Where Do Internet Radio Stations Get the Music They Play?
Up-and-coming music DJs and presenters like free, just like anyone else. Not every Internet Radio station has the muscle of a KEXP or a KCRW. They’re scouring services featuring royalty-free music like Hooksounds and the Free Music Archive. But they’re also looking for new discoveries on Bandcamp and SoundCloud. They receive unsolicited music from new artists and sometimes they listen to it and sometimes they play it on their radio feed.
- 1 Types of Internet-Based Music Sources
- 2 How to Submit Your Music To an Internet Radio Station
- 3 How to Submit Your Music To An Interactive Streaming Service (Like Pandora)
- 4 How Do You Get Paid When Your Music is Played on the Internet?
Types of Internet-Based Music Sources
There are two kinds of Internet-based music sources, Interactive (on-demand) and Non-interactive (Internet radio). Examples of the Interactive variety are Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and YouTube. These venues allow you to personally select artists and playlists. An Internet Radio station functions much like a traditional AM/FM broadcast. A DJ or presenter selects the music and you can tune in (or not) to stream from KEXP Seattle, or Dublab in Los Angeles. There’s an ever expanding list of internet radio stations that accept submissions and it’s up to you to supply the music.
12 of the Best Internet Radio Stations At a Glance
KEXP 90.3 – Seattle, WA (Alternative Rock)
KCRW 89.9 – Santa Monica, CA (Eclectic)
Dublab – Los Angeles, CA (DJ, Beat)
XRay.FM – Portland, OR (Eclectic)
KUTX 98.9 – Austin, TX (“Adult Alternative”)
WFMU 91.1 – Jersey City, NJ (Eclectic)
WWOZ 90.7 – New Orleans, LA (Jazz, Soul)
WQXR 105.9 – New York, NY (Classical)
NTS Radio – London/Los Angeles/Shanghai (Indie/Eclectic)
Balamii – London (Electronic, Dance, Hip-hop)
TSFJazz – Paris (Jazz)
Cinemix FM – (Soundtrack scores)
How to Submit Your Music To an Internet Radio Station
Always be nice. (ABN.) DJs and presenters don’t owe you any favors. Believe it or not, the music industry isn’t big enough to overlook individual acts of rudeness. If you’re rude to one station or presenter, it could impact your entire career.
Foster relationships with promoters, radio stations and presenters. Take a personal interest in their life and work. Curate an ongoing dialogue and recognize that they might not be in a position to champion your music right now, but you never know what the future might hold. Promoting your music doesn’t begin and end with a single music submission. Overnight success stories are myths. You’re in this for the long haul.
Radio presenters/stations are inundated with bands begging for airplay. Most don’t get paid and therefore don’t have time to wade through pages of your personal histories to find where you exist and how to get your music. The lazy, short, info-less message reflects on the potential quality of your music before it even has a chance to get heard. Make that first impression count.
Develop a one sheet. This is a one-page advert that represents your personality, your music and details live music gigs and future performances. This .pdf or .txt document should include:
- Band / artist name
- Musical influences
- Single name, release date
- Album / EP name, release date
- Story Behind Single / Album / EP
- Where to Buy Music
- Your Achievements / Awards / Famous Musicians / Producers / Festivals
- Upcoming performances
- Official website, social media links
Tailor each pitch to the radio station/presenter. Follow these people on social media, study their playlists on Spotify and sample their radio feed. Sometimes presenters will post playlists featuring the music played during their set. Do your homework on the kind of music they play. Find the platforms and presenters that are best positioned to help you gain notoriety as a musician.
Start small. There are many independent and student-run Internet Radio stations accepting submissions from emerging bands and artists. These smaller stations won’t receive as many requests, which puts you in a better position to be noticed. Every moment of airtime is valuable — no matter how small the venue. Remember that your goal is always reaching more ears. Consider the submission process a small snowball that you’ve just begun to roll downhill.
The most effective way to get airplay is to create hype around your music organically by developing a loyal fanbase that will force increasingly larger stations and audiences to take notice.
Genre-specific stations. Locate stations and presenters that cater to your audience. It goes without saying that bluegrass fans would be more receptive to bluegrass music than punk rock. It sounds obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that many new artists waste their energies pursuing opportunities that don’t support their brand.
Hire a radio plugger. If you’re positive that your music is ready for prime time, but you’re struggling to get airplay, a radio plugger might be helpful. A plugger acts as a mediator between you and the radio stations. A good one will come with a long list of industry contacts and might be able to expedite the process.
How to Submit Your Music To An Interactive Streaming Service (Like Pandora)
Each of the big streaming services such as Pandora and Apple Music features a slightly different submission process. It helps to have a licensed distributor (such as CD Baby) delivering your music, but it’s not always essential.
It could be a great boost for an indie artist to place their music on Pandora Radio. (You must have a distributor to appear on Pandora Premium or Pandora Plus. Conversely just because your music appears on Pandora Premium does not mean it will be available on Pandora Radio. You’ll need to do this manually.)
Submit to Pandora via their online submission form. This is the best way to get your music in the ears of Pandora’s curators. Even if you’re using a distributor, the submission form will probably increase your visibility. If accepted your distributor-supported music will then be made available through all of Pandora’s services.
Apple Music requires you to have a distributor or aggregator that offers distribution on iTunes. Through your Apple artist profile (which you’ll need to claim if you haven’t already done so) you can manage your profile and submit music and music videos.
How Do You Get Paid When Your Music is Played on the Internet?
Getting your music played on the Internet is only a part of this puzzle. Chances are you’d also like to get paid. If you’re a career musician the money has to come from somewhere. This section describes how to get those hard-earned royalty checks. That’s the big question isn’t it?
The process goes like this. Whenever a licensed radio station or streaming service plays your music, they owe you a part of a penny. (If they’re not stream-licensed and registered they won’t be paying anyone any royalties because they can only play public domain and royalty-free content.) Collecting that penny fraction isn’t always that easy, however. Thousands of dollars in royalties go unclaimed every year. The following steps ensure that you get your check.
Copyrighting Your Music
The most important step is one that might be easy to overlook. You must record your song in a “tangible medium.” The lyrics have been written down or the song has been recorded. This registers you as the owner of the song — the one who will financially benefit from the song’s success.
- Register for an account at the U.S. Copyright office.
- Fill out a registration application and pay the registration fee.
- Submit a copy of your song.
- Wait for your registration to be processed.
How Internet Music Royalties Work, Very Briefly
Interactive Streaming (Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal) generates Performance and Mechanical royalties. Non-interactive Streaming (Internet Radio) generates only Performance royalties.
In order to collect royalties, artists need to join a Collective Management Organization (CMO), which enables copyright owners to collect royalties generated by the different types of use.
There are two types of CMOs.
Performing Rights Organizations (PROs): These organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange) are responsible for licensing and monitoring the collection of Performance Royalties.
Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs): Companies like the Harry Fox Agency (HFA), Music Reports (MRI), and SongTrust manage the collection of mechanical royalties generated from physical media releases.
To make all of this more convoluted, each country can have one or more of each organization. Meaning you’ll have to register with each International society (unless your CMO offers services connecting international agencies) to receive your royalties. Sometimes the same organization handles both Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights.
This information isn’t meant to be discouraging. Keep in mind that access to your music has huge benefits, but don’t become deluded by the hope that you can make a living wage based on your Internet streams alone. It all goes back to the snowball effect. Every piece of your career, done right, can generate momentum rolling down that hill.