How Indie Bands & College Radio Are Working Together

The ultimate goal of any artist is quite simple; to have their music heard by as many people as possible. Due to the many avenues available now, musicians in the earliest stages of their careers tend to overlook a basic tool to get their music heard by a wide audience; radio. While there is no denying that single corporation domination has hindered independent artist’s ability to get airplay, especially in major markets, college radio has always been well ahead of the mainstream curve.

When it comes to new music, college radio stations have always been willing to play unheard artists before their major market, mainstream contemporaries. Bands like R.E.M. and Radiohead widely established their fan base with college students, on college radio before the rest of the country took notice.

The best thing about most college radio stations is that they tend to be pretty broad in what music they’ll play. That said, you should use a modicum of common sense when embarking on your quest for college radio domination. If you’re in a death metal band, it’s probably safe to say that a conservative Christian college isn’t going to give your music too much attention. Similarly, if you’re a rap artist with misogynistic lyrics and an image to match, it may be best to avoid female only schools. Not only because you may be ignored, but it’s a waste of your time and effort. If you only have a certain amount of time to devote to submitting your music to college stations, try your best to make logical choices.

It’s often difficult to find enough time in the day to do all that artists need to do to become professional musicians. If you’re in a band, this is somewhat easier as there are more people involved and tasks can be delegated and divided up, making it slightly less overwhelming. Assemble everyone and figure out a way that works for all of you. Maybe you’d like to divide the country into sections and each look for stations in a different part of the U.S. Is there a particular state/region/city you’d like to focus on? Try to divide it up in smaller parts~ maybe a break down of colleges sorted alphabetically with each band member being assigned a certain section of the alphabeTry dividing up a state into parts by county, or even market according to where you’d like to concentrate your attention first. If you’re a solo artist, this is a bit more difficult, but try to recruit some people to help you, and be resourceful. Ask your mailing list for suggestions, ask your friends to come over and help you get a list of stations compiled, and even see if your family will help out.

Whether you’re in a band or on your own, always start with your own alma mater. Colleges love their own success stories; if they can play the music of an up and coming artist, who also happens to be a current or former student, they may give you first dibs on interview slots and music showcases they have.  Once you figure out what stations you want to contact, find out what their protocol is. The easiest way to be ignored is to not do things how a given station would like you to. Find out if they prefer hard copy or MP3 submissions, what kind of press kit (if any) they want, and any other information they may want. Make sure everything is completely in order, check your spelling and grammar, and be professional, as this is business correspondence.

While Spotify and Pandora are wonderful, don’t overlook one of the main resources artists have been utilizing for years. Use college students, their free time, and love of music to your advantage and try to build up your audience! Here is a list of college stations in the U.S. to get you started.


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