How to get your music on the radio
Radio is still a major source when it comes to discovering new music. For many artists radio is undoubtedly still a big goal: airtime on large national radio stations means reaching millions of fans through a well-respected medium. Having tracks on the radio is almost like a confirmation of quality.
Getting played on the radio, however, is very difficult and the rules are complicated. Let’s dive in deeper.
Types of radio stations
Basically, there are two types of radio stations: commercial and non-commercial.
Non-commercial radio stations are smaller stations, for example, college radio. Commercial stations are all stations that, well, play commercials in between tracks. These commercial stations have a large reach, are very well known and most of the time difficult to get played on.
Non-commercial stations are usually smaller but are a great medium for music discovery. A non-com is likely to support local talent, without having to be represented by a large plugger or promoter.
A stepping stone into commercial success. The most difficult part, of course, is to get your track on commercial stations.
An insight into commercial radio
Listening to commercial radio, tracks often appear several times per day or even hour. Why play the exact same track over and over again when there is so much new music every week? This is called rotation: a radio station determines the tracks that are best suited for their image and these tracks go on high rotation.
Nice for the artist, not so nice for the thousands of artists that don’t get played at all.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this. One of the reasons this even exists is because of the relationship between major record companies and radio stations. Majors have huge pulling power and really know how to spend big budgets on promoting an artist. Big cooperations between artists, record labels, radio stations and venues often appear per country.
A commercial radio station is all about, no surprise, making money. Reaching as many people as possible means ads space can be sold for a higher rate. If artists with a huge social media presence post about a radio station they are visiting, it works both ways. The artist’s new track gets more attention and the radio station is promoted through the social media of the artist.
Think of pluggers as musical matchmakers. A plugger is hired by record labels to visit radio stations and pitch music. The goal is to get music played on radio stations and find the perfect fit between an artist’s repertoire and music stations.
Pluggers were often hired in the past to get music on commercial radio stations, nowadays they are still mostly hired by major record companies. For new and upcoming artists/bands a plugger can be expensive.
Press kit and social media
Getting your song on top of the stack at a radio station is challenging. It can be compared to getting tracks in playlists on Spotify; there is such a huge amount of music being released on a weekly basis that it is almost impossible to get in front of the right curators at the right time.
To leave a solid impression, make sure your press kit stands out and your social media is representative for you as an artist.
A press kit should contain information about you as an artist, your repertoire, images and videos and your key achievements. Creating an interactive document, for example, a pdf with links to your content online helps to bring your content alive. Include a bio, press quotes, gig calendar and links to your social media. Need help creating a good press kit? Check out this site.
Differences per country
It may come as no surprise that radio stations are bound to rules and regulations set out by their local government. This is a big difference compared to DSPs like Spotify or Apple Music; commercial companies with centralized leadership. These companies (often) have offices in multiple countries but the rules that are being applied to f.e. curating playlists are mostly worldwide.
Some countries have very specific rules when it comes to the repertoire of local artists. F.e. in France, only a certain percentage of all music played on National radio stations can be by foreign artists.
This sometimes also applies to the language (f.e. a native artist singing in a different language is not as easy to feature on the radio as one singing in the native language.)
Achieving radio success (and consequential tours/gigs) in France is a bigger challenge for foreign artists, because if you are French then the chances of being played on the radio are significantly higher. A good start to getting on the radio is to target stations in your own country…
Make your music suitable for radio plays
Making sure to have the right pre-conditions for radio success also involves making your music suitable for radio. This means that your productions should always include a so-called ‘radio edit’, a version that most of the time is shorter than the original.
A radio track should compel the listener within the first few seconds, starting with a long intro or finishing with a long outro means it’s less suitable for radio plays. In general, the track you normally submit to streaming services is also suitable for radio.
- Radio is a huge source for music discovery;
- Don’t underestimate the importance of non-commercial radio. It sparks music discovery and can be an important stepping stone;
- Hiring a plugger can improve your chances of commercial success;
- A good press kit is crucial in pitching music to radio stations;
- Make sure your radio edits are of the highest quality.