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Indie Musician? Stop Wasting Money On Radio Pluggers

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Indie Musician? Stop Wasting Money On Radio Pluggers
Indie Musician? Stop Wasting Money On Radio Pluggers

After working with unsigned artists for over 10 years it's easy to conclude that paying for radio pluggers is not an effective or cost-efficient way to promote unsigned artists. In this article, we explain why.

Reach & Frequency

Effective advertising is set up to deliver reach & frequency (lots of people, lots of times). This simple formula drives awareness, interest and ultimately sales. It's the reason brand advertising follows you around the Internet, and the reason you see that TV ad over and over again.

As a musician, your song on the radio is your advert, and for your advert to be effective you want lots of people to hear it, lots of times. But herein lies the problem, as an unsigned artist you can't get on daytime radio playlists. The best you can realistically hope for is a one-off spot play. (with or without a radio plugger)

Why is this? Radio station playlists are dominated by signed major label artists for a reason. They want the largest possible audience so they can command the highest possible advertising rates. After all, more people will tune in to hear Beyonce than an unknown, and unsigned artist.

Understanding Radio Reach

At face value, radio remains a powerful medium. Across the UK (all) radio reaches 89% of the total available population, all commercial radio reach reaches 66% and BBC Radio 2 reaches 26%. The adoption of smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home has also had a positive impact with online listening increasing by 1/5 year on year. (These numbers are reported and calculated by Rajar and are accurate to the period ending March 2020).

Set against this backdrop it's very easy to see why radio remains a central part of the record label marketing plan, and why radio pluggers exist. If you can get your artist on the A-List playlist of a station like Radio One or Capital you are guaranteed radio plays across the daytime and evening schedule for weeks, months or even years! Now you have reach and frequency. (lots of plays, lots of listeners lots of times).

Comparing Key National Station Performance

Station Name: BBC Radio One

Reach 8.9m

Reach Percent 16%

Av Hours Per Head 1.0

Av Hours Per Listener 6.2

Listening Share in TSA % 5.6%

Station Name: BBC Radio Two

Reach 14.3m

Reach Percent 26%

Av Hours Per Head 2.9

Av Hours Per Listener 11.2

Listening Share in TSA % 16.3%

Station Name: Capital (Brand)

Reach 7.5m

Reach Percent 14%

Av Hours Per Head 0.7

Av Hours Per Listener 4.9

Listening Share in TSA % 3.7%

Sustained radio support can positively impact other consumption and revenue streams including Downloads, CDs, merchandise, live tickets, streaming income, and sync deals (placement of music in TV, film or games).

For a major label signed artist who has repeated and sustained radio play across the radio schedule, the reach figures reported above are what you get. After all you are part of the daily schedule and your music reaches their weekly listeners.

The Reality For Indie Musicians

Sadly the reality for an unsigned artist is very different.

  1. Most national stations won't consider your music even with a radio plugger

  2. When you only receive spot plays your reach is reduced to only the listeners paying attention for the 3.30minutes when your song is on air, as part of a 12 or 24 hour schedule, a 7 day week and a 30 day month. As an unsigned artist on radio, you are the needle in the haystack.

  3. Your frequency is just one, sadly that is highly unlikely to shift the dial on other consumption or revenue streams. Most listeners won't remember your song, your name and do anything in response to hearing it once.

Unfortunately, we can't show you reach or share figures by individual radio shows, but here are the total numbers for the types of station you are most likely to be considered for as an unsigned artist.

Station Name: BBC 6 Music

Reach 2.5m

Reach Percent 5%

Av Hours Per Head 0.4

Av Hours Per Listener 9.2

Listening Share in TSA % 2.4%

Station Name: BBC London (Local Introducing Station)

Reach 399,000

Reach Percent 3%

Av Hours Per Head 0.2

Av Hours Per Listener 5.5

Listening Share in TSA % 1.1%

Station Name: Radio X

Reach 397,000

Reach Percent 3%

Av Hours Per Head 0.2

Av Hours Per Listener 7.3

Listening Share in TSA % 1.5%

NB. Amazing Radio a station dedicated to new music is too small to feature on RAJAR. The other thing to remember is the fragmentation of media. RAJAR currently collects data on 477 different radio stations, so if you pay over £1,000 to a radio plugger and end up with one play on one station once, it really doesn't make financial sense.

The Alternative to Radio Pluggers

Major Labl creates creative campaigns to promote your music on the channels you can control (social media) rather than the channels you can't control (radio and press). This approach means we can guarantee you reach and frequency. We control the message, the audience, the creative and the time when we share it with the world. By focusing on Facebook, and Instagram we have immediate access to huge global audiences. Our approach drives more engagement and most importantly more listeners via Spotify.

Read more on our home page, sign up up for a free guide or apply to work with us.


  • Reach: the number of people aged 15+ who tune into a radio station within at least one quarter-hour period over the course of a week. Respondents are instructed to fill in a quarter-hour only if they have listened for at least 5 minutes within that quarter-hour.

  • Av Hours Per Head: Average length of time that a person spends listening to the station. Weekly hours/population

  • Av House Per Listener: Average length of time that listeners to a station spend with the station. Weekly hours / weekly reach.

  • Listener share in TSA: Percentage of all radio listening hours that a station accounts for within its transmission area.


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