How to run your own DIY college radio campaign

Radio is still the quickest way to reach a large audience of people, so if you’ve got a great new release that you really believe can get some serious college radio play, but you just don’t have the budget to hire a professional radio promoter, don’t let that stop you! With a good plan and some free time, you can do a decent job as your very own radio promoter. Here are the steps to get it done:

1. Plan to assemble 100-200 mailings – This package should include 1 CD (remove the cellophane wrapper!) along with an artist One-Sheet.  Do not add extra photos and articles about your band, as this is will be perceived as clutter and unprofessional.  Also, don’t send extra copies of the CD and ask the recipient to pass them around the station.

2. Develop a targeted list – Put together a targeted list of college, community, and public stations, as well as commercial specialty programs (like local or unsigned feature hours) that are appropriate for your genre.  You’ll have the most luck if you limit this list to a geographic area that you can realistically tour through at least 3 or 4 times a year.

3. Know whom to contact – It’s important to address your package directly to the person you are trying to reach at the station.  In most cases it will be the program director (some stations also have a music director). If the station has a specific show featuring music like yours, go ahead and send that DJ a package as well as they might have some input when the show’s playlists are assembled. Never send your package just addressed to the station as that would either get lost in the shuffle or thrown in the garbage.

4. Be clear with your intentions – Are you promoting a specific song?  Are there certain songs that work better for radio?  It’s important to be clear to the program/music director, as they don’t have time to listen down to your album and decide what will work.

5. Follow up two weeks later – After you send out your CDs to radio, check back in a couple weeks by phone or email to make sure they received it, had a chance to listen, and ask if they’ll be adding it to their playlist. Don’t put up a fight if they say NO. Just politely ask “why” and say thanks if they tell you the reason. If they say yes, give them a quick thanks and casually ask what their preferred protocol is for you to check up on the actual reception your album is getting from their listeners. Feel free to check back every few weeks to see if it’s still in rotation. You might feel like you’re being a pest, but we’ve actually heard from college radio DJs that they appreciate when someone calls to remind them to play a certain song. Otherwise, they tend to feel like they get into a programming rut and just start playing the same old things.

6. So you got played – If you hear that a station has added your music to their playlist, it’s important to follow up with a thank you.  Ask them if there is anything that YOU can do for THEM. Maybe they’d like you to record a bumper for them (one of those little radio plugs where a band says “Hey, we’re Led Zeppelin and you’re listening to KLED!”) Perhaps you could send them free discs for them to give away in a station promotion. The options are unlimited.

7. Keep in touch – If a station has shown interest in your music, be sure to keep them up to date with your music career (outside of pitching your music to them).  A quarterly email highlighting tour dates and recent career achievements should suffice to keep you in their consciousness.  Don’t add them to your fan email list unless they ask to be added!

8. Timing is everything – Make sure you’re ready and willing to do all these steps in a short period of time.  Just like the press, your big chance to make any significant splash with radio is when your CD is new (1-3 months old), so all your ducks should be in a row come the time of the release.

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