Why Radio (Still) Favors the Major Labels

“Radio, suckers never play me” – Public Enemy, Rebel Without A Pause


Public Enemy were complaining about radio airplay way back in 1988. Since then, we have seen a great deal change in how music is created, disseminated, and enjoyed, yet radio airplay is still a problem for indie artists.

There was once a time when smaller local radio stations would let their DJs take risks and play songs from artists outside the charts. However, as radio stations were bought out by corporations, these outlets disappeared, leaving very few places willing to play indie artists.

So, why don’t these large radio stations give indie artists a chance to get heard?

Like many things, it all comes down to money.


Commercial radio stations get their revenue from advertising. Most of this advertising comes from ad agencies who base their decision to advertise on ‘Cost Per Point (CPP).’ This is a factor that is worked out based on how many thousands of listeners tune in over a 15-minute period.

So, it follows that, as a radio station, the greater your CPP rating, the more likely advertisers will want to spend their money with you.

To maximize the number of listeners, radio directors will tend to avoid ‘untested’ (re indie) releases. Instead, they opt for music that is already doing well in national charts such as from radio, records, broadcast data, and Billboard.

Major labels have an advantage in these charts as they not only have larger promotional budgets than many indie labels but also have built up strategic alliances with the people behind these charts.

This creates a cyclical situation where the charts determine what gets played and the airplay promotes greater chart success, which means more airplay, and so on.

However, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to break in and get yourself heard as an indie artist…


By using the Internet to side-step radio and blow your song up, there will come a point where radio can’t ignore you any longer.

As with much of the modern-day music business, this means creating your own audience and following. If you can grow this to a strong level, you will catch the attention of radio, record labels and so on.

While there are some radio stations (particularly online) who will give indie artists a chance, don’t expect any hand-outs. It is best to try and make your own noise and let the radio catch on…

AM(HOME)*Prod. Native – JIMMY

Aladdin ft. Pharrell Williams – Ant Clemons