By Sheena Metal
Every true life rock ‘n’ roll television melodrama has the same scene: the unknown artist/band gives their freshly cut 45rpm single to the local disc jockey. He spins it on his top 40 radio show…and a star is born. This legend has been passed down through the generations of wannabe popstars like an ancient family recipe. The ingredients may differ, but in the end you get the same glorious results: radio play equals fame and fortune.
But does this Top of the Charts fairytale still apply today in the sardonic post new millennium world we call "today"? Can a band in our current music scene walk into a radio station with a CD single in their hot little hands, impress and wow the DJ with their enthusiasm and chutzpa, obtain the magic and golden FM radio spins and then ride the wave of success all the way to Graceland? Well, then, I guess the real question would be, "Do you believe in fairytales?"
Unfortunately, the music industry, like the entire Earth, has become so overpopulated and so oversaturated with artists, music, CDs, and radio stations/shows of all kinds, that the chance of your own personal radio fairytale coming true is probably slim to none. But, don’t give up on your favorite audio media outlet. Radio may not catapult you to instant superstardom but it certainly can help to push you down the path to success.
The following are a few tips that will help you to make your own music fairytale and get your music heard throughout the airwaves:
1.) Get Out Of Major Market The Top 40 Station Mentality---There was a day when getting played on a big city Top 40 radio station was like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Bands that were chosen for play were handpicked by the voices of the airwaves whose ears were finely tuned to pick out the next new rising star. Today, things are a little different. Radio has become a huge corporation with three major conglomerates owning most of the stations in the United States. Sadly, Disc jockeys are no longer the innovators their predecessors were. Station management hands down a playlist (made exclusively of artists signed to mostly major labels) and the voices you hear on your radio are just that…talking heads animating a script. It’s nearly impossible for an unknown band to break into mainstream large metropolis radio and a waste of your time and money to send packages blindly to a medium that will more than likely reject you again and again.
2.) The Specialty Show Is Your Ticket In---Still determined to get played on that hot radio station with 10 million listeners and a celebrity DJ? Well, there is a backdoor that you may be able to slip through. It’s the specialty show. Many huge stations feature a weekly show structured just to highlight the little guy…to showcase unsigned artists from that station’s area and sometimes beyond. These shows are always worth sending your press package to, as they tend to base their playlist on your music and your credentials on not on the typical corporate artist roster. This is where you just might wow that innovative disc jockey and garner play on some of America’s biggest stations.
3.) College Radio Still Rocks---One area of radio that has stayed unaffected by the huge corporate retooling is the college/university station. Unlike companies/labels deciding what the listening audience thinks is cool or hip, college radio DJs and program directors are still setting their own cutting edges, breaking new artists, and finding the hot fresh stars of tomorrow hiding in their local clubs, coffee houses and garages. It’s always beneficial for unsigned artists to send as many CDs (or email as many MP3s, if the station will accept that medium) to as many college stations as you can find. You will find stations to play you and people will be listening. This could lead to new fans, tour possibilities, and will definitely look fantastic on the radio page of your website or EPK. Whether or not it will actually make you a rockstar, it will sure make you feel like one.
4.) The Unlimited World Of Independent Radio---Back in the early days of radio, indie stations were limited to audio pirates in their basements stealing airwaves from unsuspecting Top 40 giants. Now, thanks to the internet, satellites, cell phones, iPods and cable TV, independent stations outnumber their AM/FM constituents in the thousands and new ones are created every day. Since doing a search of indie radio stations online has been known to cause a brain embolism in some, know that you will probably never be able to solicit them all in one lifetime and just relax and enjoy sending music to whomever you can, as you will probably garner hoards of airplay. Furthermore, your wallet will grow to love you as most of these stations will allow you to submit MP3s online.
It’s true that the legendary story of the unknown band that got one single played on the radio and became superstars within a month is probably as outdated as the 8-Track tape. But that doesn’t mean that the process of artists soliciting music for radio play has become archaic. Radio remains, to this day, one of the best ways for musicians to promote their music and their projects in their area….and now, thanks to terrific technological advancements, nationally and worldwide. The repetition of your single in the ears of even the most jaded radio listener, may lead to: CD and merchandise sales, gigging opportunities in your city and others, visits to your website, posts to your fan club forums, potential press and even maybe industry attention. So, don’t stop sending those CDs, and emailing those MP3s because the next person who hears your song on the radio might just be the one who leads, either directly or indirectly, to your much sought record deal. And who knows? You might just wind up becoming bigger than Elvis.
Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 2,400 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides. For more info: