So your unsigned, indie band has a hot new CD out and you want to get it played on the radio? The people gotsta hear it, man! Like the Ramones said, “We want the airwaves, baby!” Well, you’ve got the airwaves, baby, if you know how to go about it, and you don’t have to pay some “radio promotion” company thousands of dollars to get you on the radio, either. You can do it yourself if you have the time and the gumption… and a CD! Here’s how to go about getting radio airplay for your hot new CD…
1) Commercial radio stations: Of course you want to be played on commercial radio right alongside Metallica and Aerosmith… but the reality is that if you are an unsigned indie band or artist the chances are slim to none that you will get national radio play on commercial stations. However, you can get played on the air on commercial radio stations in your own city as many commercial radio stations do have a “local music” program. My own city of Seattle, for instance, has three commercial rock radio stations that each have weekly local music radio programs and I’ve been played on all of them. All you’ve got to do is find out which of your local commercial stations have such programs, get the proper contact information for each show, and send on in your CD. Don’t waste your time trying to get on a local music program if you don’t live in the same state, however, and make sure the format of each local music show fits the style of your CD, that is: don’t bother sending in a rock CD to a “local music” show on a hip hop radio station.
2) College / Community radio stations: Your best bet for getting local and national radio play is with college and community radio stations. These stations are much more open to playing new music by unsigned indie bands and the deejays have much more control over what they play than the commercial radio deejay. There are hundreds and hundreds of college radio stations in the United States and most of them play a very eclectic range of music. All you need to do is find out which college radio stations have a regular program which plays your style of music. For instance, if you are a punk rock band or artist wanting airplay for your CD, you should be looking for college stations that either specialize in punk rock music or have a regular punk rock show. To find such stations/shows Google is your best friend. Simply google “college radio station lists” and you will find several links to some very good and current lists of college radio stations with links to each station’s website. Go to each radio station website that looks interesting to you and check out their radio program schedules. If, for instance, they do not have any regular programs that play your style of music, move on to the next radio station.
When you find a college or community radio station that looks like a good fit for you music, look for their submissions policy, which most college stations have listed on their website. Usually they will tell you to mail in your CD addressed to the Music or Program Director, or to the specific radio program you think is most likely to play your CD. Many of the deejays for these regular shows also have myspace pages for their programs or at least an email address, and if you can find them it’s a very good idea to contact them and tell them you have a CD you’d like to mail on in.
As far as radio stations go, my own experience has been that for every ten college stations I mail my CD to, three or four of them will actually play it, or at least three or four that I can verify have played it. Sometimes they will simply play a song from the CD one time and never play it again, sometimes they will give it three or four plays, and sometimes if you are lucky and a deejay or music director likes your stuff, they will put it in regular rotation. The best way to verify which college stations have played your CD is to google the title of your CD about a month or two after you’ve mailed them out. Many college stations will list their playlists online, and if they’ve played you recently it will show up in a google search.
3) Internet radio stations: Nowadays there are scores of internet radio stations that you can get your music played on, with most of them specializing in a specific style of music. Once again, you simply need to find the internet stations that play your style of music. The advantage with internet stations is that usually you do not have to mail them a physical copy of your CD, you simply upload or email mp3 versions of the tracks you want played to them, plus they too are open to playing new music by unsigned indie bands and artists. The downside of internet radio stations is that — and this is my own personal opinion here — they really have not caught on with the general public quite yet and if you do get played on an internet radio station you may actually have only five or six listeners, instead of hundreds or thousands that you may get with a “real” radio station. True, there are some internet stations that are popular but most of them have very limited amounts of actual listeners. Still, it’s probably worth your while to find some good internet stations and upload some tracks to them. It can’t hurt!
So you’ve got a list of radio stations compiled — what do you send to them? When you’ve done all your internet researching and have compiled a list of radio stations and programs that are most likely to play your music, here is what to mail to them:
1) The CD: Most radio stations only accept CDs — they will not accept cassette tapes or links to mp3s on the internet — they want CDs only. When you mail your CD off, the first thing to do is take off the shrink wrap. This will save the music director or deejay the hassle of taking it off which as we all know can be a pain in the rear. It’s also a good idea to print out small stickers that list two or three songs most suitable for radio play and put the stickers on the front of each CD jewel case. The sticker could say “Suggested for radio play:” followed by the names of two or three strong tracks. Mailing label stickers work well for this.
2) Promo material: When sending your CD to radio stations for airplay, they do not want a full press kit with 8×10 glossies, bios, and other promo material. What they do want is a “one sheet” or “press sheet”, which is simply information on one sheet of paper that summarizes your band and CD release. The information you should include on a one sheet is :
The band name, name of the CD release and release date of the CD
A short description of the CD’s musical content and style (e.g. “New CD from Seattle punk band the SPACE CRETINS, featuring ten high-energy punk rock blasters with buzzsaw guitars and glammy spaced-out vocals. Recorded, mixed and mastered by grunge legend Joe Bob”)
Atrack list which lists the title of each song, the song length, and a one sentence blurb which describes each song (e.g. “Future Hoppin (2:43) mid-tempo punk rock anthem with a catchy chorus”) You should also highlight two or three of the strongest tracks that have the best chance for radio airplay, and should also note any songs that contain profanity or anything else that may be in violation of the FCC guidelines for radio play.
A small image of the CD cover
A small photo of the band
Contact information (website address, email address, phone number)
When you’ve got your one sheets printed out, simply fold each sheet up and pack it inside each CD you are mailing off — inside the jewel case right on top of the CD.
3) Mailing Envelope: Usually a 4″ x 6″ bubble-wrapped mailing envelope will do the job since all you are mailing is a CD with a one sheet folded up inside the jewel case. Make sure you’ve got the package addressed to the radio station with an “Attn: program director” or the radio program you are sending it to added after the radio station name.
After you’ve mailed out your CD packages it will tak
e about a month before your CD will start showing up in online playlists, so be patient. Also be advised that since most radio stations receive hundreds of new CD releases each week there is no guarantee that yours will get airplay at each station. That is why it is so important to stick with stations and radio programs that play your style of music, and also very important to try to get in contact with the right people at each station/radio program before sending off your CD, that will ensure a higher level of success in getting radio airplay. It is also a good idea to keep records of which stations you’ve sent your CD to with the addresses and contact names, and add notes of which stations have actually played your CD and how many times you can verify it’s been played. This list will come in handy the next time you have a new CD release. It’s a good idea to regularly Google the name of your CD title at least once a week to see who’s been playing it and how many times they play it.
Follow these instructions and you can’t go wrong… you may not become a huge radio sensation, but you will get radio airplay, and let’s face it — it’s a real kick to hear your song played on the radio. Good luck!