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.
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.