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How to Get Your Song on the Radio: A Quick Guide

How to Get Your Song on the Radio: A Quick Guide
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Digitalization has completely changed the face of the music industry in recent years. Nowadays, independent artists don’t need to chase that dream record deal with a major label to get their music heard by millions. With the emergence of streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, and the rise of social media, everyone has unlimited access to millions and millions of listeners and potential fans. But while going viral on TikTok and landing your songs on coveted Spotify playlists are the preferred strategies in this digital age, you should not forget about radio - yes, you heard that right. 

Why is getting your song on the radio still important?

Competition on social media platforms is intense, and it can be very hard to stand out from the crowd and have people pay attention to you and your songs. One of the best ways to get your music heard, believe it or not, is radio. In fact, 2018 research showed that 62% of new music discoveries were made on radio, compared to just 20% on free music services. 

Just think about it: how many times do you turn on the radio while driving, or hear a catchy tune while waiting in line somewhere and turn on Shazam to see who the artist is? Radio is a great way for aspiring musicians to reach a wider audience that’s looking to expand their music library and discover new artists - and we’re going to show you how to do it. 

7 Ways to get your song on the radio 

Getting your song on the radio is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you’ll need to invest some time and effort if you want to get it right and maximize your chances. Here’s how to get started.

1. Choose the right single

This first step is without a doubt the most crucial step in the entire process of getting your song on the radio. Choosing the right song to submit can make or break your chances of success, so you want to take time to pick a single with wide mass appeal, a strong message, and of course, a catchy melody. Make sure that the song represents your musical style and that it is polished and mastered to perfection - radio stations only play professional-sounding, high-quality songs. 

2. Target the right stations

Another crucial step in this process is picking the right radio stations to submit your song to. There’s no point in sending your songs to a heavy metal radio station if your genre is jazz or indie. Do some research on local and national radio stations and figure out the genres they play and where you fit in. You want to choose radio stations that can connect you to the right audience, so try to figure out what your main genre is and how your music is perceived by listeners. Many artists nowadays combine different genres and musical styles, but you should still be able to narrow it down. 

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3. Follow radio format guidelines

There is no point in submitting a 13-minute track to a radio station, unless it’s a progressive rock station that encourages that kind of thing. Usually, radio stations will play songs that are short, between 2 and 4 minutes or so, so you should try to follow their guidelines to have any chance of getting radio play. If your single is longer than that, you can work to create a radio edit version of it, like so many artists do, and submit that version. Depending on individual station requirements, you might have to submit a physical CD or send your song in a digital format like an MP3. Research these requirements to make sure your submission follows the guidelines. 

4. Research DJs and contacts

If submitting to a station is not successful, or you want to maximize your chances, you can research local DJs or radio station contacts to reach out to directly. You can look up radio station websites, LinkedIn profiles, social media profiles, to find the right contacts. Look for titles like ‘music director,’ ‘DJ,’ ‘station manager,’ and similar things - basically, you want to find the people who decide which songs get radio play. Start by looking up local or college stations, because they are more likely to play your songs. National stations get flooded with submissions and requests and there’s a chance your song will get lost in the mix. 

5. Create buzz around your music

It’s not enough to simply send in your song to a bunch of radio stations and wait to get ‘discovered.’ You need to put in the work and create buzz around your music, because DJs and station managers will research artists before they play their music on the radio. You should be active on the local scene, play live as often as you can, be present on social media, have strong and professional-looking Spotify and Apple Music profiles, and a promising fanbase. Engage with your followers, other artists, and professionals in the industry, keep working on releasing new music, collaborating with other musicians, and building your online community. This will show station directors and DJs that you’re professional and committed to this career path. 

6. Have a press kit on hand

Whether you’re trying to get radio play, reaching an A&R professional or catching the attention of a record label, you’re going to want to have a press kit ready. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it has to look professional and show that you’re taking this music career very seriously and are willing to put in the work. You’ll want to have a short artist bio, a high-resolution portrait, links to your website and socials, your Spotify profile, contact information, and links to 2 or 3 of your best, highest-potential tracks. Some radio stations will ask you to submit this, some might not, but it could increase your chances of getting radio play. 

7. Use a radio plugger 

If you don’t have the time to pursue radio stations and DJs on your own, or have a budget to work with someone who knows the ins and outs of this part of the business, you can hire what we call a radio plugger. This is basically someone who has experience in the industry and a long list of contacts that they can reach and pitch new artists to, and they are usually respected by radio station managers. They can help you reach the right people and boost your visibility, increasing your chances of landing your songs on the radio. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I submit a song to a radio station?

To submit a song to a radio station, you typically need to create a professional-quality recording of your song, preferably in a standard format like MP3. Research the radio station's submission guidelines, which are often available on their website, and follow the instructions provided. This usually involves filling out an online form or sending an email with your song, artist information, and any relevant details. Be sure to include a brief but compelling artist bio and a catchy one-sheet highlighting the key aspects of your song.

How much does it cost to put a song on the radio?

The cost of putting a song on the radio can vary greatly depending on several factors. Traditional terrestrial radio stations may charge fees for airplay, known as "payola," but it is illegal in many countries. However, there are alternative options like online radio, college radio, and independent radio stations that may offer free or more affordable opportunities for song submission. Additionally, hiring a radio promoter or marketing team to help promote your song to radio stations can incur additional costs. 

Does the radio pay you to play your song?

In most cases, radio stations do not pay artists directly to play their songs. Instead, they generate revenue through advertising and sponsorship. Artists and their record labels often invest in radio promotion to increase the chances of their songs being played on the air. The goal is to gain exposure and potentially boost album sales, concert tickets, or other revenue streams. 

Can independent artists get on the radio?

Yes, independent artists can indeed get on the radio. While it may be more challenging compared to artists backed by major labels, there are numerous independent and college radio stations that actively support and promote emerging artists. These stations often have a more flexible and open-minded approach to music selection, providing independent artists with an opportunity to gain exposure and airplay. Building relationships with DJs, submitting songs to appropriate stations, and utilizing online platforms and resources can significantly increase the chances of independent artists getting their music played on the radio.

How much is a radio promoter?

The cost of a radio promoter can vary depending on several factors, such as the level of experience, reputation, and the specific services offered. Fees can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the scope and duration of the promotional campaign. Some radio promoters may charge a flat fee, while others work on a percentage basis, taking a percentage of any resulting revenue or royalties. It is important to research and discuss pricing with potential radio promoters to understand their specific rates and services before making any commitments.

Join Xposure Music and gain access to some of the best music industry professionals in the U.S. Top experts from Sony, Columbia, Def Jam, or Universal have already joined our platform, and they’re ready to give invaluable, on-point feedback on your work, which can help you land that dream record deal or publishing deal you’ve been working towards. Sign up now and reap the rewards.

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Gregory Walfish
Co-founder of Xposure Music, Gregory Walfish stands at the intersection of music, tech, and culture. With a software engineering background, he's passionate about artist development and technology.

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