Do Artists Get Paid When Their Songs Are Played on the Radio?

Even in today’s internet-driven world where streams, TikTok, Instagram stories and YouTube seem to dominate social chatter and turn musicians with no following into stars, traditional radio remains one of the most effective and popular channels for music promotion. It’s a fantastic way to introduce millions of strangers to the art you’ve created, potentially making fans out of anyone who happens to be tuning in to the right station at the right time.

While promotion is great, making money is still crucial for so many acts, as funds are often tight for up-and-coming artists. Many singers, songwriters, rappers and players, especially those just getting started, wonder how much cash they can earn when their tunes are played on the radio. It’s an important question, and one that pops up quite a lot…and it’s one we can certainly help you answer.

In‌ ‌This‌ ‌Article:‌ ‌

  • Who Gets Paid From Radio?
  • How Much Money Do Artists Make When Their Songs Are Played?
  • Why Should You Consider Radio As A Promotional Tool?
  • Use Radio To Grow

Who Gets Paid From Radio?

Many times, when people hear a smash hit on the radio, they tend to think, “Wow, this artist must be making a ton of money!” The fact that an artist’s music is played many times a day for several weeks, months or even years doesn’t necessarily mean that they are making bank. As a matter of fact, the reality is, sadly, often the opposite. As things in the music industry stand today, artists whose music is played on radio stations don’t always get paid, other than the “exposure,” which is a word too many artists are tired of hearing.

If you are a songwriter, you will likely be paid what are known as royalties every time your song is broadcast on the radio. This is because U.S copyright law protects the work of the composer, making him or her the primary recipient of dividends stemming from radio promotion. In other words, as the person who actually wrote and composed the track, you are entitled to compensation every time the radio station plays your song.

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Photo by Nicholas Githiri from Pexels

On the other hand, if you are only a performer – lead singer, backup singer, or the player of some instrument – you will not be paid a cent, regardless of how many times “your” song hits the airwaves. This has been the subject of intense debate over the years and still generates discussion, especially among performing artists.

Things are different when it comes to internet radio. Normally, internet radio pays everybody, including composers, singers, and performers. While some may argue that their payment formulas are convoluted at best, they still offer something traditional radio can’t: payment to the artist regardless of who composed the song. Sure, the payout rates aren’t great, but wouldn’t you rather make something as opposed to nothing at all?

Still have questions about how money and radio works? Give us a call (323) 952-5050

How Much Money Do Artists Make When Their Songs Are Played?

Actually breaking down how much artists earn per play, how it comes to them, and everything connected to money and radio spins is incredibly complicated, and it could require a completely separate article. If you want to dive into the numbers and the many, many technicalities, here are some organizations that explain this difficult field fairly well.

SoundExchange and BMI


Why Should You Consider Radio As A Promotional Tool?

Sure, making money is important, nobody can argue that point, but it isn’t the main purpose of radio for the vast majority of musicians, and if you’re just launching your music career, don’t think of radio as a moneymaker. Instead, try to reframe it in your mind as an incredible promotional platform and a unique opportunity to engage with your fan base in ways other media can’t match. The immediacy and impact radio can have over a specific demographic creates an excellent opportunity to get your music out there.

Another reason why you should always include radio in your marketing and promotional efforts is its ability to generate buzz. If you deliver a notable musical performance, you are likely to impact people and reach potential fans every time the radio station plays your music. People go viral all the time and impressive streaming numbers are always helpful to see, but nothing makes a hit like radio. When a group of people are listening to the radio and it’s blaring a smash they love…there just isn’t anything like that feeling.

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The fact that you may not receive payment for your radio exposure – unless you are the composer of the song – doesn’t mean you should discard the idea of reaching out to radio stations. A knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled music promotion team can help you get your music played on the radio and reach your musical goals. Hey wait, we have one of those!


Use Radio To Grow

Try to remember that every little win in your music career can lead to something else. If even just one station starts playing your latest single, you can work with your radio team and your press representatives to create a story that you’re on the rise. Earning plays, even just a few, can be the start of something big, and every spin is meaningful. 

Take to your social media accounts and tell your fans to request your song at their local station, or let the world know that some DJs and programmers are selecting your latest to spin. Every little bit of good news can become even better in time!

Also, if the team working your song to radio notices that certain college stations are loving it, maybe that’s a sign your band needs to tour in that area? Perhaps your booking person (or maybe that’s just you) can make some calls and get you on stage in front of an audience that’s already identified themselves as very much into your new cut. Or maybe it’s time to spend a little bit more on your marketing and advertising in that city to boost your profile and reach an audience that has already heard you!

If you think you’re ready to launch a radio campaign for your new song or album, don’t waste another moment. Let’s start talking today! (323) 952-5050