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Next Steps: Radio, Local TV, MTV

11NextSteps_0You've conquered the clubs, recorded a killer album and landed a deal -- now it's time to spread the word about your music. While print outlets like magazines and newspapers are fantastic publicity tools, there's nothing quite like radio and television to truly sell people on your music. After all, hearing is believing; a writer could shower you with the highest possible praise, but audiences won't be entirely convinced until they've actually heard your songs.

So how exactly do you go about getting played on the radio or landing a spot on TV ? Figuring out how to get your songs played on the radio is definitely an art, but the following article will break it down for you, step by step.

A Note About MTV

Before we dive too deeply into the world of radio airplay and music television, it's important to mention that unless you've got a great deal with one of the most prominent major labels, getting played on MTV will be pretty much out of the question. It sounds discouraging, but think about it this way; MTV is the most dominant force in the music industry, and thousands of bands are constantly vying for a slot. What's more, MTV doesn't play nearly as many videos as they once did, so the limited time they have for videos is usually reserved for already gigantic acts like Aerosmith and Eminem.

That's not say getting played on MTV is completely impossible; you just need to know how to approach it. Talk to your publicist and label owner about trying to get a slot on MTV2 -- the station runs shows specifically for new bands -- and constantly check the MTV website for any special contests. At times, they'll run promotionals specifically for the purpose of breaking new bands. But even while you're investigating your future at MTV, put most of your efforts into getting played on the radio and local television. It's far more likely -- and often just as beneficial.


It used to be that in order to get your songs played on the radio, a band had to hire and independent -- and often extremely expensive -- radio promoter. This tactic isn't without benefit; radio promoters are well-connected members of the music industry and can usually get your songs radio airplay at major stations all over the country. But for a band minding their dollars -- or just deeply entrenched in the art of self-sufficiency -- radio promoters can seem like a bit of an extravagance.

That's where college radio comes in. Not only are college radio stations known for bringing new talent to light, they're also open to receiving unsolicited material from people other than radio promoters. Follow these steps for maximum radio airplay on college radio stations:

Find a Match: Locate the most widely listened to college radio stations via a search engine directory, and look at their websites. Make sure your music fits the styles they typically play (glance through their playlists if you aren't sure), then get the name, number and address of the music director; this is who you'll be directing your packages to. But always remember to call the station to confirm that the website's information is correct. College radio stations are notorious for constantly changing music directors.

Send a Perfect Package: Along with your CD and press kit, send a cover letter that includes a brief summary of the packages contents, which song you're pushing as a single and any other college radio stations that are currently playing the song. Getting played on the radio is often easier once one other college radio station has picked up your music. Also include any tour dates or other promotional shows you might be playing in the station's area.

Follow-up Appropriately: Music directors are busy people, and they often take several weeks to respond to unsolicited requests for airplay. But if it's been more than two weeks and you haven't heard a thing, it doesn't hurt to give the college radio station a call just to make sure the package got to them safely. Be patient if the music director hasn't had a chance to listen to it yet, and do not under any circumstances badger them. One call is a nice push, two calls is just plain pushy.

Local Television

Local television has undergone a massive facelift in recent years. Though it was once just the province of local newscasters and those creepy late-night shows, the medium now hosts some of the most diverse programming around. And a lot of that programming is geared toward young rock and pop music fans.

Creating a relationship with a local television station is similar to making contact with a college radio station (except you'll be seeking out the program director or station manager, not the music director). But before you can get in touch with anyone, you'll need to investigate your local programming options.

College Programming: If you have a mid-sized college near your town, chances are good that you've got a college television station. Programming at these stations is extremely diverse, and most of them have a local arts and culture show.

Public Broadcasting: Most towns have a local television branch of PBS (and many of them are tied to the college television stations). Since viewers fund it, public broadcasting frequently holds fundraisers, and many of these fundraisers feature local artists. Check with the PBS program director for the next fundraiser's date and send off your press kit; local television fund drives usually rate fairly well within the community.

Local News: It's rare, but local news programs sometimes feature local musicians on the nightly news; the key to landing this sort of local television gig, however, is to create an event of public interest. If any of your upcoming shows are fundraisers, or you're releasing a new CD on a well-respected label, send a press release to the station's news director. If it's newsworthy and of local interest, they'll get back to you quickly.

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