5 Things You Need to Know About Submitting Music to Program Directors in Commercial Radio Stations

If you are like many up-and-coming independent musicians, artists, groups, or record labels, you are thinking that if you can “just get your music in front of a DJ they will want to play it on the radio.” Sure, you may find a DJ that is willing to give your music a spin or two on a local radio show, but this is not the same as regular rotation “adds” and it does not lead to rotation from other radio stations around the world. DJs do not have the power to “add” a song into a radio stations regular rotation playlist. In fact, at many radio stations across the country, a DJ can and will be removed from the air for playing a single song that was not approved and placed into regular rotation by the radio station’s Program Director radio world.

Program Directors control a radio station’s regular rotation playlist. In some larger markets a Program Director will have an assistant that carries the title of Music Director, but even in these radio stations the Program Director has the final say of what songs get added to the radio station’s playlist. This is not to say that building relationships with local DJs is not a good thing. It is. Relationships with DJs can be developed to help persuade a radio station’s Program Director to give your song a listen and possible “add” to the stations playlist. However, the best way to get your music added to a radio station’s regular rotation playlist is to understand the basic principles of how to submit your songs to Program Directors.

The following 5 facts about submitting your music to Program Directors will help you understand how and why songs are added to regular rotation playlists at radio stations, how to make your music stand out and get listened to by Program Directors, what it takes to get “adds” in regular rotation, and how to ensure your music stays in regular rotation for the life of the single.

1. Commercial radio Stations are not in the business of playing music.

The biggest misconception surrounding a commercial radio station is that playing music is the highest priority, or business model, in which it operates under. Commercial radio stations are not, have never been, and will continue to never be in the business of playing music. Radio stations are in the business of selling time to advertisers to place thirty or sixty second commercials so listeners will buy products or services. Radio stations attract listeners by playing music. Program Directors are hired to select and add songs to the station’s regular rotation playlist that will attract the most listeners in order for the station to charge a higher price to it’s advertisers to buy time.

An unknown, up-and-coming, artist or group does not attract a large listener base to a radio station. This means advertisers are getting less “bang for their buck” when their commercials air next to your song as apposed to their commercials airing next to a top twenty artist that has mass listener appeal. Therefore, you must create a large local following before contacting Program Directors trying to get a song “added” to a radio station’s regular rotation playlist.

2. Program Directors get hundreds of songs per week to choose from.

Once you or your group become “local favorites,” you have to understand that you are still competing against the entire world. Program Directors receive hundreds of CDs each week for review and possible consideration for regular rotation playlist “adds.” When Program Directors listen to new music and start to decide what songs will be “added” to the radio station’s playlist they will consider several factors including; staying power – does this artist or group have the ability to release another single listeners will want to hear, marketability – does this artist or group have the ability to continue it’s marketing reach and gain new fans that may have never heard of them before, and mass audience appeal – Does this group simply have a lot of fans because they have a great live show or do they possess the ability to grab mass listener appeal on the song alone. Your job as an unknown, up-and-coming, artist or group is to stand out among the hundreds of other songs a Program Director must choose from weekly. This is accomplished before sending your CD to the radio station. You must answer these questions in your other marketing efforts so that when a Program Director researches you or your group he/she is not left with any questions about your ability to appeal to the radio station’s listener base.

3. There are certain days and times radio station Program Directors take calls about new music.

Contacting a Program Director is hard. Many up-and-coming artists and groups would say it is impossible. It is not. However, if you are not attempting to contact Program Directors at the right time, you will never get a hold of them. Program Directors set aside certain days and times for “new music calls.” On these designated days and times a Program Director may receive over a hundred calls from radio promotional agents, record labels, and artists. The key to effectively getting a Program Director on the phone is persistence. You cannot call one time and say you tried. You must continue calling until you get an answer. If at the end of the scheduled time you still do not get a Program Director on the phone leave a detailed message about who you are, what you are wanting, and how to contact you. Unknown artists or groups will most likely not get a call back. However, your name is in the Program Directors ear. This will lead to them looking for your CD and taking the time to listen. Maybe not on the first call, but persistence does pay off. There are two ways to obtain a Programs Directors music call day and time. First, visit the radio stations website and look for the contact page. In many cases the Program Director will post when, where, how, and what time to contact them with new music. If you do not find the information you are looking for the next best thing is to call the station. Do not ask for the Program Director. Simply ask the receptionist for the Program Directors call day and time.

4. There are only so many songs that can be played in a 24 hour period on commercial radio stations.

If you consider that radio stations are in the business of selling time to advertisers you have to also consider that means there is only so many songs a radio station can play in a day. Program Directors will fill the majority of available “music” time slots with established artists that already have mass listener appeal. This leaves a very limited amount of time for unknown, up-and-coming, artists or groups. Considering that radio stations want to appeal to the largest listener base you see why Program Directors will only “add” a song or two per week to the radio station’s regular rotation playlist from unknown artists. This is why persistence is of the utmost importance when trying to get your music “added” to a radio stations regular rotation playlist. As mentioned before, you have show a Program Director you have “staying power.” Make sure you present your persistence in a professional manor verses a “nagging,” bothersome way. Program Directors will respond to persistence. It may not be when you want it be, but they do and will start to research who you are to see if you are worthy of a regular rotation “add.”

5. Once you get a song “added” to a radio station’s regular rotation playlist you must continue building relationships with Program Directors.

Once you are lucky enough to get your music “added” to a radio station’s regular rotation playlist by a Program Director your job is not done. Many up-and-coming artists and groups disappear from the “minds” of Program Directors once they get “added” to a stations playlist. This is not wise. Remember, you can and will be dropped from the playlist if you are not persistent. As mentioned earlier, Program Directors want to know you have the ability to continue marketing and promoting your music to gain mass listener appeal. The best way to show them that you are working toward that goal is to keep your name in their “mind.” You do this by calling them each week, only during their scheduled “music call” day and time, to build your relationship with them. Inform the Program Director of you or your groups activities, ask how the song is doing, or how many requests it is getting from station listeners. Your job when contacting a Program Director after your song has been “added” to a radio station’s regular rotation is build strong and lasting relationships that show you are working toward gaining fans from the station’s listener base.


Submitting your music to radio station Program Directors is tough, but doable. You have to be persistent, professional, and ready to show them that you can create “fans” from the radio station’s listener base. Knowing how a radio station operates, how to approach a Program Director, and what matters most to a radio station is 90% of the battle. Once you get your “foot in the door” you will see that more doors begin to open, a lot easier, and Program Directors do really enjoy meeting new artists. Be sure to build lasting relationships with Program Directors by forming a bound that is built on trust and follow through. Program Directors do talk to one another and a recommendation from one to the another will get your music “added” to playlists across the country faster than anything you could possibly do on your own. However, you must remember it works both ways. You have to always be on to of your game, create buzz, and maintain a professional attitude when dealing with or talking to Program Directors!

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