College Radio: The Most Important Radio Level for Musicians

For the self-promoting independent artist, the idea of taking on a radio promotion campaign can, in itself, become overwhelming. But, this idea is usually based on such artists attempting to obtain worldwide airplay on a local budget.

And, in doing so, self-promoting independent artists quickly discover another factor not usually considered previously... that engaging in a worldwide radio promotion campaign translates to hundreds and, possibly, thousands of CD units for media contacts alone.

As you can see, this can also quickly become a nightmare for indie artists, particularly, if the promotion budget only allows for the purchase of 1,000-CD packages at a time.

Starting in the 1980's, college radio became a dominant force in not only discovering independent recording artists, but also in introducing new artists to the general public. Hundreds of these particular artists have gone on to become established 'household' names.

Likewise, the college radio level has a continued history of presenting, practically, all forms of music, much of which would never see the proverbial light of day at the commercial radio level and, in many cases, neither at the non commercial level.

Therefore, if an artist has limited funds for radio promotion, it is highly advisable that the he begin exclusively with college radio for the following reasons:

* Far easier and faster access to airwaves

* Far more plentiful specialty and mix shows and programs

* Greater chances for both in-studio and telephone interviews to promote music releases

* More possibilities for station ID checks for further publicity

* Corresponding college campus newspapers that will more readily accept and support music aired on their campus stations for creating a campus-wide buzz

* A ready and built-in market in the campus community for repeated live performances to further support and supplement campus airplay and campus press coverage

* An opportunity for grassroots distribution through supplying both campus bookstores and campus music stores with music releases

Is the college market a viable market for your music sales?

Though the question is rhetorical in nature, please review the below U. S. college population statistics:

* There are 631 public 4-year colleges and universities that have a combined student population of 6,236,455.

* There are also 1,835 private 4-year colleges and universities with a combined student population of 3,440,953.

* Additionally, there exists 1,081 public 2-year colleges with a combined student population of 5,996,701.

* Even further, 621 private 2-year colleges host another 253,878 students.

This brings the average U. S. student population total to a whopping 15,927,987 minimum every year. And, more people are attending some form of higher education than ever before.

Now, even the least popular music genres are certain to find a financial comfort zone with a market of almost 16 million unique principals.

So, what results could really popular commercial music genres experience, simply by working the various entities of the college market, i.e., campus radio, campus press, campus bookstores, campus music stores, campus live performances? Quite pleasant ones, I would suspect.

But, remember! The above statistics only reference the United States college/university potential listenership. College radio also has a respectable portion of listeners who are *not* students.

Add to that, listeners of college radio who strictly listen to the streaming portion of college radio online, and who may, or may not, be in the college's geographical area, i.e., military service members.

Plus, there is lot more of the college market abroad, of which U. S.-based artists would do well to approach English- speaking nations first, i.e., United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, subsequently, moving into additional nations.

While it may (or may not) be true that it is possible for commercial radio stations to be the primary driving force behind most retail sales, that theory may not be so valid today, given the fact that:

* With the Internet, artists are no longer required to sell millions of CDs to make a great living financially

* Artists have greater and easier access to far more radio stations (broadcast, satellite, internet, college)

* With the college community, and all of its combined promotion and sales aspects (radio, bookstores, music stores, live performances), if conducted correctly, the college market campaign can equalize and, in some cases, even supersede commercial radio results. ______________________________________________

[---Additional Statistics---]

Top 10 College Enrollment:

Miami-Dade College (51,717)
University of Texas at Austin (50,616)
Ohio State University (48,477)
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (46,597)
University of Florida (46,516)
Arizona State University (45,693)
Texas A&M University (44,618)
Michigan State University (44,227)
University of Wisconsin Madison (40,912)
Pennsylvania State University at University Park (40,828)

(The above figures were reported in Almanac 2004-2005, published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, August 27, 2004.) ______________________________________

What College Students Spend on Music:

According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, college students spend $200 billion...that's right...BILLION dollars per year, with 76% of the students having spent $2,746,000 on music alone.

Note: As an added advantage, the self-promoting independent artist should also create an Internet radio promotion campaign simultaneously, since most 'net stations are accepting of MP3 files for airplay, thus, reducing packaging and shipping costs of CDs to stations.

You have permission to publish this article electronically or in print, free of charge, as long as the bylines are included. A courtesy copy of your publication would be appreciated.

About the Author:

Kenny Love is president of, a radio promotion, media publicity and music business/career firm for musicians. He is also the author of "Explosive CD $ales Tips," as well as publisher of The B# Newsletter, a highly informative music business resource. Visit his website at

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