PR has a well-deserved reputation for airing thoughtful programming and the occasional quirky personality, but it’s also the place where a wide array of albums can be heard first, on the First Listen section of its NPR Music website. This helpful resource for music fans has premiered everything from The Fall’s latest release to Grizzly Bear, Dinosaur Jr., The xx, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Deerhoof, and many more.
As part of the deal, these albums gradually vanish from the archive, which is to be expected, because duh. But while the party lasts, First Listen is a great place to hear the latest notable releases, in full, for free, while you decide whether to purchase them or add them to your collection within a subscription service.
It started us thinking: How does NPR pull this off?
Evolver.fm: How does NPR acquire these exclusives, on a nuts-and-bolts level? Is someone calling around to the labels and artists, or how does it usually work?
Amy Schriefer, senior product manager: As a team, we consider upcoming releases — what we’re excited about, what our member stations are playing, and what the NPR news magazines will be chasing — and we discuss the best way to cover each album. If it’s an anticipated release and a strong record front-to-back, we’ll slot it for a First Listen. We source license permission for each stream from label and artists. We do get a lot of pitches from publicists and labels, but mostly we have a roadmap of what we want to feature weeks, sometimes months, in advance.
What does it do for these artists and their releases — any idea of the reach?
You’l have to ask the artists about that. NPR Music receives three million unique visits per month online and on our apps. This doesn’t count the visits to station websites.
Do the exclusives play into on-air play as well, or are they online only?
It depends. I know that some of our stations that carry these album streams will also feature the content on air, i.e. KCRW and The Current. If the record is covered on one of our news magazines (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, etc.), we’ll coordinate a call-out to the First Listen with the show. We are working on some ideas to better tap into the enormous reach of our broadcast audience.
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