A broadcast mixer in a radio station

music libraries music for radio

Where do radio stations get their music?

Music for radio stations: Free and paid services every radio DJ should know about.

Is your station playing popular international music? Sourcing everything locally is not always easy. Big labels and artists can’t reach out to all but the most important global media brands, leaving out smaller stations. Therefore, station mangers and music directors have to rely on alternative sources for their music to keep up with the competition.

Music for radio stations

Whether you are running a terrestrial radio station or you are an Internet-only radio, such as Live365, Citrus3 or Radio.co stations, these are the most important sources of broadcast music every radio DJ should to know about:

Direct from the music industry

Recording studio

The easiest way to get music for your radio station is directly from the local record labels and music promoters. The music obtained this way is provided free, because you will be promoting that label’s artist roster. It is a win-win for both the music industry and the radio business.

Reaching out to local labels shouldn’t be difficult. If you are not already in their promo list, a friendly introductory email would suffice. Tell them that you want to receive their music catalogue and would like to be included in their new releases mailing list. Most of the time, labels and promoters will be more than happy to include you. After all, you will be promoting their artists to your listeners for free.

Professional music services for broadcasters

Relying on local sources, is not always sufficient. That’s where professional music services come in.

Radio Exclusive is a music service for professional broadcasters, distributing popular music internationally. Records are delivered via 4 different music formats and bespoke services are also provided. Music is delivered via digital MP3 downloads, as well as broadcast quality WAV files without sound compression. The service works with licensed terrestrial and on-line radio stations. Music archives and past libraries are also available.

Westwood One is another radio network offering services to radio stations. They specialise in syndicated talk shows, music shows, and sports programming. It is particularly prominent in sports radio, distributing the CBS Sports Radio network and holding various play-by-play rights, including the NFL’s main radio package.

Music services for the general public

Popular music services for the general public can be an excellent source for your music library. The only downside is that sound compression is almost always involved and at times it may be too low for a quality HD broadcast.

Music streaming services

Streaming services

Spotify and Tidal are popular music services that allow streaming of popular songs straight from their platform. This can be in the browser or via a downloaded application. Connecting this to radio playout systems should be trivial for most seasoned radio professionals. Tidal, a service heavily promoted by rapper Jay-Z, stands out in this category because they allow streaming of uncompressed music.

Apple Music and Amazon Music are popular alternatives to Tidal and Spotify.

The downside to these streaming services is that you cannot download music to your computer in the classical sense. Many of them provide “offline music”, however music remains encrypted on your hard drive and you can only play it via a proprietary software.

Free streaming services

Soundcloud and Mixcloud logos

Many artists promote their music on free music sharing websites. Popular sites in this category are Soundcloud and Mixcloud. Mixcloud features many independent DJ mixes and shows.

Music via digital downloads

Another major source of broadcast music can be classical digital downloads. They can be in MP3 or FLAC uncompressed format. Popular place that sells digital music is the Amazon store.

Music licensing

Don’t forget to license your music. Music purchased via any of the methods mentioned above, does not come with a broadcast license. These licenses are granted by local authorities in the country where your radio station is based and where your intended audience is located. Public performance authorities collect royalties and distribute that revenue accordingly. This is to ensure artists and music producers get paid for the songs that they make.

If you are an Internet radio station, you need to have a broadcast license for Internet broadcasting purchased separately. Internet radio services, such as Citrus3 and Radio.co, do not deal with music licensing on your behalf. On the other hand, Live365 stations are automatically licensed to play commercial music for the territories of U.S.A., Canada and U.K.

If you are based in the U.S. you should reach out to ASCAP and BMI, PRS in the UK, SOCAN in Canada and SACEM in France.