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Getting Your Music on the Radio: A Who’s Who Guide

Kevin Young

May 27, 2020

The More Things Change… 

The music industry is constantly evolving, but the relationships artists form with both the people who pitch their music to radio, and those who determine if it gets airplay, remain critical to growing an artist’s audience. Consequently, musicians should have a basic understanding of the roles various people play in any song’s journey from completion to (ideally) heavy rotation.


Artist & Repertoire (A&R)

A&R are at the front line of talent discovery. They work closely with artists – sometimes before and after signing them. Throughout the writing and recording process, they offer advice in terms of what songs are a fit (or how to make them a fit) for different formats.

The benefits A&R provide as ‘outside ears’ can be substantial. You may agree or disagree with their opinions, but you’ll learn something valuable by considering their opinions and expertise.


Publicity and Promotion Reps

Whether you’re an emerging or established artist, label promo reps are your boots on the ground (if not literally, than figuratively).  They maintain extremely close relationships with tastemakers; pitching you, your music, your shows, whatever they can to build a connection in a given market. These days, they tend to cover larger areas than in the past. From the outside their job looks fairly glamorous, but it requires a lot of legwork and diplomacy. If you’re lucky enough to have them out there in the trenches with you, treat them well.


Independent (or “Indie”) Radio Promoters

Indie Radio Promoters may work hand-in-hand with label promotion and publicity and/or with the artist and management – knocking on radio’s door with your music in hand (albeit virtually in the current climate). Their job is to get you airplay. As more stations and broadcasting companies consolidate, the indie promoter’s workflow has changed, but the core job hasn’t. It’s all about passion, tenacity, and exercising the power of persuasion to spread the gospel of  their artists far and wide.


Program Directors

Armed with a thorough understanding of what appeals to their audience, Program Directors oversee their stations’ programming schedule and decide what, when, and how music airs. For artists, they pretty much hold the keys to the kingdom. Whether that kingdom consists of one or many stations, they curate music with an ear to ensure their listener’s tastes and needs are best served. Program directors also work closely with station music directors to schedule interviews, on air performances, and other events.


Music Directors

Music Directors are also an integral contact for label reps, promoters, and, by extension, artists. Like Program Directors, Music Directors do a significant amount of curation  and often take incoming calls and emails from labels and musicians. Additionally, they can assist your promotional team to come up with initiatives like contesting, in station (or for the time being, virtual) performances, and more. These activities  boost their (and your) engagement with fans in their market, and, obviously, should be top of mind for touring acts looking to top up their live numbers – when the time comes to get back out there of course.


On-Air Personalities (or Radio DJs)

Reach out to the on-air personalities at your local station(s), they could be interested in seeing your live show, listening to your music – or both!  If they like it they may bring it to the programming team for their consideration. Essentially radio DJ’s are performers in their own right, with individual styles and, like many artists, larger than life personas. Radio DJs at community and college stations may have more influence over what’s played than at commercial radio, but whatever their role, they share a lot of common ground with musicians, beginning with an intense passion for music. Their goals and yours are closely aligned and, like you, their success is measured by how effectively they can draw listeners in, give them a great show, and keep them coming back for more.


…The More They Stay the Same

The industry landscape continues to change in response to musical trends, as does the technology and tools used to extend your music’s reach. Platforms like Play MPE have made walking physical recordings into stations a thing of the past – which is more important than ever nowadays! But, the importance of making a good first impression virtually and face-to-face remains critical. High quality, broadcast-ready audio and eye-catching, engaging, professional grade marketing materials may peak someone’s interest, but it is the personal relationships you form with your potential champions that matters as much, if not more.

Photo by Mwabonje from Pexels

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