No, Really, How Should I go about Getting Airplay on College Radio?
We’ve written a handful of articles on college radio and how hard it is for an indie artist to get considered for airplay.. And so when we read Patrick Hertz’s piece “How to Get Your Music Played on College Radio”, we felt there’s still some room to expound on the topic.
As a music promoter/publicist, we can certainly appreciate and agree with Mr. Hertz on many points made in his article. For starters:
>>Yes, absolutely, college radio airplay still does matter, maybe even more than ever.
>>Yes, it’s a challenge maintaining an updated database of college DJ and Music Director contacts.
>>And yes, college stations still primarily deal in CDs, even as the rest of the world goes mainly digital EPK, especially for screening purposes.
Now, as a music promoter that submits musicians and bands in all genres, and can atest to the number of bands out there who would love to be considered at a college station, let alone receive substantial airplay, we have to disagree with a few points in Patrick’s article. Here is where we part ways on basic philosophy of college radio promotion.
The New Gatekeeper
It is mentioned early in the article that musicians frequently choose to outsource college radio promo to companies like Tinderbox, Team Clermont, and others. But what if you don’t have $3000 to pay these companies, or you’re not signed to a major-indie record label that could possibly come up with these funds for you? This dilemma would apply to around 99% of all indie bands.
But let’s say you DO have a $2k-$3K budget for Top 200 college radio promotion. You will still need to get your music “approved” by one of these companies - basically, you’ll need to get your music past a gatekeeper before it gets to the college radio MD’s ears.
In small defense here, the policy that a radio promoter charging you a few thousand dollars would screen your music first is only fair to you, the band. For that kind of money, you want a promoter who actually believes in your music. Still - your music is being judged not by the radio people - but by the promoter. Now, is it us, or is there already something inherently annoying about this process?
Somebody forgot about Global Warming
Assuming you’re one of the 99%, Mr. Hertz advises to start blindly mailing one-sheets and CD press kits. Really? In 2014, are we are still doing this? Is there any good reason college kids cannot screen digital music online, then ask for CDs from bands they like? The fact that CDs are the preferred vehicle for music at college radio is more of an indictment on College Radio than Mr. Hertz or a company like Tinderbox. Leaving aside the extra $1,000 in plastic, packing & postage costs, you are mailing an unheard CD with the knowledge that it will most likely wind up on a pile somewhere. Even if it gets listened to, the law of numbers says less than 1 in 100 artists will get played, which of course means that most physical press kits wind up in a giant, non-composting garbage heap. University campuses should be leading the way on eco-friendly practices, especially where technology exists for alternatives. It’s long overdue for college radio to get with the whole “EPK” thing, dontcha think?
Hey, what about us?
The top 200 CMJ-reporting college stations are not the be-all, end-all of U.S. college radio. There are literally over 1,000 U.S. college stations in Rock, Pop, and Alternative genres besides the top CMJ-reporting stations. If your genre is more niche, you’ll still can find hundreds of stations, or DJs with free-form specialty shows on college radio. And as an indie artist just starting out and perhaps a little broke, you’ll have an easier time both practically and financially in reaching out to and getting on the non-reporting stations. Sure, you probably won’t chart nationally, and that’s OK. You want small victories and baby steps before you worry about the college radio charts.
And, for God’s sake, use your digital press kit to at least have your music screened by a Music Director or DJ,, before mailing a physical press kit. You’ll save yourself 5 bucks a pop, and you’ll save the environment…well, not quite but you know what we mean.