Over the past couple of years radio has changed a lot. A lot of stations have consolidated under big conglomerates such as Clear Channel. There has been a growing emphasis on playing what the people want to hear and catering to the sponsors that provide the station’s income through their advertisements.
So how do you, the underground artist, get on the radio? Well, there are a lot of ways but first you have to ask yourself a simple question: What are you trying to accomplish with your airplay and what’s your budget? Trying to get promotion for your tour is a different from promoting your album. Your musical style (for example rock or hiphop) will also play a big part in choosing the right promo method. For underground music you will probably be looking for specialty shows and college radio stations.
You can DiY or you can use different services and target the stations and radio shows you are trying to hit. If you need to have a more professional job done and don’t have a lot of experience in the radio business, you’ll probably want to hire a radio promoter to do the job for you. This isn’t cheap as it can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars for a campaign. Obviously if you are just starting out you’ll probably want to keep the budget very low while still getting the biggest bang for your buck . The job of the radio promoter is to send the packages which contain your CD and a brief one-sheet and to follow up with the radio station. This might seem very simple and you might wonder why can’t you send these packages and contact the radio station yourself. You can but your result will be limited.
Let’s start by dispelling a common myth. If you think that the DJ controls songs that get played on the air then you are in for a rude awakening. In most cases it’s the station’s program director (PD) that calls the shots.
Most of the time a radio promoter will have already established a relationship with the PD at the station you are trying to get airplay from.
If you are trying to hit specialty radio shows, then in most cases you can get away with professional looking CDRs. If on the other hand you are trying to go for more commercial radio stations then you must have glass mastered CDs. Remember to put your best tracks first. If you think that a PD has time to go through three/four mediocre tracks in order to get to the good track you are dead wrong.