Panels: A Musician’s Guide to College Radio

Written by Indie Ambassador Posted in: Panels on September 20, 2011

With its repetitive rotation and narrow palate, it's easy to get disillusioned by commercial radio. However, the world of college radio is a different story, and holds more influence than you might think. Last week's Rock Shop panel discussed the subject in depth with panelists Phil Flemming of 91.5 WMFO, Ali Donohue of 89.3 WTBU, Liz Pelly of 90.3 WZBC, Eric Roberts of 91.7 WMWM, and Rob Duguay of 990 WBOB.com, all of whom are in some way, shape, or form connected to college radio.

Watch the panel to see what the panelists had to say about music submission, radio promoters, performing rights organizations, CMJ and more!

 

Rock Shop: College Radio Quick Tips

  • The quality of your content will always be the deciding factor in whether or not your music makes a station's rotation, but paying attention to their preferred submission format can't hurt. College radio directors and DJs have different preferences when it comes methods of submission. Some prefer CDs to be packaged in jewel cases with spines that contain album title and artist information so that they can be easily filed. Others like the more homegrown feel for aesthetic purposes. And then there are some who just want a link to your website where they can download it for themselves
  • Don’t hesitate in submitting your music to college stations because you don’t think they have enough listeners. While they might not have as many listeners as mainstream stations, the DJs working at them actually believe in the music they’re playing, and have much influence on their taste-making listeners.
  • Additionally, it’s not uncommon for local commercial stations to pickup songs that are getting heavy rotation on local college stations and put them on their own rotation. You don’t hear about this occurring very much because the bands that are fortunate enough to have this happen for them shy away from acknowledging their college radio background out of fear that it will alienate their newfound mainstream listeners.
  • Is your music the proud member of a specialty genre? If so, try sending it to a genre-specific radio show when submitting instead of  the station in general. Today’s college radio directors know how important specialty shows are to continued musical innovation, and do everything in their power to make sure they stay around.
  • Try to make your way down to College Music Journal’s annual Music Marathon and Film Festival (this year from 10/18 – 10/22). Getting any gig in the city during this time is great, even if it’s not “officially sanctioned” by CMJ or Sonicbids. Still head down even if you can’t book a gig, because the networking opportunities presented by the occasion are immense.
  • Wonder if your band will make any money from being played on college radio? Most are aligned with the three main performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) and report when your material is played. However, it’s not the station’s job to follow the money and make sure it gets to you, so follow up with your PRO if you have any questions.
  • Getting your songs played on college radio is not a science, as every DJ and director chooses differently. If you know the station you want airplay on only accepts music from a certain promoter, you’ll be better off trying to get involved with them rather than sending CDs directly to the station that will never be opened.
  • On the other side of that coin, do your homework to see if that promoter has a good reputation with other stations too. Some promoters are held in such low regard that radio stations won’t open anything these promoters send them, and that’s a lose-lose. Lastly, see if the type of music they pitch is in a genre at least similar to yours, if not the same.

 

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Created by Steve Theo of Pirate Promotions and Kevin Hoskins of Rogue, Boston's Rock Shop exists to give back to the Boston music community by hosting monthly seminars, panels, guest speakers, and more on topics artists and bands can benefit from. 
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