How To Get Radio Play for Your Release

This blog contains information on how to submit your tracks for radio play, what steps needs to be in place before you get played, and whether you should approach radio stations directly, or use the services of a radio plugger.

For this blog we interviewed BBC Radio 1’s Ally McCrae (AM) and Radioactive Promotions’ Julie Barnes (JB). Ally is best known for his BBC Introducing show, co-presented with Jen Long. Julie from Radioactive Promotions is a radio plugger, who works with a long list of radio stations including BBC, NME, Kerrang!, Real, Smooth, Q and many more. Radioactive Promotions have an impressive roster including ALT J, Arctic Monkeys, Frank Turner, The Temper Trap, and Two Door Cinema Club.

Firstly, Julie can you please describe what a radio plugger does?

JB: The ultimate job of a radio plugger is to get a band/artist played on radio. I do regional radio, so aside from Radio 1 & 2, Absolute Radio, 6 Music and XFM I cover every other radio station in the UK. When a band/artist has a single release I will push for specialist radio plays and if the single has mainstream potential I will take it to the next level and push for main daytime playlist support. A radio plugger aims to get a band/artist as much radio exposure as possible, so will set up interviews and acoustic sessions where possible.  When a band/artist is releasing an album, the plugger will push for album plays and will also set up album giveaways to increase awareness of the release. When a band/artist is on tour they will set up ticket comps, meet and greets, trips abroad to see a band/artist perform and any other form of competition involved with that band/artist.

Do pluggers generally work on a per-release basis or is there normally a fixed term with a release schedule in place?

JB: I tend to get involved when a band has a campaign ready to go. I don’t work a one off single with no plan in place for future singles and album release. It varies from one artist to the next and also from one label to the next but I either charge a monthly retainer to cover the term of 3-4 singles, album and tour or I charge one off fees per release.

What are the benefits for an artist when working with a radio plugger?

JB: Having a radio plugger is the difference between your music being heard or unheard of. Nowadays with all the social networking sites and the power of YouTube, a band/artist can do a lot of self promotion, however, a radio plugger can get you exposure which you could never get by yourself. When you employ a radio plugger, you are buying into their database and their relationship with radio programmers, radio DJs and heads of music across the whole of UK radio.

At what point should an artist seek the services of a radio plugger?

JB: If you have an album recorded, a budget in place, a decent following in your hometown and online and a way of releasing your music then it is worthwhile to get a radio plugger on board. I work with signed and unsigned bands so, providing you have an album and a release plan, it is never too early to get a radio plugger on board.

When working on a single for an artist, how far in advance of the release date will you begin contacting radio and does this vary per release?

JB: I always service a single 6 weeks upfront. Sometimes with a big artist I’ll give a key radio station an exclusive play 7 weeks upfront and then service the single to everyone else following that play however the general rule is always 6 weeks upfront.

Another option to working with a radio plugger is to send your music directly to the radio DJ or producer of the show. We asked Ally whether it was better to contact the producer or the DJ directly.

AM: Depends from show to show – on my show I curate the tracks so that would be me! Huw, Zane, etc – definitely through the producers or assistant producers!

Ally also suggests that 4 weeks before your release date would be a good time to send through your tracks for consideration.

Ally, how long should a press release be and what sort of information do you look for?

AM: That really depends on how much you have to say, sorry, how much of WORTH you have to say. If you are working with anyone cool, playing any cool shows then by all means – if you ain’t, just ask me to check the tracks, no need to contrive things…! Release dates and social media links are a must too.

If an artist doesn’t hear back from you, should they follow up?

AM: Yeah, absolutely! I get sent so much, it’s not humanly possible to reply to everyone, don’t take offence! Some people mail me, I listen, love it and I’ve still forgotten to reply! Operating at this level it’s all about the tune and the timing, so make sure I know that. If I haven’t replied after a couple of weeks a cheeky wee ‘hey have you had a chance to check that…’ will prompt me to do a wee email search.

How many tracks would you suggest sending for consideration, and how do you like to receive them?

AM: Top two… three at a push. Soundcloud links in an email with the option to download a well-tagged wav is literally better than cake.

Julie, How many tracks would you suggest sending for consideration, and how do you like to receive them?

JB: I don’t mind how I receive the music. Soundcloud is always a favourite, though. 4 songs will give me a good idea of a band/artist.

Musically, are there any key things that you listen for when tracks are submitted to you for consideration?

JB: I listen for a good hook, a memorable chorus, a track that gets my interest in the first 10 seconds and something a bit different from the thousands of generic guitar bands that are out there right now.

What are the main things that you look for in an artist when considering whether or not to work with them?

JB: I only work with a band if I love them and that should be the rule of any decent plugger. I decline more bands than I take on, as I don’t think it is fair to represent an artist at radio if I don’t like or feel passionate about their music. It’s hard to say what I’m looking for as I either like it or I don’t. My roster does however only consist of rock, indie and singer songwriters, as I tend to stick to guitar music.

Is an artist more likely to get airplay if they have a PR Company/Plugger/Record label?


AM: The play has nothing to do with a PR, the quality of the track does, but there may be a better chance of getting my attention with a known PR/plugger (that may cost though) what a PR can help with is devise a plan – press/online/live and radio coverage all leading up to a release, a band with a banging track, industry / online chat and a polite approach will always go further – PR or no.

Ally, what 3 tips would you give to artists trying to increase their chances of getting airplay?

AM: Tag files correctly, get as much exposure in as many ways as possible, and gig and meet as many people as you possibly can.

Julie, if a band were not ready for a dedicated radio plugger and wanted to increase airplay on their own, what should they do?

JB: Before you even consider radio play work hard on building your fanbase through gigging and social networking. Put tracks up online, post live videos on YouTube and generally build the awareness for your band in your own hometown/city.

Don’t send any old thing to a radio DJ as they get inundated with CDs and links to soundcloud pages/bands websites so wait until you have something worth playing on the radio before you approach anyone.

When you have at least an EP recorded and have a bit of a buzz building then start approaching your local specialist DJs. It is pointless sending it to programme directors and daytime presenters as they only deal with mainstream pop releases and daytime DJs have no free play and can only play tracks from the station’s playlist. Send your soundcloud link to the guy who does the indie show on the Saturday night or the girl who does the rock show on the Friday night and build from there.

Finally, Ally, are there any common mistakes you see artists make in their approach to getting airplay?

AM: Being rude, telling me alllllllllllllll about the band but not sending a link to any music and SENDING MUSIC THAT MY SHOW CLEARLY DOESN’T CATER FOR. You don’t hear much jazz/funk/ska crossover on Radio 1 do you? That’s because we are not Radio 2 or 6music.

Whether you choose to submit your music directly to the radio stations or enlist the services of a radio plugger, there has been great advice given to enhance your chances of gaining airplay for your release.

Apart from a quality release, you should build up a fan base in your local community, as well as online, before sending tracks for consideration. Remember to send your tracks to a relevant contact, taking time to research the genre of music they specialise in. You should plan to submit your tracks 4 – 6 weeks in advance of your release date and having a release schedule in place will help keep you organised and on the right track. Good Luck!

EmuBands would like to thank Ally and Julie for their participation in this blog. We hope it has provided valuable information and guidance to help get your release on the radio.

Blog Author: | Artist Relations & Marketing Manager, EmuBands
POSTED: Wednesday 24th July 2013

3 thoughts on “How To Get Radio Play for Your Release

  1. That was really useful info.
    I’ve kind of heard it all before, but it was cool to hear the two of them talking about how the see it.
    Only thing I would have liked to have know a bit more about is the tagging thing. I’m aware that it is important, and I kind of tend to just refer to the same ten acts that inspired me when I grew up…..which doesn’t necessarily create great, or “correct tagging”…. A piece/interview about tagging would be great…..

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