How to get your music on the airwaves, or should you ignore the radio altogether?
Posted: 30 July 2019
Way back in 1979, The Buggles tried to warn us that video would kill the radio star. Fast forward four decades and it seems as though their prophecy has been fulfilled. With the rise of social media and music streaming platforms, there’s a perception that radio is no longer vital to a band’s career. But is that really true?
Broadly speaking, radio can be broken up into two categories: commercial and non-commercial. In the UK, most commercial stations, including many seemingly independent ones, are offshoots of three major corporations. This is a pattern seen across the world. Non-commercial stations on the other hand are often run by colleges, universities and community groups.
The process of getting on the radio isn’t something that you can rush. As tempting as it might be to send your demo to every station you can think of, careful planning is more likely to get you the results you want. So where do you start?
Getting on the radio can be super competitive, so finding the stations that support your genre of music is an important first step. There’s no point sending your alt rock track to somewhere that only plays country music. Good research will also tell you who’s in charge of the playlist because it’s not always the DJ that hosts the show. Luckily, some stations have a submissions page that explain where to send your tracks and what format you need to send them in.
Artists rarely become radio sensations overnight. In fact, a lot of musicians that appear to explode out of nowhere have actually worked their way up from local radio. Don’t underestimate the power of non-commercial radio. Many of these DJs have connections to national teams so if they like your sound, they might make a recommendation to someone higher up in the chain.
Radio playlisters don’t have time to listen to every song you’ve ever written, so there’s no point in sending them your whole album. It used to be the norm for bands to send out demos but nowadays most stations are looking for a finished song that has been properly mixed and mastered. Try to find something that represents who you are as an artist and get advice from friends, family or management if you’re struggling to choose.
Along with the track, be sure to send a one-sheet that includes what makes your music relevant to them e.g. if you’ve got a gig coming up in their area. More details about writing an EPK can be found here.
Although it’s sometimes hard to believe, there are lots of people in the industry who want you to succeed. That’s why radio shows for unsigned acts exist. Amazing Radio is one of the best-known stations for unsigned musicians and can be accessed worldwide. For new artists in the UK, the BBC Music Introducing platform provides the opportunity to get played on both local and national stations.
When it comes to running a radio campaign, you might prefer to employ the help of an expert. A good radio plugger will have spent years cultivating relationships with different stations and can help you break into the competitive market. However, it’s important to research a potential radio promoter as carefully as you would a booking agent or publicist. Find out about their previous successes and how they plan to help your band to achieve the same.
Disillusioned with the long process of getting on the radio, some artists decide to bypass it altogether. Streaming services like Spotify and Deezer seem relatively simple in comparison, you just sign up and upload your track. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a completely passive process. Whether you’re trying to get on a major playlist or increase your streams, good marketing is the key to succeeding on these platforms.
You could also try reaching out to bloggers and influencers for exposure on their websites and social media channels. You could even offer your tracks to podcasters, DJs and club owners.
Whichever route you decide, don’t forget to register for royalties.
While it might seem like digital streaming is taking over the world, radio still has its place in the music industry. A report published by Nielson in 2017 found that 93% of American millennials tuned into the radio each week. That’s a huge part of the population that could potentially discover your music.
Radio hosts and DJs are the original influencers and people still trust their recommendations when it comes to finding new music. In 2017, over half of the acts performing at Reading and Leeds festival had previously uploaded tracks to BBC Music Introducing, highlighting that radio is still pivotal in breaking new music. However, that doesn’t mean you have to put all your efforts into getting on air, uploading your music to steaming sites and promoting your work on social media will also play a role in getting you that big break.