So You Want Your Song Played On Radio?

Posted: January 8, 2001 in Life, Music
Tags: , , , ,

When I told my editor that l was writing a piece on getting your music played over the airwaves, he asked me if l’d make it come from the “most cost-effective” angle.

That told me l needed to clarify one thing before I got into this whole sermon: There is noooooooo such thing as a cost-effective way to get your music on the air.

Just like in any business, this industry lives on the principle that one has to shell out money to make money. This isn’t the lottery and l’m not Regis Philbin.

If you aren’t prepared to put some time, energy, and loot into this whole project, then give it up and spare yourself the heartache. By now just about everyone has heard how Limp Bizkit reverted to a practice that the radio industry wishes us to believe dead, pay-o-la to get their music played.

The band paid some Seattle DJs about ten grand to get into heavy rotation. It was a chance, but it paid off in the long run, and the band has made tens of millions of dollars since.

That being said, here it goes: radio has the most stringent requirements for the songs that you send them, the CDs you put them on, and the packaging that goes around them. Here are some of the specifics:

Music Issues:

Albums or singles? The answer is rather simple. lf it’s college radio, send an EP or an album. lf it’s commercial radio, you can send any of the above. However, once you’ve targeted the stations you’ll be hittin’ up for airplay, I’d recommend that you contact them first and find out if they have any preference or requirements.

As for the number of tracks on the album, try to cap it off at a baker’s dozen or so. And make sure that the first track has some energy to it. Don’t start the thing off with a joint that takes a while to build up to the meat & bones of the matter.

lf the station got 10 or 20 discs to “review” that day, the only thing you’ll be building up to is a trip to the trashcan for your album.

For singles, you’ll generally need four versions on the CD. The radio clean edit, the full-length album version, an acapella version, and an instrumental version.The radio edit shouldn’t be much more than 3.5 minutes and the acapella/instrumental version can be used in station commer-
cials, liners, and lD’s. lf the genre calls for it, tack on some club/dance mixes.

The Disc Itself:

First of all, never send more than one title per group to a station. You are only insulting a station by
sending a current release along with prior material. Besides, it’s difficult getting one album listened to and it makes you look like you aren’t sure of what to send.

As for the type of CD you’Il be sending, do not, I repeat, DO NOT send a CD-R to a commercial station. College radio usually won’t care about such things but 103 JAMZ or 96X will be insulted if you send them one of your “burned” discs.

Besides, the things are not 100% reliable and the last thing a station wants is for the thing to start buggin’ out during the morning rush hour broadcast.

Manufactured CDs are mandatory for commercial stations. These are the types that you have to have professionally done, usually in a run of 300 to 500, and are silver in color. They
are extremely reliable, but more importantly, they show that you have a serious project going on and that you’re not one to skimp.

On the CD graphics, be sure to state artist, title, label, song lengths, the versions, the contact info, and (if it’s a single) that the song is from an album that’s either already in stores or that is soon to be released.

Whatever you do, don’t use any oddities like mini-disc, odd colors that make it hard to read, or built in videos etc. Commercial stations view these things as gimmicks by artists whose work lacks

CD Cases:

Remember this: KISS. Keep lt Simple Stupid. Don’t use slim lines, don’t use the cheap ass cardboard cases, don’t use a bunch of crazy ass colors. Go out to Planet Music, Office Max or
wherever and buy yourself the clear, standard size jewel cases.

Anything else probably won’t fit in the stations CD racks and will find its way to some dark, musky corner in a rarely used room at the station.

As for the wording on the case, make sure that the artist, title(s), label, release number, song lengths, and version descriptions are all on the outside of the case. They can also be on the inside, but they had better be on the outside.

As for mailing the stuff out, always use first class postage at a minimum. I’d recommend that you use priority mail or overnight the CD to show that you are a serious operation and aren’t one to cut corners. The first impression is a lasting impression and nothing brands you as half-rate more than
sending a promo CD with “bulk rate” stamped in the upper right corner.

Remember, nothing here guarantees that your music is ever going to get near a radio station’s rotation. These are only suggestions, and damn good ones at that, from someone who knows his shit. lf you have any doubts or reservations, call the station and ask a few questions.

Good luck, Godspeed, and please don’t go flooding local stations with a bunch of worthless crap.


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