5 Ways Radio Airplay Still Benefits Musicians in 2019
These days, people love to talk about how radio is dead. I hear the phrase, “radio is dead,” more than I care to admit, and I find the claim fascinating, as I both completely understand why people say it and what they mean, while simultaneously also knowing it is far from true.
Radio stations, even the biggest of them, don’t break talent like they used to, and those who work at the largest of companies don’t wield the power they once did in the music industry, but saying something like “radio is dead” is hyperbole, and it’s simply wrong.
In this article, we’ll discuss how radio airplay can help artists in the following ways:
- It helps you reach new people
- It makes you some money
- It keeps your music playing
- It elevates you, your career, and your art
- It could make you a Billboard charting artist
Radio airplay can still be incredibly important to musicians, both those just getting started whose careers may finally be taking off, as well as the lucky few who are already global superstars. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the article below, where I’ve pointed out a few ways radio airplay can still benefit you as an artist (specifically one who isn’t already owning the charts and selling millions of copies) in 2019.
1. It Helps You Reach New People
The obvious first answer in this list must be that radio airplay, no matter what kind and no matter how much, can help you reach new potential fans with your art. Whether it’s thousands of people across the country who tune into their local Top 40 station to hear what might be the next true smash or one person switching the dial to consume whatever their college Radio DJs are playing that night, no bad comes from people discovering your music for the first time.
For decades, radio was how the vast majority of people in the world heard new music for the first time. Before the internet was a thing, you could only hear about a brand new band or catch word a favorite artist had a new cut by talking with people or by turning on the radio. While those two methods aren’t the only ways to consume something new anymore, (and, in fact, they may not even be the most popular way) they are still how a large group of people do hear a piece of music for the first time.
While streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music might be dominating the music industry and changing seemingly every aspect of it as they grow — including the impact radio has on the public’s musical tastes and what dominates the charts — there is still a massive group of people who either don’t use those sites to the fullest, or who have never signed up for an account at all. Sure, those aforementioned companies are titans in the music industry, but millions of people in the U.S. (especially older audiences) still aren’t tuned in, so if you want to reach them, you’re going to need to opt for more traditional methods.
Also, while the power radio airplay has might not be the same as it was, say, two decades ago, it is still a medium used by an enormous population. In fact, according to Nielsen (the company that measures important things like radio play and stream counts in this country), “93% of U.S. adults 18 and older listen to radio every week — more than those watching television or using a smartphone, TV connected device, tablet or PC.” This figure might be a year or two old at this point, but it highlights the fact that in much of America, especially where people are driving to and from work everyday, radio is still incredibly important.
We have all turned on the radio at one time or another and heard a tune we haven’t thought of in years, and this is always a nice feeling. Music moves quickly, and the industry is only speeding up, and it’s great to know in addition to streaming platforms, there’s another medium out there that may remind people about a piece of art they’ve forgotten about.
2. It Makes You Some Money
I have been surprised throughout the years I’ve been meeting and speaking with musicians and those in the music industry to find out many don’t realize having your music played on the radio isn’t just a great promotional opportunity, it’s also a way to make money…depending on how involved in the creation of your art you were.
When a song is played on a radio station, the company that chose it and hit play must pay out a royalty, which is collected by one of a handful of groups called performance rights organizations (or PROs for short). Those companies and organizations (some are for-profit, others are not), such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, make sure to collect the right amount of money based on how often your song was played, and they then pay it out to you after a period of time — so don’t expect to be paid a day after you tune is selected for a spin.
Now, it’s worth saying when songs are played on radio, it’s only the Songwriters who are paid, not the performers. So, if you sing a song written by others, they are the ones who will get a check in a few months for all the radio attention, not you. This rule isn’t too important to worry about for most independent acts, as they are typically the ones behind the music itself, but it does matter when it comes to some pop stars, who aren’t always the ones who put pen to paper and created the hit that gets played millions of times on stations all around the country.
Also, while these royalties are helpful, don’t expect massive sums of money to be coming your way just because you finally got radio airplay…but at the same time, don’t discount those residuals. Money is money, and when it comes from this kind of exposure, cashing those checks feels great!
3. It Keeps Your Music Playing
One of the great things radio airplay has to offer is your music can keep playing long after its moment in the spotlight seems to have passed. We have all turned on the radio at one time or another and heard a tune we haven’t thought of in years, and this is always a nice feeling. Music moves quickly, and the industry is only speeding up, and it’s great to know in addition to streaming platforms, there’s another medium out there that may remind people about a piece of art they’ve forgotten about. Anything helping you get just a little bit more out of content you’ve already created is your best friend.
The next time you’re about to reach out to tastemakers and the media about a new song, video, tour, or album, consider mentioning what kind of radio airplay you and your art has been receiving. When those in a position to make a decision can see others like them (for example, radio programmers or DJs) have been playing your music, it’s a signal you might be someone worth paying attention to.
4. It Elevates You, Your Career, and Your Art
There are millions of musicians out there and all of them want to achieve some level of success. Many are just having some fun and being creative but there are so many talents who want to make it big and earn a living from their art, it’s impossible to count. Standing out from the crowd can be incredibly difficult, and anything you can say or point to that distinguishes you or shows you have “made it,” at least in some regard, is a good thing, and you should take every opportunity to highlight your successes as an indie act.
Garnering radio airplay is a surefire sign you are on the right track to true success, and while you aren’t necessarily a superstar just because a DJ at some station has taken a liking to your new cut, it’s a step in the right direction, and those are always encouraging.
The next time you’re about to reach out to tastemakers and the media about a new song, video, tour, or album, consider mentioning what kind of radio airplay you and your art has been receiving. When those in a position to make a decision can see others like them (for example, radio programmers or DJs) have been playing your music, it’s a signal you might be someone worth paying attention to. Anything that may help someone click a link and listen to you or potentially book you in some meaningful manner is vital, so don’t overlook the fact you’re an artist being played on the radio!
5. It Could Make You a Billboard Charting Artist
Again, there are thousands of names who would love to one day see their name appear on a Billboard chart, and while the vast majority of them will never make it, there’s no reason to believe you don’t at least have a shot at coming close!
Radio airplay factors into where a song places on a number of Billboard charts, and it doesn’t always require a huge number of spins for it to actually matter to you and your art.
Most importantly, radio airplay is one of three factors to determine where a tune sits on the Hot 100, the all-encompassing chart measuring the 100 most popular songs in the US every week (and the tally people are typically referring to when they claim they had a Top 40, Top 10, or even a chart-topper). If you can begin picking up steam on radio stations, sell a number of copies, and perform well on streaming platforms, you could break onto the Hot 100, which would be massive for you and your career.
Beyond just this one listing, radio airplay is also important to radio-only Billboard charts, such as the simply-titled Radio Songs, for example. There are also specific charts that only look at airplay in certain genres, such as R&B and hip-hop, electronic and dance, rock, Latin (and Latin rhythm), country, Christian, and gospel. Making it to a low position on any of those specific lists still makes you a Billboard charting artist, and this claim can help you for the rest of your career.
You might not have made it all the way to No. 1 on the Hot 100, but placing on any Billboard ranking, especially for the first time as a new act, is a true accomplishment, and just like receiving radio airplay in the first place, it elevates you to another level and helps separate you from the hordes of other music makers out there.
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