Airplay Direct Radio Promotions Guide

Radio Promotions Guide

Written by Terry

Why You Have To “Promote” Your Music To Radio

Now that you have taken the time to write, record and make a great record, you must put together a viable “plan of action” with respect to obtaining airplay if you hope to have any reasonable chance of success. One of the most misunderstood facts of marketing a record is how and why you must promote it to radio. Sending your release to radio, and actually getting airplay are two separate things. The most common misunderstanding of artists releasing music to radio is that they believe that if you send it to radio, and if everyone starts playing it, then it’s a hit. And if they don’t start playing it, then it’s no good. This is not how radio works.

It is important to understand that radio is not going to play your music NO MATTER HOW GOOD IT IS unless you MARKET IT TO THEM.

Who Will Create And Execute Your Radio Campaign

The three biggest factors for you to consider are:

  1. The budget / resources available for radio promotion
  2. The amount of time you have to dedicate to your radio promotions campaign
  3. The end goal of your radio promotions campaign. What are you intending to do with these “radio results” to impact the rest of your “overall” music campaign / career? This is where you can really see the return on investment from your radio promotions efforts and results.

In any business, the more time and money you have to dedicate to a project, the bigger expectations you can have with respect to goals.

These radio results (spins, charting, station IDs, station interviews, station visits, and possibly… reviews in the radio airplay magazines) are best utilized to assist you in the on-going development and accomplishment of a more comprehensive and far reaching strategy for your music; such as selling CDs / merchandise, gaining a traditional (brick & mortar) distribution deal, a digital distribution deal, booking gigs or tours, CD / live performance reviews, to attract and/or impress professionals who can help your career; labels, newspapers, magazines, TV/film producers, managers, law firms, and investors who all know and understand the fundamental value of airplay.

As an independent artist or label there are two available options for planning and executing a successful radio promotions campaign for your music:

  1. You can retain a professional radio promotions firm to partner with you (for a fee)
  2. You can decide to be your own radio promotions firm

We recommend that you take the time to consult (consultation is typically free) with a professional radio promotions firm specific to your genre before you make this decision. AirPlay Direct can refer you to a reputable radio promotions firm if you do not already have one.

If you make the decision to plan and execute your radio promotions campaign yourself, below is a basic outline to guide you in your efforts. Keep in mind that this outline is a very basic self-help tool. Radio promotions firms and in-depth industry guides are much more comprehensive; however, this should provide some insight and guidance on the fundamentals.

Planning And Executing Your Own Radio Promotions Campaign

The planning phase of any successful radio promotions campaign is critical, especially if you intend to do it yourself. The steps below will guide you through the process.

  1. The first thing you need to establish are the goals for your radio campaign. Are you looking to achieve:
    • Airplay on commercial or non-commercial stations
    • Charting position on a specific chart or are you looking to achieve airplay on as many stations as you can
    • Domestic or international airplay
    • Terrestrial, internet or satellite airplay

One is not necessarily better than the others; they have different purposes depending upon your goals. Below are some information / definitions that may help in your decision making process:

  • Commercial stationsare comprised of three groups small, medium and major market stations defined according to how many people live in each market. These stations rely on ratings and advertising dollars to support their business. There are too many commercial stations in the U.S. (even within a single format) for the typical new artist / indie label to deal with at one time. So, for the purposes of marketing music on radio (via airplay), you have to divide up the markets (cities) into different groups that can be approached one at a time… each with different levels of difficulty.There are also “non-rated” markets, which are the smallest towns in the country. Most regular-rotation airplay campaigns for new artists and new labels should start with the small and non-rated markets first, since these markets are easier, faster, and lower cost than the bigger markets (not to mention the fact that many larger stations will not respond until they see action in the small markets first).There are several other advantages to small and non-rated markets. First, there are many more of them. This means that you have hundreds of choices of places to perform on the road, and, there are thousands of small newspapers in these markets to review you.Second, the music and media people in these small markets are more likely to work with you. Why? Because there is less competition from major labels, major PR firms, and major booking agencies. In small markets, stations are more likely to play indie music, even if you have no distribution, gigs or press in their town the stores you try to get your CD into will be more willing to work with you, and the newspapers and TV / cable will be more willing to interview you. This can be a great place to start, and you might just do very well there. Small market regular rotation radio works with almost any format.
  • Non-commercial stations are comprised of three groups: College, community, and “NPR” stations. The “NPR” and “community” stations are mostly the same ones, and are owned by community non-profit organizations. The community stations that are contracted to carry the NPR (National Public Radio) programs are the ones that are called “NPR” stations. Community, college and NPR stations, in general, have few paid staff (perhaps just the Manager and Program Director). The majority of the “labor” comes from community volunteers and college students who love a particular type of music or talk-subject; a large percentage of the stations allow the DJs to program their own shows.
  • Reporting occurs when a station fills out a form (or an email) and sends it to a charting system (typically industry magazines / associations) telling the “chart” that the station is adding or playing your record.
  • Charting on the other hand, is either when you appear in that station’s “most-added” or “most-played” chart, or when you appear in a MAGAZINE’S “most-added” or “most-played” chart. The station’s chart is only for that ONE station; the magazine’s chart is an average of all similarly formatted stations across the country or globally.The advantage of a station reporting your music is this: People will SEE your name. And the people who see your name will be the same people in the music/radio business that you need to impress, such as labels, managers, booking agents, music writers, club DJs, retail buyers, and (especially) other stations who will not add your record until they see that other stations have done so first.
  1. Research
  • Next you must research and identify the radio stations / programmers that:
    1. Play your genre of music
    2. Are reporting or are non-reporting stations (based on your goal

    The internet is a tremendous resource and there are many station lists available both domestic and international; some for free, some for purchase. You will need to collect the following information:

    1. Station names and call letters
    2. Genres / styles of music played
    3. Program / Music Director’s
      1. Names
      2. E-mail addresses
      3. Phone numbers
      4. Call times (day and time of the week they accept calls from artists / labels / radio promoters
  1. Select an Add Date
  • The “add date” is probably the most basic building block of both commercial and college airplay, and it is used in every successful airplay charting campaign there is. The closest analogy there is to an add date is the “street date”. A street date indicates to retailers when a CD should be made “available for purchase” to the public. The “add date” indicates to Program Directors the date that you would prefer they add your music and start spinning it. The add date can be before, the same as, or after the street date. Add dates should be set for 2 to 4 weeks after your music has been delivered to radio programmers.
    • You will need to contact radio weekly leading up to your “add date”. Start as far in advance as possible (4 weeks preferred). Introduce yourself to radio by sending them your new AirPlay Direct DPK. Include a brief introductory note that includes your “add date”.
  • It is recommended that you also make an introductory phone call if you are able to do so (make sure to follow the stations call times). If the Program / Music Director are not available, leave a brief voicemail including the date, time and reason for your call… keep it brief!
  • Repeat this DPK / phone process weekly revising your information to include:
    1. Personal “thank-yous” to all stations that add you or give you airplay
    2. Radio updates (how many stations have added you)
    3. Request for feedback on your music
    4. Politely asking if and when they intend to add your music to their playlist, and when you might expect airplay
    5. Pertinent tour dates
    6. Brief mention of any prominent press articles or reviews
    7. Retail events / in-store performances
    8. If you are running any advertising (print / radio / internet), make sure to include this information
  1. Don’t Annoy Them!
  • Do not however add radio programmers to any mailing lists, send artist newsletters, media reviews, or send any other e-mails randomly; it will only annoy them and that will definitely not help your cause. Capture your recent “highlights” and successes in your brief weekly e-mail to them.
    1. Follow up is critical
      1. Continue to follow up with all stations until they
        • Add your music, give you airplay and finally tell you they are done with the record
        • Tell you they are not going to add or play your music
      2. In any case, always thank them for considering your music, whether they have given you airplay or not. Hopefully you will be releasing more music in the future and you will want to approach these same people again

Keep in mind that this is a very basic overview on how to plan and execute a bare bones do-it-yourself radio promotions campaign with no frills. If you are fortunate to have a budget that includes dollars for advertising and / or a PR firm or a radio promotions firm, there are many other things you can do to help bolster your radio efforts.

However, if all your budget will allow for is the basics, you must rely on your ability to plan your radio campaign well and consistently execute your plan. If you approach radio programmers professionally with a tight concise message they will typically respond.

Remember…“Luck favors the prepared mind”.

AirPlay Direct… go straight to the source!


When writing to Program Directors and DJs it is very important to be brief, succinct and informative. Do not include anything in the DPK that is not absolutely necessary. It is very important to write individual e-mails to everyone you approach. Writing a smart “subject line” including the station’s call letters and your affiliation with AirPlay Direct is recommended. Sending out bulk e-mails and spamming is illegal and annoying. Use of exclamation points, ALL CAPS and bold type should be minimal. Below is a sample letter and e-mail subject line that you can cut & paste into any e-mail program, and then edit / customize to the individual radio professional your addressing; including your specific artist information. If you are planning to try and achieve “Most Added” or trying to “Chart”, do not forget to include your “Add Date” in a visible spot. We also recommend that you display the AirPlay Direct logo prominently on your web site so that visiting radio professionals will know that your “broadcast quality” tracks are available at AirPlay Direct… 24 /7. You can download the AirPlay Direct logo by visiting


Subject: WXKX, the Digital Dawgs and AirPlay Direct!

Hello John, Add Date: November 29 th

My name is Terry and I am a member of the Digital Dawgs, we are an urban, alt. rock group. We have just released our new CD “Dawg Dangerous” and I am writing to you today to ask if you would be open to reviewing our music in consideration for possible airplay.

We are delivering our music to radio stations globally via a revolutionary, new digital delivery system, AirPlay Direct. This new service is FREE to radio programmers and DJs and allows us to deliver our “broadcast quality” tracks to you quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. You can listen to / preview our music at your convenience, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at and then download only the “broadcast quality” tracks you would like to use; one song or the whole CD.

Allow me to thank you in advance for your time and consideration and please let me know if I can be of assistance to you or the station in any way.

Very best regards,
Terry / Digital Dawgs

Written by Terry for Airplay Direct


The Hit Music Academy | 2010

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  3. Loren Franklin · April 25, 2012

    Radio stations play music that is popular. If they don’t, they go out of business. If you have no name recognition, then your chances of getting play is very slim indeed. This article is straight from AirPalys web site, and does not tell the realities of getting radio play. You notice in their suggested text to be sent to radio stations that they are more interested in having you sell their company than your own music. And they don’t like to return e mails with anything but one line twitter type responses. But they will take your $50.

  4. Black Tarzan · April 30, 2012

    Oh yeah this is straight from Airplay Direct’s website, I credited them =)

    I’ve never personally used their services but it doesn’t surprise me that they are interested in promoting themselves and taking your money.

    What you say is right–the reality of getting airplay is that it is a very tedious and technical process; the airwaves are controlled by corporate monsters who are not in business to break new talent. Radio cares about money and name recognition. Its not necessarily about how good the music is, its about what they know is going to sell. Big name artists dominate radio airwaves for that very reason.

    Although I do believe that radio airplay is possible for artists who exist outside of the major label system, I do realize that it is a steep fucking hill to climb. As indie artists its in our best interests to focus our efforts on digital media: blogs, podcasts, and internet radio. Share your music (don’t spam it) and promote the shit out of yourself as a brand.

  5. Black Tarzan · April 30, 2012

    Thank you for your comments Loren 🙂

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