How to Break Through the Radio Airplay Barrier

Kyle Cantrell and Terry Heard at the Bluegrass Radio seminar at World of Bluegrass 2013 - photo by Woody EdwardsThe convention center in downtown Raleigh is crawling with bluegrass fans and artists alike, all interested in attending the various seminars being held on site. Throughout the day on Wednesday, I had the opportunity to drop in on a couple discussions. In particular, I enjoyed the seminar “How to Break Through the Radio Airplay Barrier” – something that I’m sure several new and upcoming artists were listening to closely.

The conversation, moderated by Chris Jones, included a panel of national radio DJ’s including Cindy Baucom of Knee Deep in Bluegrass, the Bluegrass Radio Network’s Terry Herd, and Sirius/XM Bluegrass Junction guru Kyle Cantrell. The panelists had quite a bit of helpful advice to offer artists who may be experiencing difficulties in getting their music sent out across the airwaves.

According to the panel, one of the most important things artists need to remember is that their music needs to fit the programming style of the radio station. If it doesn’t, no matter how much the DJ might like your band, they’re probably not going to play it. The group suggested that artists think about what other kinds of music the radio station plays, and what kinds of listeners the station is trying to reach before sending out an album.

Another piece of advice was that when you do decide to send out an album, make sure to plan ahead. It may take quite a bit of time – even a few weeks or more – for songs or an album to make its way from the artist all the way to the DJ who is going to play it. If an artist wants their songs on the radio, they need to send them out in advance of important dates like album releases to guarantee they’ll make it on the radio in time.

The panel also threw in a bit of humor, telling listeners that it’s never a good idea for artists to call a station and request their songs while changing their voice. The DJs will definitely know.

I had the chance to speak with one of the panelists, Terry Herd, and he summed up the seminar well with this advice: “Beyond the basics of recording great music and getting the project to radio, there is no magic bullet. Patience, persistence, and dedication will get you there.”

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About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.