How To Create Your Own College Radio Campaign

Professional college radio campaigns are one of the best ways to introduce your music to attentive new audiences, but they’re not cheap. Depending on the size, length, and nature of the campaign, hiring a radio promotion company to send your release to college radio stations could cost you anywhere from $2,000-$10,000. And if you’re financing the recording, production, and promotion of your record all by yourself, it might not be possible to devote that kind of cash to a college radio campaign.

If this sounds like you, don’t despair. You can create an impactful college radio campaign in-house. Here’s how to get started:

Create a database of college radio station contacts

Months before you plan to release and promote your record, start planning your own college radio campaign by compiling a database of staff names, email addresses, and addresses of college radio stations. This process is tedious and expensive, and that’s why the pros charge so much to do it. Try your best to only add active radio stations to the database. As you’ll soon see, the process of sending music and promo materials to college stations is expensive and takes a huge amount of time to pull off, so you’ll need to make every station is worth sending to.

Some college stations are now only accepting music submissions through MP3s, but the vast majority prefers to do things the old fashioned way by strictly accepting music through mailed CDs. During this information-gathering process, make sure to note each station’s submission preferences.

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Package and send promotional materials

Once you’ve compiled a database of station contacts and addresses, start putting together mailers that include your album and a one-sheet. The term “one-sheet” can mean a lot of things in the entertainment industry, but in our case it’s going to be a single piece of paper with a short bio, album information like track listings, and possibly a band photo. Some bands try sending extra flashy and gimmicky promo materials, but this can easily backfire and inspire college radio station staff to not give your record a chance, so be careful.

Follow up with emails and check the results

One of the biggest advantages a professional radio campaign can give you is detailed analysis of the outcome of your campaign. They’ll send over massive lists detailing which stations picked up your record for radio play and which ones passed. And in some cases, you’ll even get feedback from radio station staff as to what they thought about your music.

An in-house campaign won’t give you these sorts of insights, unfortunately. But by following up through email and combing through internet search results you can get a good idea of which college stations are playing your album. When you learn which stations are giving you some love, book tours based in those cities and try reaching out to your contacts to set up interviews and promotional events when you come through town. Having your music played on a college’s radio station is a great first step, but you’ll get the most out of that attention with a live show.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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7 comments

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  • YoungDelaney - December 26, 2017 reply

    How can i start a college radio station promoting music management company for PRODUCTIONS level

  • Smax - December 27, 2017 reply

    That was very insightful. Thank you

  • Cassandra Kubinski - December 27, 2017 reply

    Hey Patrick, Thank you for this article and insight into college radio.. we just underwent a big campaign for our holiday release Holiday Magic and got on about 25 terrestrial reporting stations, and a few college. This is very helpful as we consider future college radio campaigns! All the best, Cassandra

  • Lizann - December 28, 2017 reply

    So you actually have to send physical CD’s through SNAIL MAIL??? Don’t they accept electronic press kits and downloadable wav files or MP3’s…???

    James Carbonaro - December 29, 2017 reply

    Are these people stuck in the bronze age!?!?!?!

    Dan Masterson - February 2, 2018 reply

    Yeah, a lot of indie stations don’t have the budget to upgrade equipment, or don’t have the bandwidth to field hundreds of submissions a day. I almost didn’t make CDs for my upcoming release, but had to for press/radio. Plus they ended up being a popular item in pre-sale.

  • James Carbonaro - December 29, 2017 reply

    We at The More Balls Than Brains Band are planning to embark on our Discovering America tour for the academic year 2019-2020. The advanced schedule includes performing at a college or university in every state & provincial capital in the USA & Canada. We’ll also include a one night stand in the national capitals of Washington & Ottawa, as well as another one in New York City, since it’s sort of the capital of the world. We will of course make ourselves available to be interviewed by each college’s radio station. And they will then receive copies of our EP’s & other merchandise for them to remember us by.

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