How to Get Radio Airplay for Your Unsigned, Indie Band
You Want the Airwaves, Baby? You Got 'em... Here's How to Get Radio Airplay for Your Band!
by Paul Diamond Blow
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!