Forget radio airplay, do this instead

A heart to heart with an upcoming musician.


"Really, forget radio. Radio airplay is not as important for your career as you always think it is. Music radio in the current format is quickly facing a slow death..."

Really, forget radio. Radio airplay is not as important for your career as you always think it is. Music radio in the current format is quickly facing a slow death. If you really want to build your career as a musician, forget radio. Outrageous as this seems, this is important to understand.

You need to learn to focus on the things you can control. Things that will propel your music career to the next level. There are musicians who have build their careers outside radio. Think of any hit song in the past 3 to 5 years that you have heard and celebrated. I doubt you will say the first time you heard that hit song was on radio. Songs do not break on radio like they used to in the past. The role of radio in the careers of musicians that are not signed or associated with the majors is almost negligible to say the least. In recent years, only few musicians had their careers made or propelled by radio. To the contrary, radio stations look for good content in the streets. If it is a hit song on the streets, be it online or offline, they will get it on radio.

Another myth you need to dispel is that for you to start earning from your music you must make a hit song. I encourage you to make good quality music but do not despair if it does not go viral. You do not have to have a viral song to start earning from your music. Make sure you build a fanbase that consistently interacts with you and loves your music. Do not lose them. Your fans will introduce your music to other people who will become your fans. There are big artists whose songs have not gone viral but still command respect and earn very well. In fact, some of their songs have gone platinum a few times.

So, how should you earn an income and promote your music. There are 3 opportunities that every artist can use to generate a living from their music, and these are:

a) Royalty payments. Royalty payments are dependent on airplay, ask any artist when last they got their royalty pay-outs and how much they have made from them. You will be disappointed. They are hardly their biggest revenue source. Occasionally you could make good money but generally royalty payments because of radio airplay from a non-major affiliated artist are nothing to write home about.

b) Gigs. Gigs are your best bet to generating revenue when you are still building your brand. I would advise that your effort should be made to ensure that you win in this area. This is where most of the musicians make money. You must be intentional about building that space. If your music is popular and you have a considerable fanbase you should be earning something here.

c) Endorsements - you would be forgiven to think that these are reserved for the select few. In this category you must demonstrate value and brand-fit amongst the many considerations. The fact that you have 1 million followers, and 600 000 daily engagement does not automatically qualify you for an endorsement, however they are a good start. At the most basic level, brands want to know what your brand represents. They want to know if your brand is aligned to their brand, whether you have the required influence (mostly engagements) and whether collaborating with you will give them something they cannot get themselves without your help. These are some of the factors that determine whether a brand endorses you or not.

You must accept one thing; radio is not as important in your career. In fact, forget radio, do this instead:

a) You need to build your brand. You need to understand your values and what you stand for. Believe me, somebody is looking for content that you produce. A brand is bigger than social media profile and the social media following. Social media is a very important component of building a brand but not the only thing. Understand what makes you different, your behaviour and mannerisms. The things that are important to you. This is the first step of building a strong brand. Someone once said your brand is what people think of you when you are not there.

b) Build your credibility on the streets by seeking free gig opportunities to show case what you can do. A 5-minute slot here and there and make it count.

c) Share your music on music sharing platforms like, obtain statistics, assess where your fans are and start looking for performance opportunities in the areas where your music is most consumed. Learn the importance of using data to propel your career.

d) Share your music freely through music links on various social media platforms, WhatsApp groups, music groups on Facebook, Tiktok and Instagram. The reason you do this is to build a fanbase and allow people to know your offering. People do not necessary buy or stream music from artists that they do not know.

e) You need to dominate online and win, do not buy fake followers. Build from the ground up. Build real fans that love what you do and engage with your content. Learn from those that are doing well.

f) Take note of the feedback that you get from these platforms. Do not only share once, keep on sharing.

g) Make music videos. Make sure you use a company that is experienced with TV submissions and are already getting TV airplay. it takes on average 5 music videos for an upcoming artist to get recognition and meaningful bookings.

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