Time spent listening to music on the radio can often lead artists to question why their music isn't getting played on the airwaves and, although it certainly isn't easy, getting your music on the radio, be it XM or a local college station, is within your grasp.
Have you ever sat around listening to music on the radio and thought to yourself, wait a second, how can I get MY songs played on this station? Whether it’s satellite, internet, out-to-sea pirate radio or your local college FM station, getting your music played on the radio certainly isn’t easy, but… there is hope! With some solid research and a lot of perseverance, getting air play is certainly within your reach as an independent artist, especially if you follow these four steps.
1. Do Your Homework.
Before wasting your time cold calling and emailing a million stations that will never work out, spend some time figuring out which stations actually play your type of music. You also have to make sure that the specific song you are pushing is a perfect fit for the channel. We are all artists, so it’s natural for our songs to vary quite a bit stylistically. One of your songs may be perfect for a particular station, or a particular show or host, but the next song you put out might be just different enough that it isn’t a fit. It’s a lot easier to sell a station on a song they know their audience will love, than it is to sell them on trying to go in a new direction. So be sure that the song you’re pushing is a good match with the content that they play on a regular basis.
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2. Find Your Person.
After finding your ideal station, your next main focus should be to find the person responsible for the programming on that channel. Use Google, LinkedIn, social media channels, and any other available platforms for this research, including of course, the radio station’s website. And please remember that at this stage, you shouldn’t actually be pushing your song out to your person just yet. Blitzing piles of unsolicited content almost never works. You need to build a relationship with them first. Remember that both programming staff and hosts get people shoving emails promoting songs at them every single day. It quickly gets old! So, you need to find a way to stick out. And how do you do that? More research!
Once you know who your contact is, start Googling them. What are their interests or areas of expertise? Don’t be a stalker, but take time to inform yourself! Do they have articles they’ve written in the music community? Have there been videos or interviews published about them? Make yourself familiar with their work, reference it in your outreach, and show a genuine interest in what they do.
Once you know who they are, turn them into a friend or mentor. Reach out and tell them that you’re a singer-songwriter and you found their article, video, or interview very helpful. Share any thoughts the work provoked and ask a question or two. Don’t make the email too long, just try to get a dialogue started. After your contact responds, stay on their radar — reply with your reactions, ask a follow up question, or share a story. If a station really is the right fit for you musically, odds are you’ll have something in common with the people who run it.
Within a week or two, mention that you feel you’ve written an incredible song that would be a perfect fit for their station, and ask if it would be alright to send it over for review. Follow up later with a flattering tweet like:
@yourperson can’t get enough of your station! You’re an awesome programer. Hope to be lucky enough to get my song #nameyoursong on it one day!
Be kind, and they will appreciate your genuineness.
3. Ask Your Fans for Help.
If you’re treating your fans right, they will want to do everything in their power to help you achieve your dreams, so ask them for help! Post your goal on your social channels and ask your audience to like it, share it, retweet it… The whole shebang!! You can also ask them to email and call the station on your behalf. The more people you can get to make requests on your station, the more likely it is you’ll get noticed.
Another route to consider is asking your fans to tag their own favorite local radio stations on your post, and call attention to you as an artist. If they call and request your song on smaller local stations, it will be way easier to get radio air play there as well.
4. Don’t Give Up.
I tried for 5 years to get on SiriusXM radio, and got turned down many times before I actually succeeded. I thought I had tons of ideal songs for the acoustic Coffee House station because I was really proud of my music, and I knew my overall sound was “Acoustic”… But not all of my songs actually were. I was so attached to my music, that I never stopped to think that some of my tracks might not actually work for their channel.
Once you realize this, you don’t have to be as attached to every single song you’re promoting, because you know that it simply can’t fit on every single station. Radio doesn’t work like that. But you must also be confident in knowing that there is a station out there waiting for your song to show up on its doorstep, even if you’re a DIY musician without a manager. All you need is to find the perfect match. Keep your head up, stay persistent, and keep trying.
By following up on a regular basis, I finally got the opportunity that I had been waiting for, and my growth spiked. YAY! I realized that my newly released single “I’ll Let You Go” is way more in-line with the channel’s general sound, so they’ve finally given me a time slot. Now it gets at least 4 spins per day. As soon as all of this unfolded, I instantly understood why my other songs kept getting rejected. It really has to be the perfect song fit for that particular channel.
Whatever you do, if it’s your goal to get your music on the radio — and it should be — don’t just spam a huge email list of radio programmers to play your music. Life doesn’t work that way, especially in the radio industry. Do your research, put in the effort, and all your hard work will pay off immediately once you step foot in a Starbucks and hear your tune playing on the café speakers.
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