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Posted on October 11, 2022 | By John Reynolds

Independent Artist? How To Get The Most From Radio Play

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Have you ever asked yourself, how to get on the radio?

Radio is still one of the most prolific forms of entertainment distribution in North America. Beyond the taxi rides and cars with broken CD players, the radio provides a platform for musicians that combines both prestige and reach. 

On-air play differentiates an indie artist from the rest, as it demonstrates that the music is available for mass consumption, and has a hook strong enough to be posted around advertising dollars. 

Despite the popularity of streaming platforms, radio still represents about 50% of new music discovery in consumer habits.

As a musician, you no longer have to rely on a label to start your career. The creation of accounts on multiple platforms to distribute your music is powerful enough to help you scale your reach, to go beyond the small gig economy.  

Be it an Instagram, TikTok, or Spotify account content that is consistently posted, helps get you the traction you need to gain access to the mainstream music industry.

College Radio:

Your lowest-hanging fruit to access radio will always be college radios. These independent channels give room for new artists to send their music and create a name for themselves. 

Key states like California, Ohio, Michigan, and Florida, have college stations that outperform most regular radio stations. It’s not a question of budget or quality, as broadcasting devices have become more affordable over time, rather, college radio has an existing community they nurture, and are responsible for campus news that affects hundreds of thousands of students. Not to mention that college parties are some of the biggest gigs, early-stage artists usually get booked on. 

College radio has key listening programs that allow it to become a major influence in the promotion of independent artists. One of which is college sports, especially football, and basketball. With thousands of listeners and hundreds of games a year, every half-time posting and online rebroadcast gives an opportunity for the producers to include local bands, all you need to do is reach them. 

Online Radio:

Online radio is a key player in today's broadcasting networks. With over 60 000 stations to pick from in North America, online radio has become a staple of modern broadcasting entertainment. 

In the post-pandemic, work-from-home world, podcasts, online radio, and smart speaker curation grew by an average of 41% in regard to listeners. With podcasts leading the way well into 2022, radio trends are becoming more and more catered to the individual and micro-communities that gravitate around topics. 

Channels like NPR which have a powerful fellowship on air, have managed to transition their popularity onto the digital surface, with their podcast library doubling in viewership in just 2 years. 

For independent artists, online radio is a powerful medium to use for the following reasons:

  1. Your recording can be saved and spread across different digital platforms 
  2. Online radio has a low entry point in comparison to regular radio
  3. It is easier to have a multi-tiered show where both musics is played and an interview is held. 
  4. Online radio listeners are very loyal to the channel and have a higher conversion rate toward the artists' portals.  
  5. It can be easily shared on social media
  6. You can target international audiences easily without going through a radio producer. 

Brand Reach Matters Most For On-air Radio

As an artist, the mediums that you work with will naturally affect the types of brands and partners that you will attract.

The more prestigious or trustworthy the stages you work on, the more likely a major brand will hop on the bandwagon. With Radio, you will be side by side with one of the most trusted forms of advertisement available. 

Finally, radio is still the most trusted channel for advertisers, according to Katz Radio Group.

77% of listeners would try a brand endorsed by their favorite radio, rather than one targeted online.

With more stringent rules for publication and more family-friendly content, the radio allocates a positive aura around the hosts and guests.

As an independent artist, you can easily act as a micro-influencer on a show that you have booked. 

  1. The radio host will always ask if you have a sponsor you want to bring up. Having more people around the table is easy said and easily done. 
  2. You can use the station's numbers to attract the brands that fit your audience. When properly executed brands will be able to see you as an endorsement tool. 

Fan Loyalty For On-Air Radio

Royalty payout is higher on air than it is on streams. The artist will engage much more supportive fans because more than 82.1 million Americans are paid subscribers to on-demand music.

A fan willing to pay for free services is usually focused on having access to exclusive content. This gives artists the opportunity to maximize their radio time, and share engaging content. 

Toe To Toe With Labels

Digital marketing via radio allows small musicians to go toe to toe with big labels. They level the playing field by increasing the reach of the artist tenfold and having them side by side with other artists of a larger status. Getting indie music onto these mediums increases their legitimacy. Also, it creates a level of reach that labels spend millions to secure. 

According to WKCB “The sad part is through all the airplay, advertising, and social media posts, the majority of internet radio stations cannot generate the type of revenue needed to maintain the licensing necessary to insure artists, songwriters, and publishers get paid what's due to them based on airplay. So they operate, a testing fate that they will not get caught for copyright infringement by any of the major performing rights organizations (BMI. ASCAP or SoundExchange).”

Independent Artist? How To Get The Most On-air Radio
Independent Artist? How To Get The Most On-air Radio

Broadcast a “Tiny Desk Concert” Performances

For indie artists, the tiny desk concert is a high ticket item to pitch to radio shows. They create a very high volume of traffic and encourage the community vision of most radio stations. 

For the artist, this can be done in 2 ways. 

  1. Pre-record your acoustic concert or performance and send it in for playtime.
  2. Should the studio be equipped to record your life, make sure to properly announce your performance, and bring your favorite instrument to the table? 

NPR’s success with tiny desk concerts has opened up the market for live acoustic play, especially for indie pop, rock, and other artists.

It's no secret that MPT Agency has experience juggling this amazing medium for publication. Your song deserves the opportunity to speak to its own merit, and radio provides that key combo of authority and reach. It's going to be difficult to get there, sometimes it will take an army of PR specialists sending pitches around the clock. But that's what we are here for. Handling this on your own as an indie artist is a daunting task but that's what agencies are for.

Don’t miss this market opportunity and make sure to align it with what your brand is currently working on.

MPT's rich culture with blogs gives artists a one-stop shop for their information. Want to know more about how things are done right, follow us on Instagram for more music marketing-related updates.


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