefly describe the purpose of a radio promotor.
Chris Hauser: A radio promoter works a specific number of single songs to radio stations to get airplay. There are 35 promoters in the Christian industry (label and independent), working between 50-75 songs to 115 radio stations each week. Each station has on average only ONE free slot for a new song each week. It is THAT competitive! Radio stations, by and large, appreciate the work a promoter does. I bring them artists on visits and let them get to know each other. Weekly, I update stations on what good things are going on for my songs. There is SO much coming at these radio Program Directors (PD) and Music Directors (MD) every week that they need the assistance to know how songs are doing around the country, making sure they aren’t missing something.
TSO: What is the purpose of a radio promo tour, and how does it work?
Hauser: I schedule trips with an artist (usually a new artist that radio doesn’t know yet) and try to fit in three stops a day at least for station visits, meals, staff devotions, whatever I can, to make sure the PD/MD connects well with that artist. This will help them down the road when they decide they want to expose that artist’s music/ministry to their audience. Radio stations can get 3-4 unique label/artist visits a week!
It’s grueling being out and traveling (driving, keeping the artist “up” and coached along, sharing the right stories, staying on high alert all day with very little sleep). But there’s nothing like getting into where radio people live and watching beautiful connections happen for the artist and them. In my 27th year of dong this, I have hundreds of memories and stories (both victorious and challenging as well) of doing these. It’s possible I did the first-ever promo tour in our industry — in 1989 hand delivering Russ Taff’s debut single, “Farther On,” from The Way Home album where we hit New York, Tampa, St. Louis, Dallas, Seattle and Los Angeles — all in two-and-a-half days! I think I have the record, too, for most stations visited — where I visited 13 stations in three days, which included a high-speed ferry across Lake Michigan.
TSO: How did you first become interested in radio promotions?
Hauser: I grew up loving music and listening to the radio in a small town in upstate N.Y. It was a toll call to actually call radio stations in the closest city (Binghamton), so I couldn’t do that very often. I was fascinated by radio, and all my money went to music and music magazines. I was also a drummer, but not good at music theory and picking up other instruments; so music school was out of the question. I went to Onondaga Community College in Syracuse for their Radio/TV program. My second year there, I got a part-time weekend job at Christian AM day-timer WYRD there in Syracuse. I went full-time at the station the day after I graduated with a simple Associates degree. When I became the PD in 1983, I started getting promo calls from Christian record companies, and I loved the interaction. My dream soon was to get to the other side of those phone calls and work for one of those labels. But seriously, for as long as I can remember, I have been all about trying to get people to love the music that I love — like going back to age 10! It’s just been in my DNA. This job is such an amazing outgrowth of something I naturally love!
TSO: What does a typical work day look like for you?
Hauser: My heavy call days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I call radio stations from around 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. or so each of those days. Mondays and Fridays are spent taking meetings, running errands and getting fresh air.
TSO: How many weeks out of the year are you on the road?
Hauser: I try to not be out more than one week per month tops. I have enough requests from clients that I could be out almost weekly if I wanted to be, but my wife of nearly 33 years still likes having me around the house.
TSO: Briefly describe your work history.
Hauser: Worked in Christian radio from 1979-1987 (where that job also afforded me the place to promote concerts with artists like Petra, Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart, Rez Band and many others). I then took the radio promotion job at Myrrh Records in L.A. late 1987, working some of the greatest CCM records of all time, including Amy Grant’s Lead Me On, two Russ Taff projects, three Choir records, two Phil Keaggy albums and so much more. In late 1990, I moved my family to Nashville to work at Warner Alliance (the gospel division of Warner Bros. Records Nashville) and worked there until 1998. My time there included helping break Michael English, Donnie McClurkin and Caedmon’s Call. They wound that label down, and I went independent in April 1998. I have done indie radio promotion ever since — save taking a two-year break between 1999 and 2001 to manage the band Waterdeep — one of my favorite bands of all time.
TSO: What is one of your favorite artist memories from your years in radio promotions?
Hauser: Oh gosh. Too many stories. Hosting a Lead Me On listening party at Amy Grant’s farm in April 1988, just as GMA Week was starting, as a VERY young record exec was just nuts. Working with musical heroes like Russ Taff, Steve Taylor and Phil Keaggy was surreal. Still calling the guys in The Choir and Waterdeep, Darrell Evans and Michael Gungor dear friends is built on years of working and being together, trust and interpersonal challenges. That is very meaningful. Being deeply involved in launching the promo campaign for Caedmon’s Call in 1997 is something I will always be proud of. It started a folk/pop movement in our industry where the effects are still being seen. We had four No. 1 songs in 11 months at two formats. I love those guys still. Also helping launch Aaron Shust with “My Savior, My God” and then a year later Rush of Fools with “Undo” (where both of those were the No. 1 song of the year two years in a row) — two indie artists who didn’t live in Nashville and didn’t come from the majors…2006 and 2007 were amazing years for me.
TSO: Who were some of the artists you grew up listening to?
Hauser: I am a child of ’70s album rock! Most of my Top 10 albums of all time are those bands and records: Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, Pink Floyd, Mott the Hoople. It’s a long list.
TSO: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Hauser: KISS, Dec. 1975. My mom drove me and dropped me off. Picked me up four hours later. I became a Christian six months later and was back in that same venue watching Dallas Holm & Praise with evangelist David Wilkerson late Spring 1976. The irony is hilarious.
TSO: What is your favorite song you are currently working at radio?
Hauser: It’s a new Inpop band called Consumed By Fire with a song called “Walk Through the Fire.” It sounds like the best Coldplay (circa 2004 when they could do no wrong) fronted by Bear Rinehart from NEEDTOBREATHE. Incredible hooks!
TSO: What do you like most about your job?
Hauser: Knowing that what I do has an impact on people’s lives. People hear songs that profoundly impact them. It’s humbling. And I love the radio people on the other end of the phone. We have lived a LOT of life together over the years.
TSO: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Hauser: Being self-employed can be a challenge. I’m a people person and love being on a team, but enough clients have a team mentality and include me in many aspects. Also, I miss the label days when I had vacation and easy insurance.
TSO: Who is your current favorite new artist, and why?
Hauser: Oh gosh. Lauren Daigle, to me, is amazing. Such a profound singer and a sweetheart. She is a star. She sings and, more often than not, I just break down. I almost can’t handle it! There’s a pic on social media of me curled up on the floor in a fetal position sucking my thumb upon hearing her debut song “Light of the World.” Her debut EP last year was beautiful. Her full-length project coming in April will be one of my favorite records of the year.
TSO: With all of the changes in the way people consume music these days, do you believe that radio is still a key factor (if not the key factor) in the success of an artist’s career?
Hauser: Christian radio has more listeners right now than it has EVER had in history. Radio just keeps getting better and better at growing and serving their audience. I was terrible at it in the ’80s. (It was best I got out when I did.) Especially the way Christian radio plays worship songs that are blowing up in the Church…really no other musical genre in the world has this thing where we KNOW where the audience is every Sunday.
TSO: Why did you specifically choose to work in Christian music, above other genres?
Hauser: I became very passionate about my faith when I got to college in 1978…which got me into Christian radio…which got me into a Christian record company. I just kept stepping through the doors as they opened. In the mid-’90s at Warner Bros. and working a little with the mainstream promo people in Burbank for the Worldwide Message Tribe and MidSouth (with short-lived crossover radio singles from Warner Alliance over to the mainstream), I was pretty excited about getting into that side of the business. But 20 years later? I have been in this business my whole adult life. I have honor and respect and still love what I do, the clients I have, and the artists I work with. I make a great living talking with my friends all day long about music I love. And there are always new artists and new songs that break my heart in the best way, coming every year. Plus the turnover at radio brings in new people every year that bring me challenges to stay fresh, present, attentive and loving. So this “job” has NOT gotten old!