Radio Play 101 - No Rivals

Radio Play 101

Radio-play is essential in reaching new ears , building your fanbase, & establishing yourself as an artist to be taken seriously.

In this how to we will cover

The first step is to evaluate where you are in your career – and seek out radio stations that are at your level. Getting major radio plays is a process accomplished step by step. With that being said,

What type of radio should you start with?

As an up and coming independent artist looking to get your first time radio plays- Seek out non-commercial radio stations ( local college stations,and community radio stations (including NPR stations) 

College radio is very friendly to such artists, and community radio stations often are as well. College/University, Non-commercial/Community, and Online/Web radio are the best radio platforms for indie, unsigned and DIY musicians to get their music played, reach new fans, and build your audience.

These types of radio often have passionate curators who want to connect with new artists and showcase your work to their engaged and supportive audience. Audiences who are already invested in the programming they listen to pay closer attention to the artists that they hear and like.


How to submit/ what they’re looking for

The people you want to connect with on radio are the station manager, music director, and program director. Spend a little time listening to the station or program you want to be heard on before you contact them. Tuning in  will help you decide if you want your music heard there, and WHY you want your music heard there.

Getting the contact info is easy. A good place to start is Indie on the Move’s listing of radio stations and media contacts for bands and musicians:

You will want to research who you are reaching out to, and tailor your message specifically to that person. A blanket, generic message sent gets you nothing. What works is to build a connection with your contact.  The process of making relationship building the purpose of your outreach, (especially when it comes to getting your music heard on a radio platform) is crucial to your career growth. NETWORK=NETWORTH

Some non-comm stations are hugely popular, and furthermore, succeeding in the non-comm arena can lead commercial radio stations to take notice.

Getting plays on Commercial Radio

After non-comm radio, the next level in radio play independent artists often turn to are small commercial radio stations. 

Keep in mind that radio stations are businesses trying to make money. If you are not showing the potential to increase revenue for a station, your music will not be selected

It is important to note that there is more to the process of moving up the radio ladder than just getting plays at smaller stations. Radio stations want to see your entire music career progressing along with your radio plays. You can add to your credentials through touring, getting more media buzz/ doing more press, & by selling more music ( thereby showing them you have the fanbase needed). Large stations judge your songs on their ability to increase their ratings by playing your music, not on the song quality itself.

Your songs might be amazing to your fans, but on a larger scale, they may not be able to generate revenue if you are not booking shows, not active on social media, nor making an effort to promote yourself as much as possible.

Build A Plan

With a plan in place, you can increase the odds of your submissions being heard by the right people, & eventually picked & used. This method is heavily used & recommended by

“You should start at least four weeks in advance of your add date (also known as “adds”, the date a station can add your music to their playlist) to run a decent campaign, and a few extra weeks may be in order if you’re new to the game.

During the start of your radio promotion push, you’ll mail out promo CDs to all the program directors of the stations that you’re targeting. After that, you’ll spend about a week confirming your packages were received, soliciting initial feedback and re-sending any promos that didn’t make it to their intended recipient.

The next few weeks will be spent soliciting feedback about the single while trying to get commitments from stations. All the while, you’ll be updating the program director with news about the musicians relevant to that market—shows, sales and so on.

At this stage, you may also place ads in radio trade publications announcing the single and that you’re going for adds—especially if you’re going for plays in larger markets. During the last week of the campaign, you’ll do a final push for adds and then wait for the results to come in.

That’s a short rendition of the process, but that’s it in a nutshell—and that’s the same process used to promote non-commercial radio up to the top major station in a large market.”

The Bottom Line

The best way to get your song on the radio is to approach the radio stations that are appropriate for the stage your career is in. If you’re just starting to break into radio, focus on the non-comms and build up from there.

Some artists may never get played anywhere but college radio and still thrive in their music careers. Build a realistic, easily managed radio campaign, and you’ll begin to see success on the airwaves.


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