Requesting Your Song on the Radio (Could Disappoint You)

There's nothing like hearing your song on the radio for the first time.

I've been fortunate enough to be around artists who've experienced the rush of hearing their beautiful recordings compressed like crazy and popped in-between station "stinger" IDs.

But, radio's a dying medium. At least for music. Radio has a bright future in traffic reports and extremist talk. The few exceptions to the rule are already figuring out how to translate their success to the web, lest they suffer the fate of once-great institutions like WOXY. Fewer listeners count on over-the-air radio every year to entertain them with music, unless they're the type of listener who enjoys "all kinds of music."

So, why do we still spend so much time worrying about how to get our songs on the radio?

Because it's fun. It makes us feel like rock stars, even though there's almost a complete disconnect in today's marketplace between radio airplay, chart success, ticket sales, and actual cash in the pockets of musicians.

I heard about from a tweet by Jason Fried, who was admiring the sleekness of a web app that makes it effortless for fans to request songs at local radio stations across the country.

Music promoters have been stuffing that ballot box for decades, now. This is what I like to call a Catherine the Great strategy. It's designed to make a program director think that "the kids" all want to hear Nicki Minaj, even if the song's not remotely within the station's format.

Instead, this kind of aggressive, manufactured marketing creates a weird kind of backlash. No program director I know looks at a flood of calls for Nicki Minaj as legitimate. However, plenty of PDs now see the lack of a faux-grassroots campaign as a lack of support from the label or from the artist. If the label isn't ready to foot the bill for folks to flood the phone lines, will they be able to cover the cost of station promotions or 30-second spots? Probably not.

Instead of trying to get yourself into this knife fight, stop asking for airplay. It's not going to help you anyway. Program directors and music directors are more accessible to you than ever before. They've got blogs, they're on Twitter, and plenty of them spin records at clubs for fun. Engage with them. Learn what they think makes a hit song. Learn who they think might help you grow an audience in your town. Talk to radio folks about anything other than trying to get your song on their show, and they're usually delighted to spend at least a little time with you.

Abuse that trust by asking for some spins, and prepare to get your future calls dumped.