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Does Getting Played On The Radio Still Matter?

You might think, with the success of streaming and particularly playlists, that radio is dead. But we say ignore radio at your peril. Nowadays, we’re particularly lucky in the UK to have a wide range of radio stations and shows with diverse music policies and in this Internet era, it’s also possible to reach international broadcasters. So what’s the secret to getting played on the radio? Well, here’s a brief guide about how the industry works:

DJs don’t (often) have much control over the music…

Chances are your favourite DJ doesn’t choose 99% of the tracks you hear them play on their show, at least not the daytime ones. In fact, the Head of Music for the station is the person that curates the playlists, which ultimately makes them a very important person in your career. Some Heads of Music control an entire network of stations up and down the country. For example, Capital Radio, which is part of Global, has regional branches that all play from the same playlist.

Specialist radio shows…

Specialist shows and online radio stations are the ones to target initially as these DJs get to actually choose the music they champion. These are the tastemakers you need to be contacting. They have the freedom to take risks and often want to make sure they’re first to break new talent and hot tracks.

Commercial radio…

On some mainstream radio stations, a DJ will get a certain number of “free plays” per show. Though your chances are slim, it could be worth reaching out to a DJ directly if they’re an expert in your genre, or regularly play other artists like you. Listen to their show a few times, and if they’re a fit, figure out what you should include in your marketing pitch to them. Then, fire over a personalised email linking them to your website, SoundCloud, or profile page on a streaming platform. It’s also important that you direct them to a place where they can download a high quality audio file (MP3 or WAV) of your tracks.

Out the box…

Another option to think about are the new music prizes that big stations open up each year, for example, to be in with a chance of getting listed on “BBC Sound Of”, you need to get your music included on the BBC Introducing website. BBC Introducing covers various regions of the UK on local BBC Radio, so look up your local BBC Introducing Live radio show and reach out to them with your music. But first, take time to put your music together so that you stand out when your track lands in the producer or DJ’s inbox.

What about radio pluggers?

A way to get your music professionally promoted to and playlisted by a radio station is by hiring a radio plugger. They’re just like a publicist, but they only work with radio outlets. If you’ve got a budget for your project, then it’s worth considering bringing a plugger on board. A good plugger knows how to tap into their network of contacts of station managers, producers and DJs, which can essentially make the difference between a successful single that is playlisted and a missed opportunity. But on the flipside in this DIY era, independent artists are increasingly approaching stations themselves nowadays and doing the job that was traditionally in the realm of a radio plugger.

Get paid for your radio play…

Make sure your tracks are registered with PRS and PPL so you can receive royalties when your tracks get played on air. If you’re unsure how to do this, both PRS and PPL run useful ‘how to’ guides on their respective websites for beginners.

Radio plays create a buzz…

You usually will find that slowly over time your Spotify streams and engagement on socials and YouTube will increase when you receive radio plays. The more plays you get, the more exposure your music is receiving, which in turn drives even more interest.

Radio hierarchy…

Once you get played on one or two specialist shows, you might grab the attention of mainstream stations. They usually look to the specialists for tip offs on new music trends and artists before curating it to their audience. Expect this kind of buzz to build slowly but with the help of blog features, streams, press coverage, live gigs and some patience, you could find yourself on the A playlist at 1Xtra or BBC Radio 1.

Words by Jesse Bernard

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