How Do I Get My Music On Radio? (Part One)

Yeah, it has been a while.  I looked and it has been over a year since the last time I took the time to sit down and write something.  I will blame it on a remarkably busy life behind the scenes over the last year and the fact that I have been devoting all my free time to Music Mafia Radio.  Things at the station continue to move forward quite nicely and I am hoping to share some of the new things in the coming weeks.

One thing that has not changed is the constant avalanche of music submissions we receive at the station.  By my count, we received around 8,000 submissions in 2020 and based on current volumes will receive over 10,000 in 2021.  This is easily one of the toughest parts of the gig, as it requires us to make hard decisions.  It is also the most contentious topic for artists looking to get into rotation at Music Mafia Radio, with many wondering out loud why they aren’t immediately placed into rotation.

This is the first in a series of articles explaining the process of getting into rotation at Music Mafia Radio.  This particular article will focus on the submission process at Music Mafia Radio and how the numbers come into play.  Future articles will dig into the specifics of what may be preventing you from getting airplay.

While I do not expect our process to be any different than most stations, talking artists through the process may prove to be helpful as they try to get into rotation at many other stations.  This article will deal with the high-level basics and how the numbers fall, with a quick look at how music makes it into rotation.

I do not claim to be the end-all-be-all expert.  However, my experience with listening to upwards of 35,000 submissions over the last four years and my background as a musician has allowed me to identify consistent trends when it comes to what separates a good submission from a not so good submission from a musical and production standpoint.

So, what exactly is the process once a song is submitted to Music Mafia Radio?  The first part of the process is just this simple- EVERY submission with access to a music file is listened to by me, whether it a be an email attachment or a link to some form of cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.).  At this point in the process, I pay absolutely no attention to the body of the email.  I am not reading the press release. I am not going to social media to learn more.  It is strictly about the music at this point.  Really good music, regardless of genre or style, moves to the second step of the process and the rest get set aside (much more on this in future articles).

The “access to a music file” is the important part of the process.  I need something that I can use to get music on the air.  YouTube links and Spotify links are of no value to me, and as a result, immediately get passed over.  This is strictly due to the numbers.  I probably spend ten hours a week listening to submissions.  This is in addition to the time spent prepping and producing live shows and a long list of administrative and technical things I work on behind the scenes that take time as well.   I simply do not have the time to chase after music files, and quite honestly, I do not need to.  We are receiving plenty of submissions that already have the files available for broadcast.

The second step of the process involves the entire staff at the station.  We schedule Debut Shows throughout the year, devoting entire live shows to bringing new artists into rotation.  Instead of just placing songs in rotation, we like to make a big deal about the debut.  A few years ago, I would go through the submissions and program the show by myself.  I changed this up a couple of years ago to engage the staff in the debut process by having them each pick artists for the Debut Shows from the list of artists making it to this point.  While this was originally intended to include the staff, another better result emerged.

Having four people choosing artists for inclusion in rotation has resulted in a much wider variety of music making it on the air than if I were the sole person responsible for making the picks.  In fact, the ladies of Music Mafia Radio have been responsible for as many #1 artists at the station as I have. Our most recent Debut Show was entirely picked by the other members of the staff, with me not picking a single artist for the show.  This works extremely well for us.

This is also the point where I do start paying attention to the press releases and looking for biographical information to use on the show when introducing an artist.  I am still bewildered by the number of artists and bands that submit with absolutely no information to be found anywhere, including in the email.  People, if you want to be successful, help us help you to get the word out.

At this point, I know I have a bunch of artists asking, “Well, how do I make it to this step in the process?”  The simple answer to the question is that your music must be just that good, and even then, the numbers may work against you.  We pride ourselves on playing the best music available for our listeners I am not shy in saying that we are extremely picky with the music that makes it into rotation.  Our goal is not to amass the largest library of music to be found anywhere.  Our goal is to play the best music to be found anywhere.  And for us to completely support the artists we play, we maintain a library that is large enough to provide a wide range of music while not being too large to provide that support.  That means not everybody is going to make it into rotation at Music Mafia Radio.

I will use 2020 as an example of how the numbers work.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we received around 8,000 submissions.  Of those, I would guess that around 1,000 were immediately passed over because of the lack of a music file.  Of the remaining 7,000, approximately 350 were considered good enough to be considered for airplay and of those 350, about 150 made it into rotation.  That 150 represents less than 2% of the 8,000 submissions originally received.

This all points out one simple fact- we receive much more music than we could ever get on the air.  We get more really good music than we can get on air.  This is one part of the industry that has not changed a bit since the golden age of FM radio may years ago.  I understand how extremely frustrating this can be for the artists, but all I can ask you to do is be persistent.  I can point to several artists in rotation at Music Mafia Radio that did not make it on their first, second or third try.  If your music is that good, it will eventually float to the top.