Songwriters & Radio Play

by SaskMusic

July 29, 2009 in Songwriting & Copyright

Songwriters earn money by licensing their songs and collecting royalties. In this article we're going to look briefly at what radio airplay means to songwriters.

Unless you sign on with a music publisher/publishing house, you are self-published, which means you market and promote your own material, and collect both the songwriter (50%) and publisher share (50%) of any incoming royalties. You may want to register your "music publishing company" under a separate name for business purposes, but it's not absolutely necessary.

SOCAN is the only performing rights society in Canada. They pay royalties out for public performances for, among other things, radio performances broadcast and surveyed by broadcasters licensed by SOCAN. If you are not registered with SOCAN member, you will not get any royalties. It's very easy to become a SOCAN member - you just call and ask for a membership kit, at 1-800-93-SOCAN. It's free.

Let's review how SOCAN and radio royalties work.

You record an album and release it commercially. You send it to SOCAN, registering all of your original songs, and album, in their database. (You are also eligible to register with SOCAN if you regularly perform original songs in certain live settings). If you are not registered with them, you do not get one penny of royalties. Here are some cases which have potential for you to earn royalties from SOCAN:
  • You send your CD to ANY radio station in hopes of airplay;
  • Someone who works at a radio station takes a shine to it and decides to spin it of his own free will (and this does happen, through the CBC especially);
  • Your CD makes its way into a jukebox;
  • You play a club gig where the ticket price is over $6, or a festival setting such as the Flatland Music Festival which pays a fee to SOCAN;
  • You play a concert, opening for someone at The Exchange, The Refinery, the Centre of the Arts or Centennial Hall (wherever the ticket price is more than $6);
  • You appear on television (network, not cable) and perform a song;
  • You do a live performance on radio (network, not community) and perform a song;
Have you ever had someone come up to you and say "Hey, I heard one of your songs on ___________"? If so, there's a good chance you've got royalties coming. (That is, if you registered with SOCAN.)

Sometimes you don't even KNOW you're getting exposure. Maybe your friend in Ontario gave your CD to a friend who works at CHUM, and it's getting played in medium rotation. If you haven't registered with SOCAN, you'll likely never know about it, and you won't receive a dime. If you HAVE registered with SOCAN, maybe you'll get a pleasant $urprise in the mail.

The number is 1-800-55-SOCAN. Their website is located at

However, SOCAN is not the only place you need to register!

Broadcast Data Systems
tracks radio airplay by digitally monitoring more than 1100 radio stations in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Music industry decision-makers: record executives, radio programmers, publishers, licensing companies, retail store managers, promoters and others depend on its reports. Billboard Magazine uses it to compile their airplay charts. Radio programmers use it to see which artists are being played across the country, and may base their decision on whether or not to play your song on "who else is playing it." This applies to Canada, as well as the U.S.

Just like SOCAN, it's free to register your albums.

All product, DAT, CD, vinyl, cassette, and any special mixes, custom, or specific station edits must be submitted to BDS for encoding in order for it to be detected by reporting software.

The address for all submissions is: BDS, 100 NW 101 Terrace, Kansas City, MO, 64153, Attn: Encoding Department.

Provide the following information with your product:
  • Artist Name
  • Song titles, including specific mix names, if applicable
  • Label
  • Radio Format(s) to which you are sending the single (AA-Triple A, AC-Adult Contemporary, AO-Rock, CW-Country, GA-Christian, MR-Modern Rock, RB- R&B, SP-Latin, TF-Top Forty.)
  • Contact Information
  • When sending an entire album, specify priority tracks (i.e., singles)

Monitored Canadian stations are listed below (if you get airplay, but it's not on one these stations, you won't show up on BDS charts). The more airplay you can get on BDS monitored stations, the better your chart standing.

Yes, there is a little paperwork involved. But after all the work you put into writing your songs, recording them, sending them out, and so on, don't you deserve a little something back?

Next time around we'll look at "Songwriters and Performing Live".


Country format:
CFCW, Edmonton
CFMK, Kingston
CFQC, Saskatoon
CFQX, Winnipeg
CHAB, Moose Jaw
CHAM, Hamilton
CHFX, Halifax
CHSJ, Saint John
CICZ, Midland
CISN, Edmonton
CJBX, London
CJJR, Vancouver
CJWW, Saskatoon
CKBY, Ottawa
CKDQ, Drumheller
CKHJ, Fredericton
CKRM, Regina
CKRY, Calgary  
Top 40 format:
CFHK, London
CFMC, Saskatoon
CFXJ, Toronto*
CHAY, Barrie
CHIK , Quebec City
CHIQ, Winnipeg
CHTT, Victoria
CIDC, Toronto
CIGL, Belleville
CING, Toronto
CISS, Toronto
CIZL, Regina
CJFM, Montreal
CJPT, Brockville
CKFM, Toronto
CKGE, Oshawa
CKIK, Calgary
CKKL, Ottawa
CKMF, Montreal
CKMM, Winnipeg
CKNG, Edmonton
CKOI, Montreal
CKTF, Gatineau
CKZZ, Vancouver

Album Rock format:
CFBR, Edmonton
CFEX, Victoria
CFJB, Barrie
CFMI , Vancouver
CFNY, Toronto
CFOX, Vancouver
CFPL, London
CFRQ, Halifax
CFWF, Regina
CFXY, Fredericton
CHEZ, Ottawa
CHOI, Quebec City
CHOM, Montreal
CHTZ, St.Catherines
CIKR, Kingston
CILQ, Toronto*
CIOX, Ottawa
CIRK, Edmonton*
CITI, Winnipeg*
CJAY, Calgary
CJKR, Winnipeg
CJXY, Hamilton
CJZN, Victoria
CKIS, Calgary*
CKKQ, Victoria
CKOM, Saskatoon
CKOO, Montreal
CKQB, Ottawa
CKVX, Vancouver     

Adult Contemporary format:
CFGL, Montreal
CFLY, Kingston
CFMG, Edmonton
CFQR, Montreal
CFWM, Winnipeg
CHFI, Toronto
CHFM, Calgary
CHMX, Regina
CHQM, Vancouver
CHST, London
CHUM-FM, Toronto
CHYM, Kitchener
CIBX, Fredericton
CICX, Orillia
CIEZ, Halifax
CIMF, Hull*
CIOC, Victoria
CIOK, Saint John
CIOO, Halifax
CIQB, Barrie
CIQM, London
CITE, Montreal
CITF, Quebec City
CJEZ, Toronto
CJMF, Quebec City*
CJMJ, Ottawa
CJOJ, Belleville
CKKS, Vancouver
CKLH, Hamilton
CKRA , Edmonton

Stations indicated are "non-chart" meaning they are tracked, but spins on these do not contribute to chart status.

By Lorena Kelly for SaskMusic. Orignally published February/March 2002.

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