How Independent Artists Are Thriving Without Mainstream Radio

In late 2017 I had Spotify on shuffle and came across the smooth and sensual track, “Love N Hennessy” by A.CHAL. A few months later, I heard this bangin’ song on an Atlanta radio station and I paused. I stared at the radio because I was confused. A.CHAL is an independent artist, how could they be playing him and not others? Low and behold, the song features the one and only 2 Chainz. There’s the answer! There’s this misconception that indie artists need mainstream artists and radio play to validate their craft.

Story | Akila Clark

Witnessing this got me thinking about all the great music that gets passed up by mainstream radio stations unless the song is featuring a mainstream artist. How crazy is that? It’s absurd, I tell you. Granted, I could care less about mainstream radio since they replay the same music over and over, *eye roll*. Ten years ago, if you were to ask why indie artist don’t get radio play it would be a simple answer. They aren’t hot enough and don’t have enough buzz.

First of all, this reminds me of how companies won’t hire a college graduate and say, “you don’t have enough experience.” How is an artist supposed to get a buzz if they don’t get played on the radio, huh? Now, fast forward to 2018, that response is completely irrelevant now that independent artists are getting off the chart numbers from internet play alone, selling out tours and opening up for mainstream artists in concert.

There are taboo topics when it comes to the music industry; how artists get mainstream airtime is one of those misconceptions. Some say DJs and station managers choose their songs from a database that shows the hottest songs at the time. There’s also those who believe that stations play whatever they want and encourage artists to submit their tracks. Then, there are rumors, which seem more like facts, that major record labels have relationships and pay a substantial amount of money to have certain artists played on the radio. And of course, the bigger the station the more record labels have to pay. I’m just the messenger.

Some indie artists go years before even seeing their name circulating on the web, let alone get airplay. But it seems that mainstream radio play is becoming less of a concern with independent artists. With Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and YouTube standing by the side of independent musicians, radio play might not even be on the list of top priorities for artists.

A prime example is Chance the Rapper. In May 2016 he released his third mixtape Coloring Book, which had Lil’ Wayne and 2 Chainz featured on one of the most popular tracks, “No Problem. Before this song was released, Chance hadn’t had a lot of mainstream radio play, not that he needed it. Reaching over 840M plays on Spotify alone, Chance, along with other artists, are soaring beyond measure. As mentioned before, A.CHAL’s original “Love N Hennessy” track has over 13M plays on Spotify, while the remix has 3.5M plays. A.CHAL apparently didn’t need the mainstream radio to get off the chart listeners.

It’s mind-blowing when I hear indie and upcoming artists complain about not getting radio play. From the way that I see it, they aren’t missing out on much! Going to online platforms and online radio stations is a way better option. Trust me.

Photo via A.CHAL, Twitter

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