How Do I Get my Music Played on Radio?
A common question we're asked here at ACPG. So let's take a look...
Many bands and solo artists still want to get their songs played on radio, and we totally understand why. In episode 002, we spoke to one of the most recognisable voices on UK radio, Mark Radcliffe, who has been with the BBC as long as I can remember and DJs on BBC 6 music which remains one of the best places for unsigned acts to get their music played.
Mark described how the curation of musical content still has an important place to play in a world where people have millions of songs to potentially listen to at their fingertips. Many people don’t want to spend hours trawling through music on the Internet looking for music they like, when they can go to a trusted voice on the radio who has already packaged up the type of music they’ll like.
Based on our conversation with Mark (and others), we thought it would be useful to spell out some top tips that can help you get your music played on radio. There’s no one magic formula to this, however we certainly think the following will help…
Final Version: Let’s start off with an obvious one, but something that Mark said doesn’t always happen – send the radio station a final version of your song that is radio ready! Don’t send something that is a work in progress, that hasn’t gone through the final mix, or that you’re thinking of changing the ending. Radio DJs want something that is radio ready.
The Right Song: Your best song might be a seven minute epic, which is great. Nothing wrong with that. However, few radio shows are going to give up seven minutes of time on the airwaves for a song that long, particularly if it’s a band they haven’t heard of before. No matter how good your song is, and it might be phenomenal, you’re massively limiting your chances of getting played.
Equally, get your genre right. A folk music show isn’t going to play a heavy metal song, so don’t waste your time, as well as theirs, by sending your music to just any old radio station just because it is a radio station. Do some research. Listen to the radio show, and take note of the average time of the songs that are getting played, the genre, the style, and then look for your best song that fits that criteria.
Song Intro: Linked to picking the right song, the next point Mark made is to make sure that the vocals lift your song when they come in. The first 30 seconds of the song are critical. It might be the only 30 seconds that are ever listened to. It needs to have a big impact, otherwise many DJs won’t ever get as far as your awesome mid-section or epic ending!
Order of Songs: As Mark put it “Don’t get hung up on the artistic merit of what you’re doing”. This is specific advice for when it comes to ordering songs on a CD to send to a radio station. When doing an album, fair enough, it’s a piece of art and you want to get the order right to make sure it all flows. When you’re sending your music to a radio show however, bear in mind that they probably receive a lot of music, so put your best song first. In fact, think about why you’d send them more than one song in the first place. Is the radio station realistically going to play two of your songs? Highly unlikely.
Format: Mark likes to receive songs on a CD. Part of the reason is that he’ll pop them on in his car on the way home. If you send him a link, there’s a chance he’ll never get round to visiting it in order to download and burn to a CD, and therefore may never listen to it. Make it easy for these people. If it’s a task for them to listen to your music, chances are they won’t. Other DJs however, will absolutely want a link, as they possibly don’t even have a CD player. Others may want your to send through mp3s straight to their mailbox, where as some will find that crashes them inbox and will be highly annoyed by you if you do that.
The message here, is do some research. The wrong option could mean you’ve put a whole load of effort in and it’s all wasted.
Presentation: Interestingly, Mark said that if the CD will play in his CD player, he’ll listen, no matter if it’s just a standard CD-R with your track name written on in pen. Now, if you have a beautifully presented CD sleeve then there is no doubt that is no bad thing, however think of the costs involved. If you plan to send your CD to five radio stations, you can perhaps afford the beautiful packaging. That however may limit your chances of being played. If you send to 100 stations, you increase your chances, but the costs would rise. There’s a balance to be struck.
Artwork was another point on presentation that Mark mentioned. If the cover of your CD, or the main image once the DJ visits the link to your website is an image that they’ve seen a thousand times before, then it’s not going to spark an element on intrigue or anticipation. He described people standing on railway tracks looking forlorn, or people with a guitar over their shoulder outdoors. At times when Mark receives lots of music, he’s had to have a screening process even before listening. Look at what the artwork of other acts in your genre look like. Being different will be no bad thing. It’s a chance to convey something about you, your story, for people to make a connection with you. Something we spoke to Sari Delmar about in episode 005 who has spent years as a music publicist. Make the artwork count.
Picking a Station: Trying to get played on BBC Radio 1 (or whatever the big radio stations are in your country) at the very beginning could be a stretch. Sending your music out to smaller stations first, can give some credibility to your music when you mention to the slightly bigger station that you’ve already been played on other stations.
Be ready: Linking on from the Sari episode, if someone does click on your link, or visit the Internet to find out more about you, make sure it is easy to find. If they play your song, they might mention something about you, when your next show is, when your single is out, however if that information is hard for them to find, chances are they won’t. If you’re sending an email or a CD in the post anyway, include some information about you. In a future article I’ll go into more detail about having a back story and how to publicise yourself based on our conversation with Sari.
This isn’t a designed to be a comprehensive list of ‘do all of these things and your song will definitely be played on radio’, however it should give you some great pointers based on conversations we’ve had from people with a wealth of experience.
Let us know how you get on either via social media, or contact us via an email. Looking forward to hearing you on the airwaves soon!
ACPG 002: Mark Radcliffe - BBC 6 Music, talks radio, demos and Glastonbury. 14/11/17
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