What Do Record Labels Do? Part 4 – College Radio Campaigns And How To Do It Today


In this new series we will examine what on earth record labels do or
even used to do before they started cutting employees down to make up
for their flimsy business model. In order to educate everyone as to
what the labels responsibilities usually were and how you can fill them
in the future, we will now explain what they do and how you can fill
the void. For previous episodes go here.

Nearly any release can be helped by a strong college radio push. This is why many labels would hire services to send out promos and other materials to college radio and push hard to get their music played on the air. While the Internet has opened up many new ways of promoting your music, college radio is still one of the best ways to get your music out to the kids (or um… adults???) of the land. Follow me to the jump and I will show you the old techniques of doing it and how to do it on your own.

How The Labels Do It
Most labels will hire out one of the many college radio campaign services. These services would keep a database of stations and the style of music they would play. They would then figure out a certain amount of stations they would send your CD to that would potentially play it. With the CD they would attach two things:

 1. The CD would have a mailing list type sticker with information about the release. This would make it so it easy for the music supervisor to figure out what to do with it. Without this you may may be put into a pile that many never get listened to since there is much work to go through to figure out whether a artist is playable by a particular stations. These labels would have the following info clearly typed on it:

  • Artist name.
  • Album name.
  • Recommended songs (aka singles)
  • Label and release date
  • RIYL (Recommended If You Like) where you would list 2-4 artists who music your fans also enjoy.
  • A list of any songs with profanities along with a second mark of where they occur. If there is countless profanities you may just say that. Some savvy labels would send an additional CD-R with the curses bleeped out.
  • Two sentence bio about the music. 

2. A simple bio about the band that you send with most anything.

How To Do It Yourself

  • Googleing bands that are similar to yours and looking for radio playlists they come up on.
  • Head to your social networks and mailing list and ask your fans to send you the info of any college radio DJ they like that may play you.
  • When you are going to be coming to town on tour call up the station and offer CDs, guest list spots, posters, T-shirts, etc. for giveaways from the station in exchange for mentions of the show on the air.
  • Use Google and look at some of the many college radio lists that are out there on the net. Visit their website and see if there is a DJ with a playlist that you would fit in on or contact their station directors and see if there is a DJ that would play your style of music. If so send them a CD.
  • Get a printer and some large mailing list labels and start printing out the labels described above or go to your local print shop and pay for it (in some cases this may be just as cheap as printing them yourself considering the cost of paper, programs to make the labels, and ink).

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.