How To Run Your Own DIY College Radio Campaign

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Excerpted from Disc Makers’ free guide, Getting Radio Airplay.Click here to request yours today.

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 time dedicated to the task, you can be your very own radio promoter. Here are the steps to get it done:

1. Assemble 100-200 Mailings
Your package should include one CD (remove the shrink wrap) along with an artist One-Sheet. Do not add extra photos and articles about your band – this will be perceived as clutter.

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 three or four times a year.

3. Know Who 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.

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 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 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.

6. Thank You!
If you find 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 opportunities to expand on the momentum with additional promotion should not be overlooked.

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).

Excerpted from Disc Makers’ free guide, Getting Radio Airplay. Click here to request yours today.

22 thoughts on “How To Run Your Own DIY College Radio Campaign

  1. I agree with this article and the whole mailing out the CD process. Even though it is a little old school but it’s more professional and most music directors go for that and they actually put the CDs and a shelf. But you should first call the station and see how they take in music so you wont have to waste a few bucks mailing them CDs and they only take music by email.

  2. Something I have seen also, is to make sure you have shows booked before sending out CDs. Some stations won’t pay attention to you if you are not hitting the stage. Having live shows going on will boost your chances of getting airplay, because they can promo your song if a local club has you booked for a show and they are doing a promo on that station. If you get in good with the DJs, they might even work with you for on-air interviews, and maybe working something out with you to give away passes to some of your shows.

    Everything has to add up. Would you pay attention to a painter who never showcases his/her artwork? No…..same thing with music…..showcase it and you will get more buzz, which the radio stations can’t ignore.

  3. As a 20 year commercial radio discjockey and current host of Power Pop Stew on, I’m finding many of the comments ridiculous.  Remember, the subject of this blog is College Radio, not Commercial Radio.  There is a huge difference!

    Most college radio stations have discjockeys that play shows of various music genres.  Most Commercial Radio stations are genre specific.  In referring to college and internet radio: 

    1) Be specific at describing what genre of music the CD contains.  This will help a Program Director to forward your disc to the discjockey that has a show that plays your style of music. 

    2) Label which 1 or 2 songs are the best. (Yes, just one or two songs!)  No discjockey, let alone a Program Director, has the time to fish through a 12-15 song CD to find anything radio worthy.  If you don’t know which 1 or 2 songs are the best songs on your CD, have a listening party with a couple dozen people and take a poll.  There is a reason why record labels don’t send entire CD’s to radio stations.  They send CD singles over 95% of the time.  Because printing CD singles may not be a financial option for you, labeling a CD with the 1 or 2 best tracks is a must!

    3) Only contact a PD once to ask whether a CD has been received and forwarded to the targeted discjockey that has a show that plays your style of music.  Hounding a PD with weekly phone calls or emails will get you as far as the telephone solicitors that won’t stop calling you at home or spamming your email…Nowhere!  If a song is great, you won’t need to persuade a discjockey to play it…They will!  Only contact them if they are playing your music with a #6 “Thank you.”

    4) DO NOT flood a radio station with mp3’s!  mp3’s clog inboxes.  If a radio station wants an mp3 they will ask for it.  Then, use a download site like Sendspace or YouSendIt to provide a link for your music. (Please re-read Brian John Mitchell’s comment below.)

  4. I appreciative allowing me EMAILS or surfing your website I will be doing business with you real soon I have upcoming new artist going be signing with me real soon i need all the support I can get to complete this task at hand thank you highly appreciated

  5. Radio people are very cool and fun to work with.So much of it is YOUR ATTITUDE about it.Yet the first order of business is that you have got to have an ass-kicking hit song.If you are a commercial professional artist this is what is going to put you on the map.The true meaning of talent is that people want to see/hear you do what you do.After you produce it you have just got to let it fly.I want to let some of you newcomers have a word of warning about radio staion airplay,if a station has been kind enough to add you do not attempt to manipulate the results.Do not have your friends call in.They immediately can spot this and will drop you.When you speak to a PD offer to do staion Id’s.”This is Jimmy Rickey and you are listening to me on KLOL!” If you are a new artist your airplay may be at 3 o’clock in the morning.And someone the station knows and trusts will call in.They are always looking for new material.Radio promoters…should I use them?That is an expense of six grand for a secondary market campaign,the real pro’s here will not even work with you if they do not see hit potential.Money well spent because the stations have long standing relationships with them. They deliver the hits from the major label artists.They do the leg work for you and send you reports.Yes there are a lot of jokers out there who will lift 1500 bucks from you and do nothing.After you pay them they no longer answer the phone.If I had a serious hit working for me these are the two guys I would call,Gary Lefkowith and Jerome Promotions.they would have you mail cd’s and for a nominal fee Sarah Would handle that.The proper protocall for a radio station is STILL a cd and a one sheet.The pulse of this industry is the hit,tirelessly they are searching for hits.If you are ever going to stand apart from the crowd this is what you have to present.A catchy tune.

  6. I don’t know anything about the business of music, but I enjoyed the post and the discussion. It sounds like many of your recommendations cover some basic points that every business can use:

    1) Pick the Low Hanging Fruit (Focus on a Limited Geography or an Area Where You Tour)
    2) Be Persistent – (Send a Demo & Email, Follow Up)
    3) Stand Out – (Customize Your Pitch, Say Thanks)

  7. Man, between the actual post and the comments I think this is the best blog post I’ve ever read. Very informative. I feel like I should have paid for this. I just wish I had something to add.

  8. I know this is a weird request, but does anybody have a comprehensive list of american campus community radio stations that’s formated? I’m from Canada and would be willing to trade a Canadian List for an american list, or at least the best place I can start looking to build my own. I’d rather we all share resources than keep things secret.



  9. Its actually a MUST to mail a physical CD to college radio stations. Though the norm these days is digital delivery in our personal lives, most radio stations still use old fashioned physical cd’s. Even if they have a system that primarily uses mp3’s, its still a good ideal to send physical cd’s so that it gets more notice and isn’t lost in their email inbox (or worse, spam folder). All the professional college radio promotion companies still preach this and from what I saw with my band specifically, its true.


  10. I’m a Gospel reggae and soca artist who just released an album on Gospel . On Jan 25,2011

    the album will be released on itunes,amazon,rhapsody etc. check out music video on

    I am interested in getting my music played on college radio.

  11. Anyone that thinks a physical radio station (as opposed to a web one) is going to be using digital downloads is living in the future. Most “good” college stations probably receive 20-40 CDs every week & I’d guess maybe ten times that many download links. However I do think it’s worthwhile to send download links to individual DJs after you send the physical disc & get it in the station library. Otherwise they won’t know it’s there in the sea of new releases.
    There are a lot of people doing radio promo out there & some are a bit predatory. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I’ve seen people doing outstanding jobs & charging $4000 (but trust me, I think that particular case was fairly priced based on work put in & results) & other people doing awful jobs for $200.

  12. Dairenn I don’t even think Loggins is around any more, besides he never promoted college radio anyway and I’ve never heard of those other promoters. When looking for a radio promoter you should always check the better business bureau and never use a promoter that says they work with big name label artists. If a promoter is promoting the Beastie Boys do you think they are going to promote you when they know Capitol Records has plenty to promote, and plenty of money to spend on promotion for multiple artists and multiple albums. And JJ what are you thinking Digital servicing only? You do know sending your song to a station has nothing to do with promoting it. This article was on promoting your music to college radio not sending your music to college radio. Do you really think a PD or MD or even a DJ is going to sit at there computer and listen to the hundreds of songs sent to them by unknown artists? You must be crazy to think anyone is going to do that. Radio stations are only going to play music that is promoted to them, or from an artists that they already know and love. Also JJ do you remember every email that you get? Of course you don’t. You need to create name recognition, that is why not only do you send your track by email to a station but you also send them a physical CD too. And you should send them more stuff too like trinkets, stickers, lighters, etc. anything that creates name recognition and makes you stand out from the crowd. All a long you should be emailing the PD/MD to let them know your album is on the way and also following up with phone calls once a week if not more. After all these are college kids with school, work, and a life outside the station so it will take multiple calls and emails to get them to acknowledge your existence.

  13. Here’s some advice from someone who’s already been down this road.

    “After you send your CDs to radio, check back in a couple weeks by phone or email to make sure they received it,” or not. Think about using a flat rate envelope from the US Post Office (cheaper than FedEx and UPS, but gets the same result) and then tracking your package online. But better yet, check the website of the radio station because 99% of the time, they tell you not to e-mail or call but, instead, check their web page or blog that lists the most recently added/played music. If you don’t see it there in 3-4 weeks, and the post office says it was signed for, chances are, they haven’t/wont play it. If you DO decide to call and ask why, make sure to ask for the call hours of the DJ or program/music director.

    “Your package should include one CD (remove the shrink wrap) along with an artist One-Sheet.” What happens if you don’t know what a one-sheet is, how to write one effectively, design one or get them printed? You might try finding one by Googling around, and then further, look for affordable graphics artists in your area.

    “You’ll have the most luck if you limit this list to a geographic area that you can realistically tour through at least three or four times a year.” but “Assemble 100-200 Mailings”? Here in Los Angeles, KCSN runs a short program once a week that features music submitted by local artists; the remaining 166 hours of programming is label-promoted AAA; the same is the case for the famous KCRW in Santa Monica. Near by is KPFK which you can forget about if you’re a country act, especially if you have any patriotic music. There’s the station at Claremont college and you might get lucky with KXLU but if you record anything that sounds like pop, expect not to get played. The bottom line? Do not assemble more than 10-15 mailings. Especially since if you have a full time job, you probably don’t have time to call 100-200 people/stations in 2-3 weeks to find out what happened to your music.

    In fact, here’s a better idea. Time is money, so I would strongly considering using a service like Loggins Radio Promotion, Randolphe Entertainment Group, Space 380, Fast Break Music or Rainmaker Media Group. People with the time to submit, follow-up and track your music on the radio.

  14. Are you really telling artists to physically mail out CDs in this day and age? This article is as outdated as mailing a physical CD. Not only are physical CDs outdated so is snail mail. Why waste you Time – Money and most importantly Environmental Resources when you can have your music sent digitally in 1 minute to all radio programers.
    You can sign up (and pay) for sites such as DMDS or My PLay MPE and have your music delivered to to MD (music directors) and PD (program director) at stations of your choice/genre. Or you can (with some due diligence) contact and email the stations directly. Radio stations have all there play lists digital… they want the music to arrive in there computer.
    Think about the costs of mailing physical CDs – Postage $1.75 per / CD – $1 or $2 / Envelope – .50c- $1 / Time -??
    Not only is it out dated to physically mail your CD it is way too expensive. Save your physical CDs to sell at live shows. That way you can sign them for your new fans. Radio stations and most music business contacts would rather have your music emailed to them.
    regards JJ

    1. Understand that radio stations received hundreds of emails daily. What do you do when you have 15 emails, you scan through really quickly to see whats revelant, who you actually know, or the ones your expecting and then you ditch the others. Don’t underestimate taking the time to send out a package in the mail, especially if it it personally directed at the music/program director.

    2. Having just researchers a number of Independent and College radio stations to sent material to, I can tell you that more than half of them specifically asks for or prefer a physical CD. There were a number that DO NOT take digital submissions at all. There are a great many stations that still appreciate the physical package, so it is extremely unfair to call this article outdated. Plus, sending a physical disc can sometimes help make things a little more personal and show dedication on your part, as you were willing to put the extra time and money into seeing that the station received something physical from you. In fact, Lightning 100, an Independent station located here in Nashville, actually encourages you to come by the office yourself with a physical copy of your album and your One Sheet in hand. At the end of the day though, the most important thing is to see how a station prefers their submissions and stick to that.

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