Why is it so hard to get music played on major radio stations?
For any unsigned band or DIY musician getting your song played on the radio amounts to gold dust. It is still the best form of advertising for a band or artist’s work. And its the type of advertising that brings in sales.
With the advent of the internet and the expansion of radio in to the digital airwaves, there’s more radio stations than ever before. When we produced our single we paid for digital distribution to some of the main digital ‘radio’ stations / streaming sites such as Spotify, Deezer, Rdio etc. to get exposure for our new track. But these sites pay very little in terms of streaming royalties (0.007 USD per Spotify stream) and one track is a drop in the ocean, especially for a new unsigned band. Compare this to a track being broadcast on a major radio station, where the DJ chooses to broadcast it to listeners, maybe talks a little about the artists, perhaps plugs upcoming gigs or future releases etc.
What’s the frequency? We need to broadcast on your wavelength dude. Getting heard on the radio waves is proving difficult.
With this in mind, we thought it can’t be that difficult to get heard on mainstream radio, so we’ll just plug our song to a few (well a lot of) radio stations we could find using the magic power of Google. However, when it came to trying to get our new single heard on your standard major radio stations in the UK it proved impossible. First of all we found a list of all the radio stations and then sent them a polite email asking if they would consider listening to our song for radio broadcast. This was difficult because most stations didn’t seem to have an easily accessible email, rather they had a contact form – which meant our request was most probably going to a generic email address via the contact form (such as some temp in the admin department, as opposed to say the geezer who’s in charge of programming or station controller). Also it meant that a collection of email address could not be compiled, so a time-saving bulk request to all the stations couldn’t be sent. Then we realised that a lot of the stations on commercial radio fall under an umbrella of a rather bigger media company, and the generic email most probably gets sent to them. So after manually visiting the radio station’s web page and filling out the form for all the major stations, we got exactly zero replies…. a total deflating waste of time and energy.
But why? Well as is pointed out in this excellent blog post by Executive Editor of Artists House Music and Associate Professor of Music Business/Management at Berklee, George Howard, commercial radio is the last bastion of major labels and stalwart music publishers. And when major labels have control of something, that basically translates to… if you don’t have a fat wad of money behind your release then no one will listen to you. If there’s any other bands/musicians out there considering trying to get heard on radio, then this post is well worth a read – at the time of writing there’s a comment in the comment section that has a video of Simon Cowell from the early 80’s dressed in a dog suite and being the Satan’s puppy that he is. Pretty disturbing.
Bless ‘em, the BBC are trying. As most musicians will know, they have a programme called ‘Introducing‘ where any unsigned artist can upload 3 tracks per moth and the BBC will listen to the music and then decide if they want to broadcast it on air. Most likely the broadcast will be on the Introducing show on the local/regional radio. But it’s a foot in the door and if they get a good response from their listeners, then it may get picked up by other DJ’s working at other BBC regional or national stations/programmes.
Its a foot in the door alright, but what we can gather from this is the sobering realisation that big time radio play is for the lucky few: Those one-in-a-generation DIY musicians that create that once-in-a-life-time hit wonder that can’t not be played. And if you don’t happen to be that artist (lets face it – most of us aren’t), and you still want major radio play, then you’d better be prepared to whore your soul and hope for backing from a major record label – because they own the radio.
That’s enough doom and gloom – lets not be too dispirited, on the upside there are hundreds of radio stations out there and quite alot of them are happy to listen and broadcast music from unsigned bands and artists. Sure they might not have the same clout as the major stations with fewer listeners and less access to a mainstream public consciousness – but its exposrue nonetheless. And for n unsigned band then exposure is what is needed.
When we were plugging our new single, ‘Love Sick’ to radio stations we found a nice blog post at GUBIC to get us started with tips and links to some friendly stations.
We did send hundreds of emails. Not everyone got back to us, which is unsurprising, these stations most probably receive a mountain of emails every day, but some kind folk who got back to us were:
So if you want to get a preview of ‘Love Sick’ before its released then check out the above list of stations. Maybe those big record label influenced major radio stations might, in the not so distant future, become a somewhat minor influence.
‘Love Sick’, our debut single is on sale on 25 / Aug / 2014 from all major online retailers.