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Why Indie Artists Should Embrace
College and Public Radio


College and public radio are both realistic vehicles for independent artists to get airplay. Although the audiences for these shows are usually nowhere as large as those of commercial radio stations, college and public radio attract a higher concentration of active music fans, particularly those in the 18-24 demographic. One spin alone on a non-commercial station may not translate into many sales, but that one spin may reach more of a target audience that likes collecting rarities. Even if all an indie band gets is one spin, it's still a story the band can put in their bio and build upon for pointing to a track record.

This episode of Social Music Talk focuses on just west coast college and public radio stations. That doesn't mean the rest of the nation should be ignored, the west coast is merely a good starting point for launching music since there's already an intense spotlight on Southern California acts. College and public radio stations want and strive to be different from mainstream stations, as many deep music fans are bored with short playlists that emphasize songs big on the charts. Several of the stations listed on the west coast map in this video say they welcome musical submissions from indie artists and not just local acts.

As KEXP in Seattle mentions on its website, there are promotional companies that represent artists and send music to all the appropriate radio stations. This action is the main way new artists get their first airplay. But if you don't want to pay someone hundreds of dollars to speak for you, it's still ok to send stations your music on your own. Self promotion is one of the keys to a successful indie music career. The purpose for getting on eclectic stations isn't so much to sell physical units or downloads as it is to build a brand name for the artist. Both college and public radio bring a certain level of credibility that a commercial station can't, as non-commercial radio implies the music is being played for reasons beyond commercialism.

One of the most powerful college radio stations in the nation is KCRW at Santa Monica College. The station covers the Los Angeles market and beyond and is known for giving airplay to countless up and coming artists. While commercial radio relies on rotations and repetition to nurture hits, non-commercial radio does not use hit music as part of its core identity to attract listeners. The non-commercial formatting is more likely to attract listeners who enjoy listening to new or obscure music. One of the keys that ambitious college DJs look for is relevant lyrics that the host can talk about. Songs with deep social concerns are in high demand at educational institutions that broadcast content to enrich lives and expand minds.






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