Get your music played on the radio

Radio airplay is not only excellent publicity for any band or artist, but it also introduces your music to new audiences and can truly break you through to the next level. Louise Dodgson, Editor of The Unsigned Guide, offers some tips on how you can get radio airplay for your music.

Start small and local

National radio play doesn’t tend to come about until you’ve made your mark on local or regional radio stations. So, start there! You will no doubt already be aware of radio stations broadcasting in your area so find out if they air any shows playing music from local emerging acts and if so, who to send it to.

The Unsigned Guide music industry directory can also help you find radio stations that will play tracks by upcoming artists. Our Radio Stations section of the directory features only stations that will allow you to submit music to them, with details of what shows they air that offer coverage to new and emerging music, when the shows are broadcast, plus names and contact details for who you should send your music to; whether that be the presenter, programme producer or the station’s Head of Music.

Once you’ve identified some local radio shows to target with your songs, take time to tune in or listen back to the programme to make sure your music will fit in. Building a good relationship with a local DJ who is keen to champion upcoming bands from the area is very worthwhile. Once you’re on their radar (and assuming they like your music, of course!) it is likely they will be keen to show ongoing support by playing new releases, plus there could be opportunities for studio interviews or live sessions as well.

It’s fine to follow up after sending your music to a DJ or show, but leave it a reasonable amount of time, usually 4-6 weeks. Remember, presenters and producers will have loads of submissions they need to listen to, so allow a little time before following up politely.

Targeting unsigned stations, shows & DJs

There are several UK radio stations and shows dedicated solely to new and emerging music that you should definitely be tapping into.

BBC Introducing is a great way to get airplay on your regional BBC station, just upload your song to their website and you’ll receive a confirmation email when it has been listened to. Regional BBC Introducing DJs also recommend great local bands and artists to the national DJs and producers, so if you can make an impression on a local level, you may eventually end up being played nationally on BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra or 6Music.

Gareth Fletcher, who has worked as a producer on the Introducing show on BBC Lancashire for many years, explains what he looks for in a track when choosing the playlist:

'There are a couple of different elements to it really and this is only my take on it - I can't speak for other shows. Technically the track needs to be of a good enough standard to be broadcast on air. This doesn't mean it has to be perfect, it can be a little raw around the edges but it need to be up to a certain standard which shouldn't be a problem with the equipment available to record at home. Secondly, we listen to see if there is something about the track - a great hook, catchy lyrics, a different slant on things. Basically, something that makes us take note of the track and makes it stand out a little. Sometimes you don't know what that is but the track just has something about it.'

Amazing Radio is also entirely devoted to unsigned and undiscovered music so submit your music via their website to be in with a chance of having your song played on air.

Also look out for specialist stations, programmes or podcasts that may suit your genre of music and get in touch with them too for a good chance of airplay.

What to send to radio stations

Whilst there are some radio shows that will play rough demos on air and offer their feedback, these are few and far between. Generally, you need to send radio stations a finished version of your track and it needs to be a decent quality recording. Swearing and offensive content usually won’t go down well when broadcast so make sure you send radio-friendly versions! Ultimately, a great song will stand out and be in with a chance of getting played, but a professional approach can help you move to the top of the DJ’s listening pile.

You don’t need to accompany your track with loads of unnecessary additional extras, but some brief info will help a DJ get an idea of your background and also provide them with some info to work with when they introduce your track on air. Also, mention other stations that have played your tracks, and for local shows, give them details of any upcoming gigs in the area that they may be able to plug.

Radio pluggers

If you’ve already made an impact on a local level, have a release coming up and a budget to spend on promotion, then you can always consider investing in the services of a radio plugger to get you further exposure.

Typically used by record labels to get new releases onto the radio, a radio plugger can also be employed directly by a band or musician to get your music onto national, regional and specialist shows through their established contacts. Their relationships with DJs and radio producers that can help shift your music into the mainstream and working with a radio plugger can open doors that you would not be able to alone. Whilst the decision of a radio station to play your music will always come down to the quality of the song, a track put forward by radio plugger will be far more likely to get their attention in the first place. Don’t forget to check out the Music PR/Pluggers section of The Unsigned Guide directory which lists contact details of experienced radio pluggers who you can approach.

The Unsigned Guide is a UK music industry directory aimed at emerging, independent & DIY bands, artists and musicians who are keen to progress their music careers. Search over 8,800 contacts from all sectors of the business, plus advice, reports and info contributed from music organisations and experts to help you get to grips with the industry. ISM members can get 30% off an annual subscription.

Related advice pages

ISM membership offers access to expert advice on a wide range of topics, from healthy playing to royalties and streaming, plus much more besides.