How To Get Your Music on Radio
A look at the ins and outs of how to get your music on played on radio in Australia
When it comes to releasing new music – be it a single, EP or album – getting it on radio is one of the most important parts of distributing it to the public. Some might say it is not as crucial as it once was, with digital media channels and streaming platforms taking up a fair chunk of the average music lover’s daily intake. Others might say it’s as essential as ever – listeners will always like being told what is new, what is good, what they should be listening to. And if you’re an artist, you definitely want this to be you.
In Australia, the structure of public radio is quite different from, say, The States. Basically, there are two main beasts you will want to target: everyone’s favourite national youth broadcaster, triple j, and your local heroes, community radio (for the purpose of this article, we are not going to cover commercial radio, because chances are your music isn’t going to get played there). Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of how to go about getting your music on to each.
Triple J, Unearthed and Double J
Let’s not beat around the bush: for most bands, getting played on triple j is super important if you want to reach a national audience – in fact, it’s practically the only way to do so via a single radio channel. It’s by no means the death of your project if you don’t get picked up by triple j, but it’s an incredibly powerful way to reach a lot of people very easily.
We had a chat with triple j’s Assistant Music Director, Gemma Pike, to pick her brain about the best way for artists to get their music in front of the music team.
Can you outline the processes that artists need to follow to get their music on triple j?
There isn’t just one process – finding a new song can be as organic as coming across an incredible live act or a mate giving you a recommendation. But we do have a few processes that can help get your song heard by the music team and presenters, and in turn, on the radio. Each Tuesday morning we set time aside for labels, reps, publicists and artists to come into the triple j office with their new songs for us to listen to. While sometimes it’s good to have a face-to-face meeting, it’s by no means necessary. Email is the most popular and easiest way to get your songs to us for airplay consideration. In the music team, we listen to hundreds of new songs each week, the majority of which have been emailed through to us.
We work closely with the music teams at both triple j Unearthed and Double J too to share standout tracks via regular meetings and emails. We also keep conversations open with our presenters and producers about what they’re loving and what’s sounding good on the radio. And of course, we also comb the internet, streaming services, go to gigs, and meet people face to face at conferences all around the country. I’ve even Shazamed songs while getting my hair done, then played them on air the next week. It really can be from anywhere!
What are some common mistakes artists make when pitching?
Probably the most common mistake I see is not proofing emails or labelling songs properly. Or issues with the song, like broken links or attaching a really big file to the email causing it to bounce. We’d much prefer a downloadable, well-labelled WAV file.
What are the most important things artists need to consider when pitching?
We get literally hundreds of new songs each week, so making everything clear and concise is a huge help. Who are you, where are you from, what’s the song, where can we hear it? You can add any extra info, like tour dates or whether it’s from a forthcoming release. If you’re sending through an album or EP please highlight the focus tracks for us too.
Another big thing to keep in mind is what style of music you make and which presenters it will be relevant to. If you make hip-hop, hitting up Hau Latukefu from The Hip Hop Show is perfect, but you probably don’t need to be emailing Lochlan Watt from triple j’s heavy music show The Racket.
Because we listen to so much each week, unfortunately replying personally with feedback to every single email isn’t possible. Feel free to shoot through a quick follow up email a week later, but generally we’ll be in touch with you if we need anything.
What do you find often catches your attention?
A good song! Seriously, it’s that simple. You can have the fanciest press shots, a killer subject line, an envelope that spouts glitter (please don’t) or a skywriter. None of that matters. If the song’s good, we’ll notice.
What’s the best delivery format?
Anything digital. Whether you’re emailing us or delivering it in person, please share your music via a third party website (Soundcloud, Bandcamp, DropBox etc), chuck it on a USB, share with us your Unearthed profile page, or a blog link if it’s been premiered online.
Triple J Unearthed
Uploading your music to triple j Unearthed is not only important for ensuring the possibility of clocking in some air time on digital radio, but for giving yourself every possible chance of getting of triple j’s radar. That being said, you don’t have to be on Unearthed to get picked up by triple j. Gemma Pike elaborates:
“We’re always in conversation with the Unearthed team about what’s been uploaded, what’s sounding good on air, and who their latest rotation/feature artists/competition winners are,” she says. “It means there’s even more sets of ears listening out for great new music, so more chances of your music being discovered and shared. We’ve had some pretty incredible artists come through Unearthed recently, like G Flip, Didirri, Kwame and Stella Donnelly, who’ve gone on to become feature artists, win competitions to play at festivals and showcases, and even won awards via Unearthed. However, the facilities of Unearthed (like having the song available for free download) might not suit everyone, and that’s totally OK. Not being on Unearthed will not impact your chance of getting airplay on triple j. There are plenty of ways to have your music heard and Unearthed is just one of them.”
Double J is the ABC’s newest digital radio station. Paying homage to triple j’s original incarnation, the station isn’t quite as youth-oriented as it’s sibling, playing a more diverse mix of music. One minute you could be listening to a Bob Dylan tribute segment, the next they might be plugging the new record from Gab Cohen.
If you think your music suits what Double J plays (which is practically anything really), it’s definitely worth your while servicing to them. We spoke to Dorothy Markek, Double J’s Music Director, to find out a little more about how the station curates its music.
With such a diverse mix of music being played on the station, what informs your decisions when it comes to new adds?
In short, two things. Will our audience like it? And does it reflect diversity? It’s really important we ensure our music choices represent a good balance of genders, cultures, musical styles and life experiences.
As a national station, we also take great care each week putting together a list of the best new music from across Australia (and the world). While we’re spoilt with lots of great local music from the East Coast (and the US, UK and Europe), we’re always on the hunt for more from the West, North and regional Australia.
What’s the relationship between Double J and triple j?
The best kind of relationship… mutually beneficial! We work closely with the triple j music team recommending new music that may appeal to each others’ audience. Even though we have different target audiences, there will be times when we can hear a song working on both stations. We find that overlap is around 10%. Like triple j, we receive lots of new music and do our own sleuthing. The more ears and eyes, the better the chances a great new song will find a home.
Is there anything that you won’t really play?
As a music curator, by and large you’ll know what your audience likes and doesn’t like. There are certain styles of music we’ll play less than others, like hard rock, gangsta rap and hardcore techno. That’s more to do with matching the mood of the audience at different times of the day than shunning genres/sub-genres altogether.
How To Get In Touch
The best way to submit music to triple j, Double J and Unearthed is via the triple j contact page – from there your email will be forwarded on to the most relevant person. To ensure your music lands on the right desk, you should address your email to either:
• Nick Findlay (triple j Music Director)
• Gemma Pike (triple j Assistant Music Director)
• Dorothy Markek (Double J Music Director)
• Stephen Goodhew (Double J Assistant Music Director)
• Dave Ruby Howe (triple j Unearthed Music Director)
When it comes to reaching a new audience, the importance of community radio should never be discounted. Getting your music on community stations like Sydney’s FBi and Melbourne’s Triple R is a powerful way to tap into your local community, build a loyal following, and target audiences in specific regions. These stations are the heart and soul of Australian radio and are where just about every act to ever make it big in Australia and beyond got played first.
Here are some stats from the Community Broadcast Association of Australia (CBAA) to give you a rough idea of the power of community radio.
• 5.3 million listeners tune in to community radio nationally each week. That’s 1 in 4 Australians.
• This has risen considerably in the last decade and is continuing to rise.
• More than 60% of these listeners are tuning in specifically to listen to music.
• 72% of the content broadcast on community radio is locally produced.
Who To Target
There are over 450 community radio services across Australia – from small stations in remote regions to prominent broadcasters in capital cities. CBAA have excellent station locator tool on their website if you’d like to know what community stations broadcast to a specific area.
Some of the key stations you may want to target include:
How To Go About It
To find out a little more about submitting music to community radio, we spoke with FBi’s Music Director, Amelia Jenner, and Triple R’s Music Coordinator, Simon Winkler.
Can you outline the process that artists need to follow to get their music on your station?
SIMON: Triple R receives music submissions of either physical or digital formats. For physical releases such as CDs, or vinyl, a printed bio is appreciated – the information will be shared with broadcasters for their reference. All new music sent in this way will be documented, and distributed to appropriate programs during a weekly listening session. We encourage digital music submissions, and to get your music heard at the station please send an email with bio details, a streaming link and download link. This information is shared with broadcasters via email, and is recommended as the fastest way to get your music out to everyone.
AMELIA: FBi has a very easy to use submit form.
Do you listen to every submission you get?
SIMON: Yes, every submission that arrives is listened to in dedicated listening sessions across the week.
AMELIA: Yes I try but there is often upwards of 1000 per week so it’s not always possible.
What are some of the common mistakes artists make when pitching?
SIMON: Sometimes email submissions arrive with one or more key elements missing, such as a biography, or useful information such as links to the music. When pitching it’s helpful to supply all the information and resources that a broadcaster might need to play and discuss the music as soon as they receive your pitch. A couple of quick talking points, as well as a more extended write-up are definitely helpful here!
AMELIA: Failing to include the release date of the single, album or EP, whether or not there is an airplay embargo. Occasionally people forgot to send a link a place to listen to and then download the track/album/EP, which makes the auditioning process very hard
What are the most important things artists need to consider when pitching?
SIMON: Perhaps similar to the response above, considering what a broadcaster might find helpful to support your release as quickly and easily as possible would be recommended. In a general sense, some context to the music, details on yourself and/or the band and the release, as well as relevant links is brilliant. When pitching to a station it can be useful to consider what style of music they’re making, and what programs might be most appreciative/responsive to the music. Reaching out to broadcasters with a personal message, for instance, outlining how the songs being pitched might relate musically or otherwise to songs played by the broadcaster on their show could be a great way to introduce your music if getting in contact for the first time.
Also, I wanted to mention that if artists are ever unclear on what’s best or most helpful to get their music heard, we’d love to hear from you and are happy to help with any questions either via email, on the phone, or via a meeting at the station.
AMELIA: Make sure you include a stream and a download of whatever you are servicing. The stream can be private if the track hasn’t been released yet.
What do you find often catches your attention?
SIMON: Great question. On the one hand, the quality of the song(s) is always the most important consideration here, and something exciting will definitely catch our attention. But perhaps even before we even get to the music itself, an email or message that’s clear, concise and informative definitely catches our attention. With a number of releases arriving at the station every day, it’s enormously appreciated when the key information and links are easily accessible, and the layout is relatively simple and structured. Having written all that though there are definitely no rules, and anything that communicates in a way that’s faithful to the artist’s intentions, however complex and unique, is also likely to stand out!
AMELIA: Heaps of different things! Great press shot or artwork, well worded, short and concise pitching email, amazing music!
Is it ok to submit music to specific presenters?
SIMON: Absolutely, we definitely encourage artists to submit music to specific presenters for consideration. And of course in cases where an artist might not know which programs are most suitable to approach we’re extremely happy to assist in that process. Some musicians may have an existing connection to a broadcaster, and wish to pass along their music directly, but will also contact the station to ensure the songs are distributed more widely.
AMELIA: Yep that’s fine, but I always encourage artists to do a bit of research first to make sure they are hitting up relevant presenters. Hitting up the presenters of our punk and hardcore show with a link to indie pop doesn’t make a lot of sense.
What’s the best delivery format?
SIMON: Generally, high-quality broadcast quality file formats such as WAV, FLAC and 320kbps mp3 are ideal. Having links available to share with broadcasters means we can distribute the music quickly and easily to everyone, giving songs the best chance of being heard and supported with airplay.
AMELIA: Digitally via email with a dropbox link for easy downloading and streaming. If you’re submitting an album or EP though I would send a stream of the whole record via private SoundCloud so I can listen to the record as a whole.
When it comes to community radio, first and foremost we suggest targeting your local station(s). If you are planning on touring, it’s a great idea to also target the stations in the towns and cities you’ll be playing in to help get you in front of a local audience. But what about the rest?
Yes, there are over 450 community radio stations in Australia. That’s a lot – obviously it would be impossible to service your music to all of them individually. But there is a way you can make your music available to them through a single channel: AMRAP’s AirIt.
AirIt is a digital community radio distribution service. Independent musicians, record labels and other representatives are eligible for a free account to upload their tracks. Station managers, music directors and radio presenters can then preview and order tracks for airplay and to add to their station’s library. It’s a really convenient way to make your song accessible to every community station in the country (that uses the service, which is most), rack up some airplay and reach an audience that might otherwise be quite inaccessible.
You can also distribute your music to community radio physically via AMRAP’s monthly CD mailout. Based on the genre information you give, they will send your music to stations that are likely to play it
Sign up here.
Special thanks to Amelia Jenner, Simon Winkler, Dorothy Markek and Gemma Pike for their insights. Photos by Dani Hansen.