Why College Radio is Every Musician’s Best Friend

more music listeners

If you’re trying to get more streams on your music, college radio should absolutely be your first stop. The DJs actually care about your music, the listeners are loyal, and you can find audiences in new cities. What else could you want?

Good music does rise to the top, actually

With no advertisers, college DJs often have much more freedom with the music they program. This means that at many college radios, it really is just about the music. Not how many TikTok followers you have or if you’ve booked any gigs in town—just the quality of your music. As any record label exec, talent buyer, or publicist will tell you, this is rarely the case in the music business. Very rarely is your music alone enough to earn you a platform. So, especially if you’re newer without much of an audience yet, don’t take this for granted! College radio can offer you a chance to share and promote your music when your music is all you have.

1,000 loyal fans are better than 100,000 casual listeners

But who even listens to college radio? Like, four people? Well, there’s probably not as many listeners tuning into your local college station as there is pop radio. But there are certainly more than four people listening, and they’re certainly more dedicated to what they’re hearing than your average pop radio listener. Generally, the people who listen to college radio are actively choosing to do so, rather than passively turning it on to fill silence. They’re seeking out new artists and trust DJs to curate worthwhile music. These are not just potential listeners, but potential fans. And as many people in music will tell you, 1,000 loyal fans are far better than 100,000 casual listeners. So while the quantity of listeners on college radio may vary, the quality of those listeners will be much more valuable to you in the long run. Quality fans don’t translate just to more music streams, but more album sales, more ticket purchases, and more music community.

Expand your audience

While exact programming differs from station to station, many college radios play a mix of local and non-local artists. So if you’re trying to build a following in a city where you don’t yet have one, submitting to that city’s college radios can be a great way to do so. This is again possible because of college DJs’ interest in the quality of your music—it doesn’t matter if you have a local following as long as your song is good. If you want to gig or tour in a new city, start by submitting to the local station! It’s an easy way to access the 18-25 ticket-buying demographic.

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By Mike Powers

Mike is a composer, arranger, and artist manager who writes for Tonic Audio.