If you've been following the Sonicbids blog, you already know the three things you need to be "radio ready." But after you've met those prerequisites, how do you determine which stations or music programs you should submit your music to for airplay consideration?
Radio stations come in a few specific types, and it's not only AM/FM and internet. Here's the breakdown.
Cumulus, Clear Channel, and other similar national broadcasting stations are corporate radio. These stations are synced more with Billboard and spend their on-air hours playing charted music. This is one reason why getting your songs played on corporate radio is so difficult for indie and DIY artists. Their main focus is playing music in pop, country, hip-hop, or alt-rock genres.
Corporate radio mostly plays music (with a few exceptions) from artists who are on major labels. The major labels pour millions of dollars into marketing their artists and promoting singles, which is why most corporate stations are in the top 40 or pop genres. It's also why they play the same songs by the same artists over and over again.
While it may seem like a dream come true to get your music played on the radio alongside singles by Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Beyonce, Blake Shelton, or Muse, making the trek into the corporate radio playlist is very difficult for the DIY artist. Corporate radio's radar is tuned into trending and charted singles, mostly by label bands. Once you build a substantial following and have great PR working with you, gaining corporate radio airplay can become a reality (it's how the Civil Wars crossed the indie lines into Grammy territory years ago).
Public and indie radio
Instead of submitting your music to stations that aren't interested in unsigned acts, get plugged into the public and indie radio world. Here are a few of the benefits to being heard on public and indie radio:
- These stations accept music submissions from artists like you, and actively seek out new music to feature on their programs for a specific audience that is actively engaged in finding new music through their station. In other words, there's a greater potential for you to grow your fanbase.
- Many of these stations and programs are supported by individual donors who have a vested interest in the music showcased, so you have the potential to connect with paying fans who financially support the arts instead of just stream it.
- Often, these stations will do more than just spin a song or two. If you build a connection with them, there is a greater potential for a broader showcase of your music.
For example, my show, The Appetizer Radio Show, doesn't just play indie and DIY artists for the sake of playing new music. We also do reviews, podcasts, and exclusive content with artists to highlight and show off great talent. Many indie and public stations and programs are like us. We’re actively participating in a connected music community. Your music within these growing music communities only serves to benefit you more.
How to determine which stations to target
Now that you've identified the types of radio stations and programs to pursue for radio airplay, it's important to understand some best practices for reaching them and building the connection. In 2013, it was estimated that there are 15,000 radio stations in North America, web radio included. That number has increased over time. But of course, not all 15,000+ stations are the right fit for your music.There are specific factors you should look for in a radio station before you send an inquiry about airplay. Three of the most important factors include:
- Styles of music and artists regularly featured who have a similar sound or audience to you. You should know a little about a station before you contact them. Blanket emails or messages without any knowledge or experience with the station don’t do very well.
- Location of the station (or coverage area of the program) and its audience. While airplay alone is great to market your music, the most successful radio promotions work alongside a tour or a gigging area so that the radio audience can experience your music in a live setting for a greater fan conversion opportunity.
- Audience engagement. Look at a station or program's social media pages to see how they are communicating with their audience. If they only post what current song they're playing, the engagement might not be very strong.
Here's an uncommonly told truth about radio airplay for DIY artists: Not all radio is created equal. Not all indie or public radio stations and programs give equal treatment to unsigned and DIY artists. When you find stations that sync with your style, pay attention to how they treat artists and what kind of showcasing or features they give.
Don't avoid smaller stations or markets in favor of the bigger ones. Small- to medium-sized stations are just as passionate and supportive (if not more so) of DIY and unsigned artists as the big indie radio stations. It can also be easier to get your first taste of radio airplay on a smaller station than with the larger public radio stations in big markets due to the volume of submissions they receive on a daily basis.
Knowing what type of radio stations and programs to submit to can be tricky and confusing for you as a DIY artist. Sign up for the Indie Radio Promotion Course to get answers to all the questions, unknown areas, and next steps to take to make indie radio airplay work best for you.
Learn more about getting radio airplay:
- The Indie Musician Strategy for Getting Your Music on the Radio
- A Musician's Guide to Community Radio: Stations That Will Actually Play Your Music
- How to Get Your Music Played on College Radio (And Why It's So Important for Indie Artists)
- What You Didn't Know About Radio Royalties
D Grant Smith is the host and creator of the syndicated and award-winning The Appetizer Radio Show, featuring unsigned and indie music weekly. With over 16 years experience in radio and indie music, Smith also coaches and mentors musicians through focused audience growth. More information at dgrantsmith.com and appetizerradio.com.