You have your music recorded and produced. You've posted your recordings up on your website, and now it's time to blow the doors off of your audience by getting radio airplay. Radio spins and promotion is a bit of a confusing challenge for many DIY artists. Is getting your music on the radio simply a matter of making a contact list and blasting out emails, or is there more to it? Here's the inside scoop on how to use your contact list to get actual results.
Contact lists are worthless without the proper connections
Most radio promoters will use their contact list as the big seller for why you should hire them to do your radio promotion. However, a list of emails and names does little good to anyone without the quintessential thing that actually drives success: relationships.
How you communicate with people you know is, of course, different from how you communicate with people you don't know very well (or at all). We're often more formal in how we phrase things with people we're not as close with, compared to those we know well. This comes across in how you reach out to people you don't know at all, and can play a big role in whether or not you make a connection with a new person or find your message cast aside.
How to tell if a radio promoter is legit
I mention everything above because it's a telltale indicator of how good a promoter is at getting stations to take notice of an artist's music. Without a relationship, or at the very least a connection in some capacity, a contact list alone doesn't make music promotion successful.
Think about how you can use a radio contact list to build connections to your music or your band. If the promoter has the contact list, and he or she isn't willing to share any information or give any insight into how he or she uses their contact list to build connections to your music, run in the opposite direction. That's usually an indication of someone who isn't good at building connections. Your goal is to build connections with the people who are in radio so that your music can be heard by more people and your audience can grow. Connections and relationship building are what successful DIY artists and successful radio promoters do.
Focus on turning online connections into a real relationships
What if you can't afford a radio promoter? Chances are if you're on a social platform, you at least have access to a profile image to make a visual connection and possibly a profile description to give you insight into who someone is. But it's the comments, posts, and interactions that build the connection you have with people you've never met in a face-to-face setting.
This takes time – it's not instantaneous. Connections are built with shared interests and reciprocal benefits. As a DIY artist, when your social posts mostly consist of "Listen to my songs," "Here's my new release," or "Watch my new video," there's not much to attract people who don't know you personally. There's not a conversation starter there.
By learning how to start real conversations and build interaction, you gain connection. Connection is what you need to build your audience and grow your music – not only with fans online, but also with the bridge builders to a more massive audience through radio airplay.
The biggest mistake people make when reaching out to radio stations
The common route for musicians and promoters is to take an entire radio contact list and create one blanket email addressed to no one. They put "Music Submission For Hot New Band" in the subject line and write three to four paragraphs of messaging in the body email and include a few music links.
I can't tell you the number of emails The Appetizer Radio Show gets from DIY artists, small indie labels, PR companies, and even radio promoters that are just like this every day. These emails don't serve the interests of the artist at all because the sender is an unknown entity until a connection or relationship is made.
Due to the lack of connection, there's no way of knowing if the music is within the same programming format (music genres), if the sound and songwriting is of the quality needed for airplay, or if the music is enjoyable enough to promote on the radio platform. The only way of discovering the answers to these questions is to read the long blanket email, click on the links, and go to the sites of these artists.
Are you thinking, "But you're a radio show programmer, it's your job to go to artists' sites and find new music to play"? Sorry, but that's not the way it works. Not for me or for any other station, music program, or music blog. There are thousands of ways for us to find new music worth showcasing on our platforms. By sending a generic mass email like this, your music is not going to be listened to, your email will likely not be read, and you could potentially be reported as spam.
Do you open, read, or pay attention to emails sent to you (by people you don't know or didn't subscribe to) that are only addressed to "Hey," or "To Whom It May Concern"? We don't with our radio show, and my radio industry colleagues don't either. This misnomer is perhaps the most common pet peeve shared among radio curators, stations, and programs that accept music submissions.
The right way to use a radio contact list and get the results you're looking for
Take the uncommon route and be selective about who you contact, where you want to be added (in terms of stations and locations), and know why those stations are the right fit for your music. This will require you to listen to some radio platforms to find good matches for your sound and their station programming. Take notes on what stations (from your radio contact list) are the best fit for your music and why. You can use these insights in your contact messages.
Instead of sending a mass email to 100 people at once, break it down into small, bite-sized portions. Make a short list of 5-15 stations or programs that are a good fit for you, and send them each a personal email. Put their station call letters in the subject line and reference listening to their station or program in the email body.
Personalize your message to get the response you seek. This includes more than addressing them by name. Reference their music programming and why you enjoy it. Ask that person you're contacting what the process is for music submission and any next steps for you to have the opportunity to be a part of their programming. Put a link to your website or EPK in the email. Your call to action is for them to reply to you on how to be a part of their programming. The reply is a big part of the goal, not just the radio airplay.
The focus of the message shouldn't be on your music. Place the focus on the reciprocal relationship that you and the station/program can have in serving their audience with great music. Showcase your interest in serving their audience by describing their programming and how you want to be a part of it. This little piece right here makes a powerful connection opportunity. This is one of the key points I make in the Indie Radio Promotion Course, which walks you though a more comprehensive process to get radio promotion the right way.
After you send that first email to your list of stations that are a good fit, be sure to follow up. This article will provide you with more insight on what an effective follow-up procedure looks like.
As a DIY artist, community building is one of the most essential elements to growth. When you use your radio contact list to help others build their community – in this case radio stations and music programs – you're offering something bigger than music. That's an uncommon gift, one that gets much better results than the common route, and much stronger connections for artists and radio platforms, creating a dynamic where everyone wins.
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.