How to Get a Song Played on the Radio

By John Ford ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • List of non-commercial and commercial radio stations
  • Produced and mastered release of your song
  • Press kit for your band
  • Mailers and mailing labels
  • Telephone
Get a Song Played on the Radio

In today's modern radio world it can be really tough to get your song played on the radio. Radio consolidation, with a few large companies owning a large majority of all commercial radio stations, has made it even harder for new artists to get airplay. Still, it's not impossible. What's the best way to get your song added to a radio station play-list or at the very list taken for a spin?

Have your produced album or single ready to mail. Most radio stations will only accept songs for airplay consideration if you send it to them via regular mail. Besides, this is a great way to introduce your music to the Music or Program Director of the radio station. You don't have to spend a lot of money on packaging, but remember, the more professional your press kit and packaged demo looks, the better your chance of having the decision maker actually give your music a listen. And getting them to listen to your music is the first step to having the DJ air your song.

Higher education is the quickest road to hearing your music on the air. Getting airplay at commercial radio stations can be extremely difficult. Most commercial radio stations don't even make local decisions on their music play-lists. Those decisions are often made on the corporate level. The one tried and true method to actually break through and get your music on the air is working your songs on college radio. At most college radio the DJs and Music Directors actually pick the music that they play on their shows. Targeting them with your music is the fastest way to gain radio airplay. College radio takes chances on new music that commercial radio never would. Why? The biggest reason is due to the fact that college radio doesn't rely on commercials to pay the bills. Almost all college radio is non-commercial, so they are in a much better position to take a chances on new and unproven artists. In fact, it's what they do.

Start out locally with your quest for airtime. It's always better to try and gain access to the airwaves where you live. Even commercial radio will often take a chance at an unknown or unproven talent if it is a local artist. Send your material first to the local college radio Music Directors and DJs and follow up with a phone call or two. Don't be a pest, but try to build a rapport and friendship with the personalities and decision-makers. Invite the DJs and Music Directors to your locals shows, add them to the band's email list and send them mailers to your show. Make sure you put your radio contacts on your guest list and treat them like VIPs. They'll love it! Some commercial radio stations often have weekend shows where they play local music for an hour or two. Do a little research and make sure the DJs that run these shows have your music and are updated on when and where you're playing. Also be sure to check out the local public radio stations; in many cities they set aside time for local artists.

"Think small and work your way up" should be your motto. Once you have one or two college radio stations playing your music, you'll find it a lot easier to gain more airplay. Why? It's simple. Once someone has taken a chance on your music other DJs and Music Directors will fell less apprehensive about trying out your songs. Always keep your your press kit updated with information on what radio stations and shows are playing your music and keep your radio station contacts updated with the latest airplay information. Music is like fire. DJs and Music Directors keep track of what's becoming popular and what music is getting airplay at similar radio stations. The more it gets played, the more other stations are likely to add it. Even college radio keeps track of airplay--CMJ is the monthly publication for college radio that many commercial radio programmers watch for what's new and hot.

Now it's time to expand your horizons. Once you’re starting to get a little airplay on some of the local college stations, it’s time to start branching out. Start sending your music to other college radio stations within your region and expand from there throughout your state. Once you’ve made inroads outside of your local community and state, target similar college radio regionally and nationally. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not always about how great your music is, often it will have more to do with who you know. This is why it’s so important to build relationships with with the individuals at college and commercial radio alike. The old adage of “catching more flies with honey than with vinegar” should always be your radio airplay mantra.

About the Author

John Ford is a Fort Lauderdale, FL native with a background in Broadcasting, Print & New Media. A Recognized expert in Broadcasting & Creative Services with stints at the ABC Radio Networks and as VP of New Media for Sabo Media. A respected writer for Parade Magazine & National Geographic. Webmaster, Apple Certified Support Professional and a published singer/songwriter