How Can You Get Your Song Played On The Radio?

January 6, 2020

Aspiring artists may consider the radio to be a relic of the past, like Top of the Pops or cassette tapes pre-hipster. However, getting a song on the airwaves is still a seriously credible launchpad for any musician. As straightforward – or outdated – as it may seem, competition is stiff and there are many hoops to jump through. We’ve assembled an in-depth guide to help you get on the radio (and get paid for it too!).

Shouldn’t I just promote my track on the internet?

There’s nothing stopping you released your song online. Many of today’s most recognised artists grew their fanbase on platforms such as Bandcamp, SoundCloud and Spotify – you can read our guide to Spotify here. That being said, the internet is certainly not a magic bullet solution to mainstream success.

There’s an unfathomable amount of artists vying for the attention of online listeners. On average, 40,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify every day, a figure that has doubled since 2014. SoundCloud also recently announced its 200 millionth uploaded track, having uploaded its 125 millionth track only three years earlier.

The internet is an ever-expanding platform to connect with new audiences. However, artists still have to do a large amount of legwork to even appear on most peoples’ radar. This includes maintaining an active social media presence, for example, before word of mouth takes hold.

In comparison, getting your song played on a radio station means your work is directly broadcast to a group of dedicated listeners. You don’t have to worry about whether they’ll find your song among the many already available online. People tune in because they trust the tastes of a particular DJ or broadcaster. This means they are ready to be told which new musicians they should be paying attention to.

So how does it all work?

With popular radio stations, it’s not simply a matter of which songs DJs deem to be the catchiest. They’re betting on artists they think will attract the most listeners, generate revenue and help them obtain advertising deals. Therefore, significantly more time is given to those with an existing fan base. For example, here are last year’s five most played artists on the radio, according to Official Charts:

1. Ed Sheeran

2. Calvin Harris

3. Little Mix

4. Rita Ora

5. Coldplay

No real surprises there.

Although established artists tend to be at the front of the queue, stations also set time aside for new tracks that are generating buzz. Often, it’s a race for competing stations to be the first to play an exciting new song. That’s why you get songs that, for a certain length of time, you can’t seem to turn on the radio without hearing.

Every radio station is likely to have its own system for allocating airtime. However, BBC Radio 1 breaks it down in quite a clear-cut way. Releases from successful artists and brand new hits take pride of place in the ‘A playlist’. Songs in this playlist will be played an average of 25 times a week. Slightly down the pecking order, tracks that are floating under the radar sit on the ‘B playlist’, and are played around 14 times. Now, if you’re a new artist whose lucky to have gotten their foot in the door, you’ll probably be allocated on the ‘C playlist’ and be played a handful of times a week. It’s a surprisingly democratic process, usually carried out a playlist committee. The committee will convene to discuss not only record sales but social media followers, YouTube hits and even SoundCloud plays.

Feel as though your chances are now slimmer than you’d imagined? Fear not, there are plenty of people chomping at the bit to hear new music, and just as many platforms to feed this demand. For example, many radio stations have slots and playlists which they dedicate to artists on the cusp of mainstream success.

One of the most reputable (not to mention straightforward) of these channels is BBC Introducing. Simply upload a song to their website, and you’ll receive a notification when the song has been listened to. Then all you have to do is cross your fingers and hope whoever listened to it liked your sound.

Where do I start?

Find the right platform for your song

While a lot can be said for ambition, if you’re just starting out as a musician, you may not want to expend all of your efforts chasing down major radio stations. With just a little bit of digging, you’ll come across a wide variety of platforms for new artists.

Local radio stations are often very receptive to tracks from homegrown talent. Try and reach out to local DJs, as many of them will be keen to champion any artists from their area. Once they’re behind you, they can also help promote any upcoming releases or local gigs. This is sure to help grow your fanbase, which is a must if you’re looking to grab the attention of bigger radio stations.

As a platform, internet radio is particularly viable, not to mention underutilised. People tune into online radio stations such as Rinse FM and NTS because they offer an alternative to mainstream chart music. Stations like these have a cult following of dedicated listeners, who are very likely to recommend new music to their friends. Think about it, which music nerd doesn’t want to be the person who feels as though they are on the pulse of exciting new releases?

Make sure you stand out

We touched upon this in our guide to getting on the bill at festivals. Realistically, sending out heaps of demos is a time-consuming exercise with a slim chance of a return. Persistence is key, but you must also be sure to present yourself as a legitimate recording artist.

Think about how many unsolicited CDs or audio files broadcasters are inundated with every day. You can’t afford to blend in with the pack or come across as lazy. It’s important to remember that radio stations don’t just want songs to play, they want to promote artists who represent their tastes and values.

If you have a press kit, use it to sell yourself as a musician. Have any of your songs been featured on the radio? Have you racked up an impressive number of plays on Spotify or SoundCloud? Are you gigging regularly? Broadcasters will ask all of these questions and more before they decide to gift you with their time.

You may consider investing in a ‘radio plugger’. A radio plugger is a PR professional who specialises in getting their clients’ music on the radio. You’ll certainly benefit from their industry know-how, as well as their network of industry contacts. However, you will be one of what could be a large roster of clients. Self-promotion can work just as well as hiring a professional, as long as you have the dedication and tenacity to keep knocking on those doors.

How much do musicians get paid for radio play?

Some musicians may not be aware of this, but radio stations don’t directly pay musicians for playing their songs on the radio. Instead, the money will go to PRS for Music, or Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL). These organisations collect royalties for musicians and songwriters and manage their artistic rights.

How many royalties do musicians get for radio play?

In 2016, annual figures published by PRS for Music show that they collected £124.1m in 2016 from broadcasting royalties. Out of this total, £48.8m came from radio broadcasting. These figures can be used to calculate the average payout to PRS per minute of airtime. For example, in April 2018 BBC Radio 1 paid an average of £10.98 per minute.

While these rates can fluctuate based on audience growth, you could stand to rake it in. Say, for instance, you record a three-minute track that ends up on Radio 1’s B playlist. With a rate of £10.98 per minute, PRS will be paid £32.94 every time your song is played. Multiply that by the number of times the song is played per week (25 on average for the B playlist) and that’s just over £800 total! Bear in mind as well, getting playlisted on a large national radio station means other stations will want to get their hands on your track.

How to ensure you get what you’re entitled to

Music history is littered with the graves of musicians who got swindled out of much-deserved royalties. While it may not be the reason you became a musician, you’re within your rights to reap the financial rewards of your art. This is why organisations such as PRS for Music and PPL exist, to protect the rights and interests of recording artists. Therefore, you should become a member of these organisations so you can register your tracks with them. It’s vital that you can be clearly identified as the rightful owner of your music. You will need an International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) for each track submitted for public broadcasting. These can be encoded on either a CD or an MP3 player.

Ready to make the waves?

We hope we’ve provided some clarity on how artists make it onto the airwaves. So the question remains, do you think your song could be the next radio sensation? Before you’re radio-ready, however, you need to make a quality recording worthy of your ambitions. Kore Studios’s West London music studio offers a comfortable and professional recording environment, with a wide range of equipment and dedicated staff. Contact Kore Studios today to find out more.