Music Industry 101: Radio Basics

As a musician, you want to get your song played on the radio. And, you're in luck because radio stations are always on the hunt for new music that they think their listeners will enjoy listening to. The trick is to have a successful radio promotion campaign, and that means taking the time to understand how radio works and what makes a song radio-friendly. Before you embark on your radio promotion journey, commit these radio basics and resources to memory and be sure to click on an available link to learn more.

The Basics of Radio Station Markets

Female radio DJ
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Radio station markets are one of the first things you need to learn about before you go about trying to place your songs on-air. Choosing the right markets for your music will dramatically increase your odds of getting radio play time, especially when you're just getting started. In other words, if you're exclusively a country western musician, you need to identify those markets devoted to that genre, and you need only to target those stations likely to give you the radio time in that market. Otherwise, you'll waste time and valuable resources. 

The Difference Between Commercial and Non-Commercial Radio

Like radio markets, understanding the distinction between commercial and non-commercial radio is key to developing a successful radio promotion campaign. You need to find out what separates these styles of stations and which one might be the right choice for your music. Non-commercial might be something like NPR (National Public Radio) which is very specific about what they air and, for example, they don't air country western music. Like it sounds, commercial radio stations air commercials.

Things You Should Know About Commercial Radio

Now that you know the difference between commercial and non-commercial radio gather more insight. Commercial radio is a world of mystery to many musicians and independent record labels. In fact, commercial radio can seem downright inaccessible.

The trick to getting radio plays on the commercial stations is understanding what makes them tick. Because commercial radio stations are privately owned and don't have the same freedom as non-commercial radio stations, they usually want to play music by musicians already nationally known, or scheduled to play at a venue in their area. You need to work very hard to convince the GM or disk jockey you have music similar to well-known artists and will appeal to their segment market. 

Get Non-Commerical College Radio Plays

College radio is an indie musician's or up and coming artist's best friend. These stations have playlist flexibility and dedication to new music that is unparalleled in the commercial radio world. Additionally, being a hit on a college radio station often attracts the attention of larger commercial radio stations as well as booking agents and bigger labels. Learn how to reach out to these crucial music partners and win their favor, and get plugged-in to a spot in their rotation.

Know What a Radio Playlist Is

If you want to promote your talents on the radio, then you've got to know the language that makes that world tick. The playlist is going to be your new favorite word during your radio promotion campaign. A playlist is a curated list of songs that a particular radio station plays. If you spend the time to listen to the radio station you're pitching, you'll soon get a good sense of what their playlist is.

The Difference Between Release Dates and Add Dates

Radio stations are less concerned with release dates (the actual date that a song will "drop" in the market) than they are with add dates, which are the dates that tell the radio stations when to add a song to its playlist. A song may be "released" on the first of the month but may not be "added" to the schedule for another month.

Know What a Radio Promoter Is

Do you think you have what it takes to get a new artist a toe-hold in the world of radio? Do you think you can spot a hit song and convince program directors to feel the same way? Or, would your band (or artist) benefit from hiring a well-known radio promoter? Learn the ins and outs of this music industry job and how you can get started in this field.

Learn from Successful Radio Promoters

Just how do radio promoters convince program directors to play the songs they're working? In this interview, U.K.-based radio pluggers Ben Mainwaring and Terry Hollingsworth share stories from the trenches about working with record labels (both big and small) and the challenges of standing out in the competitive radio market.

How Can I Get My Song on the Radio?

Getting radio play is a delicate balance of targeting the right stations with the right information at the right time. Learn about all the various factors you need to consider to give yourself the best shot at landing on the playlist.