How to get underground music on the radio
When all is said and done radio still packs quite a punch for underground music or commercial stuff. I know it’s the age of the Internet and most people will listen to the content of their iPods rather than that of the radio stations. However there are still those that prefer the human interaction that a DJ offers and the fact that they don’t exactly know what song will be played next while at the same time keeping informed about the new music that’s coming out. Let’s not forget the people that are stuck for long periods of time commuting back and forth to work. A lot of them will have the radio on. I am not talking here only about the top 40, commercial stations. There are plenty of smaller radio stations and specialty radio shows that cater to niche markets. Getting your music played on the radio still matters and can be very beneficial for your career.
Over the past couple of years radio has changed a lot. A lot of stations have consolidated under big conglomerates such as Clear Channel. There has been a growing emphasis on playing what the people want to hear and catering to the sponsors that provide the station’s income through their advertisements.
So how do you, the underground artist, get on the radio? Well, there are a lot of ways but first you have to ask yourself a simple question: What are you trying to accomplish with your airplay and what’s your budget? Trying to get promotion for your tour is a different from promoting your album. Your musical style (for example rock or hiphop) will also play a big part in choosing the right promo method. For underground music you will probably be looking for specialty shows and college radio stations.
You can DiY or you can use different services and target the stations and radio shows you are trying to hit. If you need to have a more professional job done and don’t have a lot of experience in the radio business, you’ll probably want to hire a radio promoter to do the job for you. This isn’t cheap as it can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars for a campaign. Obviously if you are just starting out you’ll probably want to keep the budget very low while still getting the biggest bang for your buck . The job of the radio promoter is to send the packages which contain your CD and a brief one-sheet and to follow up with the radio station. This might seem very simple and you might wonder why can’t you send these packages and contact the radio station yourself. You can but your result will be limited.
Let’s start by dispelling a common myth. If you think that the DJ controls songs that get played on the air then you are in for a rude awakening. In most cases it’s the station’s program director (PD) that calls the shots.
Most of the time a radio promoter will have already established a relationship with the PD at the station you are trying to get airplay from.
If you are trying to hit specialty radio shows, then in most cases you can get away with professional looking CDRs. If on the other hand you are trying to go for more commercial radio stations then you must have glass mastered CDs. Remember to put your best tracks first. If you think that a PD has time to go through three/four mediocre tracks in order to get to the good track you are dead wrong.
College radio stations are a strange beast. Some of their specialty shows will accept CDRs while the main programming will probably not go for anything less than a professional CD. This of course depends on college and the popularity of the radio station.
If you are going to try and do the radio promotion yourself and you can’t find any information on their website on how to submit your music then it’s best to get in touch with the radio station via e-mail.
You can easily get a list of radio stations by doing a bit of net research. Don’t use the shotgun method and send stuff out indiscriminately. Do the research and find out what shows would fit best and how you can contact them. In most cases, with some persistence, you will be able to find out how they would like the material to be sent to them. The easiest way to get your material straight into the garbage is to send it to the wrong show or person at the station.
Remember that there are also many internet radio stations and their number is growing every day and it’s a little easier to get in touch with them and get your music played. Also keep in mind that it’s not only about the songs. Some of the specialty shows might actually request an interview. Be prepared and don’t forget to mention your website and upcoming events or albums that you have out…. plug, plug, plug.
If you decide to go the full nine yards and hire a radio promoter then do your homework and make sure you appoint the right person for the job. Most radio promoters will specialize in certain musical styles (rap, r&b, metal, industrial, hip music, etc…) For example don’t hire a rock guy to do a hiphop job!
If you plan it well and know what you’re aiming for, then radio can play a crucial role in getting your band/music out there. Remember to do your homework before you start and good luck.
With experience from playing in bands to producing underground music and managing artists, Stan Oldman has always been involved in the music business. He’s currently managing the NYC band RED i CLAN.
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