Radio Check, Variance Magazine

Working Towards Radio Airplay with KEXP’s John Richards


What would you suggest for independent artists and labels who don’t want to mail out thousands of CDs a month to radio stations—Are email submissions the best alternative?


I would suggest this for labels; it will save them a LOT of time and a LOT of trouble.  I ran an indie label for years and those bulk mailings are one of the reasons I don’t do that anymore.   


Some independent labels are now sending email submissions with the artist’s Electronic Press Kit and a song URL for easy review. This allows the Music Department to review the song without getting loaded down with .mp3s in their inbox. The label is then able to send the .mp3 or CD depending on the radio station’s preference and interest. Is this a sufficient way of sending music to radio stations like KEXP?


It is sufficient.  The easier—the better. What doesn’t work is for the DJ or Music Director to have to download every song first and then go into their iTunes and listen later.  A quick listen with a link is great…the less clutter the better.  Some emails have so much information on it, you can’t even find the download and believe it not, it’s easier to quickly delete an email submission then to throw out a bulky press kit.  

You had mentioned “The worse they can do is ignore you” in your article Working Towards Radio Airplay. What is the next step for that artist? And what is the worst thing an artist can do upon being ignored?


The next step for the artist is to keep making music and keep improving….to take an honest look as to WHY you were passed on.  Was it the production?  Was it the song? Or is it just not radio friendly?  Remember, no one is a bigger fan of an artist then the actual artist.  It’s important to take a step back and look and listen objectively.  You, your friends and family will find this hard to do.  Now, the worst thing you could do is give up. The best artists in any field have been rejected countless times.  Never give up. 

Do radio stations prefer the artist himself/herself to submit their own music, or would they get more attention being submitted by their label?


The commercial stations will only deal with labels and their promoters but the great independent stations are fine with either.  It shouldn’t matter who is sending music. Now, if a very well respected label such as Sub Pop, Merge, Domino, etc are sending something, I won’t lie, you tend to listen to that pretty quickly based on their reputation but I know at KEXP, no matter who is sending it, we listen to it.  


And finally, what do you think about artists turning their exhausted focus on radio to alternative sites that promote, review, and stream .mp3s (like blogs, online magazines, podcasts, etc)?


I think it’s just as important, and in some cases, even more vital to their success.  It’s one thing to get air play a few times a week (hopefully more!) but a written review and a quick listen can help an artist a ton…..get it everywhere and anywhere you can!  But again, be prepared, when a radio station rejects you…it’s just silence.  When a blog or a reviewer rejects you they tear you apart in public.  But again, rejection is all part of the game! 


John Richards is the Associate Program Director and “The Morning Show” Host and Producer at KEXP in Seattle, WA. To read more from John Richards and Working Towards Radio Airplay, visit his blog at You can also follow him on twitter: @loserboy

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