4 Ways to Get Airplay
Airplay is one of the most important things for your career as an artist, but at the same time it’s also one of the hardest things to accomplish.
Especially those new to radio promotion often underestimate the level of difficulty of getting your track on the radio.
There are many ways to promote your release in order to get airplay. We will explore the most common paths artists and labels are using to get airplay for their tracks. Some are roads to success, others not so much.
The 4 options we’re discussing in this article are:
- DIY airplay (do-it-yourself)
- Buying airplay
- Traditional radio promotion
- Digital radio promotion
We’ll outline the inner workings of each option and what the pros and cons are so you can determine which one is the right option for you.
DIY airplay (do-it-yourself)
The DIY option seems simple enough.
For the average listener radio stations seem to be playing the same track over and over again. It should be easy enough to offer them fresh content and get it on the airwaves.
Wrong. This is not how it works. Major stations can easily receive 500 new releases a week. There’s gotta be something impactful going on before major stations are even going to consider airplaying your release. Even if it is the best song in the world, they will not play it. You are viewed as an independent artists and as long as you are not signed with a major label, they assume your song is not worth the airplay.
But let’s ignore this fact and just go ahead and do it yourself. Your release is different and surely radio stations and DJs will appreciate that.
Imagine how the scenario will play out:
You make, find or buy a list of radio stations on the web, add those stations to your mailing list and bam: Airplay. Nope. It does not work that way.
You’re not the only one doing this. Stations can easily receive hundreds of releases a week. If you’re submitting your music to the wrong email (which is probably the case because you don’t know anyone at the station or how they work), they won’t make the effort to forward your email to the right person. Why would they? Your email is unsolicited, unwanted and spammy. Trash bin on your release.
To make matters worse, you can also be submitting your music to stations that don’t airplay your type of music. Another reason to trash bin on your release.
Or perhaps you’re lucky enough to accidentally reach the right inbox at the station. The person on the receiving end does not know you and receives a cold, unrequested email by an unknown sender. Time is limited in this modern world and with an inbox that’s filled with email from contacts this person actually knows and respects due to an existing relationship, your email and music will hopefully be on the bottom of the pile (*fingers crossed*), but more likely: will not even catch his/her attention. During mailbox clean-up (you’ve guessed it): trash bin on your release.
But you’ll do better you say to yourself, you’re not like anybody else that’s out there. You will call radio stations to make personal contact and/or follow-up on your release. You will go the extra mile and it will be all worth it. You’ll be riding the airwaves with your track in no time. Nope.
To catch a music director on the phone is difficult and to have an in-depth conversation about your track is next to impossible (again: their time is limited). Most of the time they are in a meeting because their hours in the office are usually limited to a few hours per week. If they don’t know you, some MDs won’t even pick up the phone after the receptionist puts you through.
If you do happen to get the music director on the phone, he’ll usually say that he didn’t have time to listen to your record. Try again later, in a week. And then the whole process of trying to get a hold of him/her, starts over. And this is just the effort made to get one MD on the phone. Multiply this with the number of stations you’d like to contact and you’ll have a better idea of the big picture. Imagine doing this with 100 or even 1000 stations. That’s a lot of time and money spent on an endeavor that probably won’t get you or your track anywhere. Again, trash bin on your release.
To summarize, the success rate for the DIY option is very low because
- you do not know what you’re doing and
- you have no established relationships with radio stations.
There are no DIY hacks for getting airplay. You’d need to make a day job out of it to even have a shot at being successful at it.
Is this doable? Not if you want to spend time doing what you love (making music) and/or have another day job.
Time management is essential to be successful as an artist, don’t waste yours doing things you don’t know how to do. So let’s explore some other options!
Buying airplay seems easy enough. Fork over the cash and in return you’ll get airplay for your track. No trash bins will be seeing your release with this option.
At first glance this road to airplay is simple and very attractive, but an in-depth look at this option will make it clear this option is definitely not worth the investment.
There are companies offering 1.000 to 10.000 radio spins (a spin is 1 radio play) starting at 10 USD to a couple hundreds of USD and you will see when your song is played and on which stations. It does not matter whether a track is good or bad: they will get you airplay as long as you pay.
So how do they guarantee these spins?
Buying airplay usually works like this: the company you buy the airplay from owns a couple of online streams, which they call 'radio stations'. Sure, those are radio stations because there is a stream. An online stream.
Normally there is nothing wrong with online radio stations as many of them have their own audience and some online stations are even bigger than FM or other mainstream stations. But the problem with these “bought airplay” radio stations / online streams is that nobody wants to listen to these radio stations because they airplay every song from every wannabe artist that will pay. The focus of these stations is to play artists that pay for airplay (while the focus should be to have a quality playlist and grow their dedicated listener base).
Their playlists sound horrible, dubious at best.
So what happens: there are no ‘real’ listeners at all. The only listeners they have are the people that listen to that station in order to hear their own music.
Another misleading aspect is that your music is played in rotation with heavy artists.
You make hip-hop? Then your track will be in rotation with 2Pac, JAY-Z, Nas and others.
Wow. You’re in rotation with other major artists. But when you listen for a while, you’ll also notice tracks from other unknown artists that sound horrible. Do you really want to be part of such a playlist?
In the end, you end up paying for rotation on stations that don’t take themselves or the few listeners they have seriously.
Waste of money? Most definitely.
Traditional radio promotion
Traditional radio promotion is radio promotion done by a radio promoter.
A radio promoter visits Music Directors at radio stations on a weekly basis to promote and ‘plug’ new records. Most traditional radio promoters are employees of a major record company; some work independently and handle the promotion for indie artists and small record labels.
A good radio promoter is expensive and is focused on getting a chart position for records. Radio promoters are usually limited to a specific territory as they need to visit the radio stations in person. They also don’t cover the smaller stations or (large) online stations in their territory.
The chance on a chart position is small at best and the investment you have to make to hire a traditional radio promoter is large. And you’ll only be covering a specific territory.
Hiring a traditional radio promoter can be a good option for certain artists on certain points in their career. It certainly is an expensive path that doesn’t end in results most of the time.
(for a more in-depth article on the inner workings of trad. radio promo you can read the article "Traditional Radio Promotion vs Digital Radio Promotion")
And this brings us to a more consistent, financially healthy path: digital radio promotion.
Digital radio promotion (iPluggers)
Digital radio promotion is quickly becoming the new standard.
As music is sold online increasingly so, artists, labels and major labels are moving towards promoting their releases to radio stations worldwide using digital radio promotion. With digital radio promo, countries’ borders are no longer an issue and the efficiency of radio promo is a lot higher compared to traditional radio promotion. Digital radio promo gives direct insight in promo results and reaches all the corners of the world in no time for a fraction of the cost of traditional radio promoters.
Your track is being sold in all major webshops worldwide. How do you get exposure on radio stations and reach your potential fans in for example Venezuela, without sending a traditional radio promoter? Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could use digital radio promotion to offer your release to radio stations not only in Venezuela, but all over the world?
iPluggers is the founder of- and leader in worldwide digital radio promotion.
Established in 2011, we use our own dedicated digital radio promotion system to serve over 35.000 radio stations worldwide with quality music for airplay.
We build this system ourselves because we saw the shortcomings of the options that are available out there. Having worked as a traditional radio promoter for years, founder Marvin Kuijs knew how the system worked (and didn’t work) for the releases he promoted, and he knew it was time for a more affordable and effective alternative to traditional radio promotion.
iPluggers promotes music genre-based, in all genres to FM, AM, local, internet, digital, satellite, national network, community, college and in-store stations.
We do not just email blast random radio stations: radio stations have signed up for an account with us, indicating which genres of music they want to receive. We send out light-weight email notifications directly to the right inbox, where music directors, music programmers and DJs are eagerly awaiting new additions for their playlist. We named this technology 'plugging', hence the name iPluggers.
This is one of the factors that makes our service so efficient: your release is wanted and expected.
And it’s also the reason why you, as an independent artist / label, can utilize iPluggers to get through to radio stations worldwide. We have an existing relationship of mutual respect with radio stations and music directors: they see us as their source of high quality curated music. We offer them high quality music in their playlist genres in the frequency that works best for them.
Our results speak for itself and amongst our clients are major labels (Sony, Warner, Universal Music), independent labels with high quality new music releases and artists that use our network to get (more) airplay and to build their international fan base.
Although our system is technically advanced, we cultivate the relationships we have with our extensive network of radio stations, labels and artists. We do not buy airplay (we do not believe in this for the reasons outlined earlier in this article), but effectively promote your music to real radio stations worldwide. Our trust in the strength of our network runs so deep that we give a guarantee on results. No results within 3 months and we will give you back your investment.
To see the results on the worldwide radio promotion of your music, you can login to your account and view or download a report which details which radio station from which country has downloaded your music for airplay on which date. Next to this, there's the possibility to activate the “interview requests” feature. If you or the artist you represent would like to give interviews, activate this and radio stations can request an interview.
Do know that we do not promote every release that is offered to us (we refuse about 60% of the releases that are submitted to us for airplay). To find out if you're eligible for our radio promotion, sign up for an account, upload your music and request approval. We will listen to your music and if it is suitable for airplay, we will get your music the airplay it deserves.
To get started with the radio promo, create your airplay account and upload your release.