We live in the era of online streaming and the options for artists to have their music published online are many; you can publish on your artist website or through online streaming platforms. However, one should not underestimate the power of radio airplay. Radio, one of the most historic and iconic traditional media, has evolved and to this day continues to reach audiences worldwide.
Radio is everywhere, reaching listeners on-air, online and on-demand – whether they are at home, at work or in the car. Radio is still relevant and a powerful medium for artists and brands. The sole focus on the sense of hearing enables the listeners to focus more on the song or message being broadcasted. Also, radio triggers the listeners’ imagination to create their own visuals to the music they hear. The psychological importance of this is paramount, that’s why radio is often described as the ’theatre of the mind’ as it is able to generate emotions in the audience’s hearts and impressions on their minds. People tend to forget that despite YouTube, music is still primarily consumed as audio.
Now, if you are an independent music creator who wishes to have their music played on the radio here is what you need to do in order to make it happen and be ON AIR:
Ensure you have invested in the songwriting, singing, production and recording of your music. Radio producers, journalists and djs are sent a number of tracks on a daily basis to be evaluated in order to make it (or not) to their airplay lists. Make sure you stand out with your vocals and overall production. Invest in a professional, studio-level recording of your music.
You must do your research into radio stations that play your type of music. There is no point in targeting radio stations that don’t play the type of music you are producing. Remember that there are two types of radio: non-commercial (includes college radio and community radio, if available in your country/city) and commercial radio stations. Getting your foot in the door of commercial radio channels is often harder to get through (but not impossible). That’s because the songs to be aired are tested with real audiences before public presentation. Radio hosts might not have power over that process.
However, there are small and medium-size commercial radio stations where radio hosts could have a say in what songs make it to their playlists. As an independent artist in their early career stage, you can start with targeting college, community and smaller commercial radio stations first. Once you gain momentum in those, you can start climbing the radio ladder a level at a time!
Create a list of all radio stations as well as internet radio that welcome online submissions of new music and submit your track(s) following their requirements. Don't email or send a Spotify / Soundcloud link, if a radio station has set up a process for track submissions and receiving information. Also, there are stations that have their own strand dedicated to discovering and supporting new music, check out for instance, BBC Introducing.
If there is no submission form on the website of the radio station that suits your career level, style and genre in order to submit your track, then you can try to reach out to specific radio hosts and djs. Listen to their radio shows and find out more about them. You can contact them directly by their email on the radio station’s website or via social media and ask tactfully, if they would welcome song submissions. Be polite and respectful of their time, so make your email or message sharp and to the point.
Your email pitch should not be lengthy to be efficient, on the contrary. In a few sentences, explain to the radio journalist who you are, what is your music about and what makes you unique.
Your EPK should include high-quality audio, text and visuals or even better set up your Family In Music profile (sign up)!
Find a unique angle of your personal artist story and explain that narrative to the radio journalist. Always journalists are looking for new and exciting stories. What’s special about you that noone else has?
If you make it o the studio, you could hand in a few copies of your music or merchandise to the journalist and they could make a social media competition. Or, if you have an upcoming gig you could offers free access to a number of selected listeners. Everyone loves winning a prize!
If you succeed on being interviewed or having your song played on air, remember to mobilise your friends, family and crew to leave messages on social media while you, your song or competition is on air. This way you will show that you have a following and attract an even bigger one. Engagement drives engagement!
Once they have played your song on air or interviewed you, remember to thank them offline and online. You can also use your social media to thank the radio host and the radio station by tagging them into your ’thank you’ post. Gratefulness is important for people to stay connected to you. Remember to invite them to your upcoming gigs and keep them informed on your career developments. It’s all about building and maintaining relationships.
Once your music gets radio airtime you can collect royalties. When a radio station (or any other public broadcaster) plays your song, the play is captured by software and, then, the broadcaster must pay a fee for each time the song was played for their audience. This way you will keep track of your song play counts and payments. When your music receives airplay or is broadcasted in any way, this is reported to the PROs (electronically via companies such as BMAT) which in turn pay royalties to rightsholders.
Depending on where in the world the play happens, whether you are a performer, master rights or publishing owner, the type of broadcaster playing your song, metadata is so important – the PRO has to know who you are and to be able to connect the play of a song to you, in order to pay you.
To sum up, once you feel you have a song in your hands that the world needs to hears, be brave and reach out there to radio journalists that could open a door for you. Remember that you can climb the radio ladder step by step. Be strategic, persistent, and let your music, personality and hard work speak for themselves!
No reason to be intimidated, if your music is great and you are a rising star in the making, any journalist would be proud and happy to say they opened a door for you in your early steps. Be brave and trust yourself and your creative work!