According to a recent survey, independent musicians have no more access to major market radio now than they did before major networks agreed to settle over charges of payola.
What I can't figure out is why, in the year 2008, when radio is a declining force in the way Americans learn about new music, do we actually care?
Even friends of mine who work in the radio promotion business understand that MAJOR label acts can't get airplay under these conditions. Radio has circled the wagon around good old chestnuts. Speaking of which, how many Christmas-music-only stations has your town spawned at this point?
I agree with Ann Chaitovitz that radio is still an untapped medium, especially here in the United States. As an audience, we have failed our broadcasters. Listeners will tell you time and again that radio is at its best when it's live and local. Broadcasters around the world do this really well.
But we have forced ourselves down a rabbit hole by making broadcasters accountable only to ratings. There's zero incentive for radio stations to play independent music because there's no way they can earn money on it. Even public radio stations are abandoning music, since they can't fundraise around it.
That's why I have been telling musicians for years not to worry about spending too much money on radio promotion unless you've got something that fits rock solid into a speciality niche. You can get far more traction by investing in a strong audience-building campaign than you can by trying to get your record on the air.