Many of us put little thought into the choice of music we listen to on the radio. We turn on the soundbox and are happy to listen to whatever tracks the station’s producer or DJ for the day has selected to be on the airwaves. As long as it fits your basic music preferences, there isn’t much more to ponder about.
However, if you are an artist, you know just how difficult getting your song on air can be, especially targeting popular, highly rated commercial radio stations. Many new and upcoming artists have spent months trying to get their songs on air with no success.
Why it is Still Valuable to Have Your Songs Playing on Radio
Before we delve into tactics on how to get your music on the radio, let’s answer a common and very legitimate question on the value of radio airplay.
Radio as a medium is more than a hundred years old. At one time, it was the only place people could listen to their favorite tunes. Today we are living in an age where there are numerous ways to get access to music.
Digital platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud give you access to thousands of songs. Unlike radio, these can be arranged to play as per your liking, where you cannot control what song comes on next.
Why the Fuss for Airplay?
So why is it still valuable for a new artist to have their song played on the radio?
The answer is in the stats. 62% of new track discoveries are made through radio. This is in comparison to only 20%, which are made via streaming platforms. Therefore, if you want to make it big as an artist, radio airplay is still essential for you.
Tips on How to Get Your Music on The Radio
The single most common piece of advice given to anyone promoting a product or service is ‘have a great product.’ Rightly so, because the success of all other promotion efforts comes down to that if your music lacks content or sound quality, it is unlikely ever to enjoy radio airplay.
Another critical point to remember when promoting your music is that the introduction must be the catchiest part of the song.
Radio producers or whoever decides what will be played on-air don’t have time to listen to the entire song. They typically listen to the first 15 seconds. If your song doesn’t catch their attention in that first quarter minute, it could very well be the end of your chances on that station.
Find Out Who to Approach
Having your music played on the radio requires you to contact the right people at the targeted stations.
Different stations have varying structures, so the appropriate approach in one station is likely to be different in another. For some, it may be the head producer, a music director, or a head DJ. Small radio stations are often easier to navigate in this regard since they have less staff on board.
You may need to make an initial phone call to get this basic information and the individual’s name. After that, do some research to get their email address. If you can’t get it from the initial phone call, turn to LinkedIn. The individual probably has an account on this professional social media platform.
Find Out How the Station Receives Submissions
Traditionally, artists physically delivered tapes or CDs to the station for the decision-maker to listen to. Today, with lots of technological advancement, artists send their music digitally.
Sending electronic press kits or music press releases with links to the tracks is the most common way of going about it. That said, the best way to make submissions often comes down to how the decision-maker wants it done. Some require you to create an artist profile then upload the track on a station portal.
Instead of taking the industry-standard approach, do some research to determine how the station or individual prefers to receive submissions and use that method for that particular station.
Most stations have a genre or general sound which is characteristic to them. It is part of the station’s identity, and they have built an audience based on it. It, therefore, makes sense to target stations whose genres include your music’s genre.
You probably won’t be successful approaching a rock music station with a county song. Similarly, a gospel radio station would not play secular music. It may not be that your music lacks quality; maybe it just doesn’t fit their identity and audience.
Consider existing quotas
If your song is in the language of your country or region, it gives you a better chance at getting airplay. In some parts of the world, authorities have placed quotas to grow local languages and support local artists.
In France, for instance, authorities imposed a language song quota designed to protect French-language music due to an influx of Anglo-Saxon pop content. Despite much opposition, the law requires private radio stations to ensure at least 40% of their content is made of French songs during significant listening hours. At least fifty percent of this should be music from new productions and new talent.
What exactly is considered a French-language song, and which counts for new talent? The law defines a French-language song as any production performed or written in French or regional French.
New talent is defined as an artist who is yet to obtain two gold record-certified albums.
Grow a Following on Digital Platforms
When applying for a regular job, the one key document employers want to see is a resume. It tells them what you have to offer and how you have put your skills into practice in the past.
For an artist, figuring out how to get your music on the radio should start with your ‘music resume,’ and this could be in the form of clout on other platforms.
Good numbers speak on your behalf.
Therefore, to get radio stations to notice you, you will need to gain traction on digital platforms like Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, Pandora, and YouTube. The beauty about these platforms is that the numbers are there for everyone who cares to log on and check to see. If your song is highly ranked on Spotify, the radio producer knows those are well-earned ratings, and there is no way you could have manipulated them in your favor.
Be Active on Social Media
The value of social media in any kind of promotion today cannot be overemphasized. Chances are you already have some active social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and perhaps Tik Tok. Use these platforms to promote your brand.
Upload clips of your latest releases, and be sure to respond to followers or answer questions from fans. These platforms are also perfect for sharing information about upcoming shows and photos of yourself performing or just doing interesting everyday things.
Start a YouTube Channel
Rotor describes YouTube as ‘THE destination for music’ and the best social network to engage the next generation. The basic way to utilize a YouTube channel would be to upload music videos simply. As great as a complete, perfectly edited music video might be, there is much more content you can add on.
It could be a simple video of you playing the guitar at home. Alternatively, record a rehearsal session of you and other band members rehearsing for a gig bloopers and all. You can edit the clips, and the perfect live performance for which you were rehearsing can follow.
It is the personalized content such as imperfect rehearsals that locks audiences and builds a fan base. It makes you more relatable, more human. This fan base then grows your numbers on digital platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud, making your content more attractive to a radio producer for airplay.
Look for Local Gigs
Local gigs are a good place to start if you are just starting as an artist looking for radio airplay.
When you have a couple of songs, spend time searching for and booking gigs in your home area. Find local cafes which have live performances. These would usually be on specific nights of the week when the establishment expects a larger crowd.
Sign up for open mic events and find talent shows you can compete in. The idea here is to get your music, your face, and your name out there. With time your product and name become familiar to more people, and they will almost always search for your music on digital platforms. These performances also get people talking about you, whether in person or on social media, and radio stations quickly notice that.
Stick around after gigs
It is a common mistake upcoming artists make. They leave immediately after a performance. Artists should spend some time at the venue after a gig to meet and talk to fans. You will be surprised how much fans appreciate the opportunity to have a brief conversation and even take photos with you.
Appreciated fans are the best fans to have. It is they who cause your content to go viral even with little effort from you. Viral content always gets noticed by radio stations who want to play your music to increase their audience ratings.
Get Some Media Coverage
Media coverage could come in many forms. Here we are talking about interviews on local television stations or with popular bloggers. Just about every television station has a music program where it plays music videos of popular tracks. These often include artist interviews, and many have a special segment for new and upcoming artists.
Secure as many of these as you can. The more people see you and hear your song, the higher the chances of better ratings on digital platforms. Good ratings mean that radio stations will notice you and be keen to play your music.
Radio stations are businesses whose primary goal is to make a profit that comes from high audience ratings. Whether you are a new or veteran artist, learning how to get your music on the radio comes down to ensuring that your music increases the station’s audience (or keeps existing audiences happy).
A large part of it involves building an audience who then propels you on to radio. However, you cannot forget quality content. The very first step to achieving and maintaining radio airplay is producing a good quality product. No radio station will play a drab, poorly produced song no matter how many gigs you do or how much social media attention you get.