Calling into Radio Stations: Facts, Fiction, and Tips


October 7, 2012 by Cory

Have you ever listened to a radio station when they ask for the 25th caller and thought to yourself, “Is it even possible to get through if I tried to call?”  Well, I am here to tell you that it most certainly is!  On more than twenty occasions, I have been the 8th, 10th, 25th, 102nd, or whatever other number caller to win concert tickets, gift certificates, cash prizes, and even vacations.  Even more often that than, I have called in, made it through the busy signals, and was the wrong number caller.  Now, please know that I do not sit around all day long (especially during a work day) waiting to call in.  Most of these contests I have won have been prior to or after work.  Here are a few tips to help you get through (and the right number!):

1.  Pre-program whatever radio station phone number into your phone, thus saving you time later looking up the phone number and making it much easier to redial.

2.  Make sure that you are listening to an actual radio or test it ahead of time to ensure that there is not a delay when streaming online or using a radio phone app.

3.  Don’t start calling until they ask for the calls to start as they will not start taking calls until then.  But if you know to call at a certain time, you can always try calling then even if you are not near a radio, though again, you might find that they have not started taking calls yet.

4.  Be prepared to redial over and over again.  Be in a place with a good connection where it doesn’t take 10 seconds to connect with the phone number.  If possible, use a cell phone in one hand and a land line phone in the other hand.  This takes practice!

5.  Recognize that some radio staff will answer the phones right away and others will wait a minute or two before starting to answer calls.  When you think you may be caller 25, you really may be one of the first five callers.  Also, some radio staff answer very fast while others may be slower and even have conversations with the wrong callers.

6.  While several times during the day the radio personalities will ask for random callers to give prizes to, other times will be pre-announced with a “song of the day,” a “code word,” or a special time where they will ask for a particular caller.  If you are very excited about a particular prize, follow the radio station’s website, Facebook page, or Twitter page.

7.  Often, radio stations plan their contests for when there is a lull in listeners.  For instance, during the weekends, there are often concert tickets or tickets to local events.  There is less competition making it easier to get through and be the correct caller.

8.  For some contests, you will enter online to have your name called on the air.  If you hear your name and call back within a length of time, you will win a BIG prize.  That’s how I won a Disneyland vacation, a chance to “break the bank” to win up to $20,000, and a chance for a big “office lunch party” (and in case you are wondering, I did not win the $20,000 or the lunch party, but I got nice consolation prizes).  Make deals with friends that if you hear their names, you will let them know, and perhaps they will do the same for you.

9.  If you make it through on the radio, there is a delay of a few minutes (or longer) before you will hear yourself on the radio (or at the very least, someone congratulating you on your win).

10.  Occasionally, radio stations participate in national promotions where you will call into a toll-free number.  Often, certain phones will be unable to connect.  I have never figured out why this is the case.  While I have successfully called into an XM radio station toll free number, I have yet to make it through to a toll free radio or newspaper contest number.  Don’t let this frustrate you.

So…set your favorite radio station as a pre-set phone number on your cell phone and start listening.  Then get prepared to call in and WIN!


17 thoughts on “Calling into Radio Stations: Facts, Fiction, and Tips

  1. Bev says:

    Will a station have what they call a cue where the calls are set aside and answered in numbered sequence. Tried on a contest where the number was given on the radio so no one could pre program into phone. This was busy signals right from the beginning. So myth are you to far from the station or land line verses cell phone reception. Please advise.

    • Cory says:

      Sorry, Bev! I didn’t realize the comments were being moderated. Stations typically let so many callers into the queue and then answer their multiple phones/lines in numerical order though there’s a lot of trust that you have to place on the radio station to really answer the “95” callers before they select “caller 96” or something of the sort. The larger stations (Clear Channel, Bonneville, CBS, etc.) have always done this though it’s difficult to say whether or not stand-alone stations really do this and play fair. It’s more fun to always assume they do though. I do find that calling from a land line typically works better than a cell phone. Then again, I’ve been able to call into a station to win while I was half-way between Phoenix and Tucson in the middle of no-where with minimal reception before, so the distance shouldn’t matter from that experience. I did have difficulty using a cell phone for a national call-in contest (1-877) where I asked to call back from a land line. Please let me know if you have follow-up questions. I plan to get this site up and running again in the coming weeks. Thanks for posting!

  2. Cory says:

    What do you do when you get a busy tone? Hang up and try again? Or remain on the line?

    • Cory says:

      Great question, Cory! Very rarely will someone get right through the first time. You’ll need to make good use of a fast redial button and be patient. In fact, you may get a busy signal the first five calls and then it may ring and VOILA, you’re caller #9. Just note that some stations answer very quickly and others very slowly, so you may need only a few calls or literally dozens of calls to be the correct caller number. The only time you’ll want to just remain on the phone is when the phone is ringing.

  3. Debbie says:

    one of the radio personalities on one of the local stations asks who is calling before indicating what number caller you are; when I initially called, he said I was caller three and then when I got through the second time, he asked who was calling and after identifying myself, he stated that I am a different number caller – none of the other radio personalities ask your identity unless you are the correct number caller; it appears as though he is picking and choosing the winner; do you see any other reason why he would act this way

    • Cory says:

      Interesting question! I’ve called into stations where they sometimes ask who was calling to get mess with me (or other callers). They make it sound like we’re the correct caller, and after we say who we are, they say that we are “almost” the right caller. I have yet to find a radio station that picks and chooses who they want to win. It’s possible though for the independent stations though I doubt the companies like IHeartRadio, CBS Radio, etc. would do anything like that. Just keep dialing…!

      • Debbie says:

        the DJ didn’t ask my name when I got through as caller 3 so it made be very suspicious, especially since this has happened a couple other times with the same DJ

      • Cory says:

        Right. They sometimes wait until they’re close to the correct number to start “messing” with callers. Then again, that’s only on some radio stations that they even ask a name if you’re not the correct caller.

      • Debbie says:

        none of the other DJs on that station or any other station I listen to ask for your name unless you are the correct caller; thank you so much for your input and for replying so quickly

  4. I find certain DJs ask for the name before they tell you what caller you are. i think they are screening the callers. I don’t think that’s right. I think they filtering out winners.

    • Cory says:

      I completely agree that it is not right for a DJ to filter out winners, I do know that part of their role as a DJ is to provide entertainment for listeners. I find on IHeartMedia (previously ClearChannel) and CBS Radio stations, they have certain standards where the DJs always follow their own rules. But they also spice up the broadcast by putting callers in suspense. For instance, they may ask your name and then say you are calling 14 (when you were in fact caller 14 and trying to be caller 15). They then take the next caller and ask for your name before saying you are the lucky caller 15. Though there’s always a chance an independent radio station is indeed filtering out winners though I’m guessing few stations would risk this (as it would cause listeners to lose trust in them). Just my two cents though!

  5. Kris says:

    If you are familiar with Kost 103.5 will you be kind enough to give me advice. Im not sure whether to call right when they do the cue mark or wait a few seconds then start calling.. please help

    • Cory says:

      Great question, Kris! I’m not familiar with KOST 103.5 directly though it is a iHeartRADIO station, which have a good reputation, especially with how they run their contests. I’d recommend trying it right on the cue mark and having a good redial button. Make sure you are listening to the live radio and not streaming online as there is a delay. Good luck!

  6. Melanie Qadir says:

    I have tried and tried, my cell phone as more than a 5 second delay. wondering if I need to step outside and try to call? I haven’t been able to get through even once! I really want the disneyland tickets that my local station is giving away. Any tips? I keep getting a busy signal and I keep trying and trying. I wanna win once!

    • Cory says:

      Depending on where you are and how you are listening, you may need to plan accordingly. Yes, inside certain buildings, I find that a cell phone may take a few seconds to even start dialing, making it difficult to redial as many times as a land line or even a cell phone with better signals to dial out. Also, make sure you are also listening to an actual radio and not streaming online as streaming often has a delay of a minute or two. Nowadays, most people seem to stream vs. listening to an actual radio. Some radio apps work as if you are listening live to the radio, too. Hope this helps!

  7. Audie Lee says:

    Several times when I was calling the station it would ring over ten times and then a recording would say something. Does this mean someone was already chosen; why did a recorded voice come on?

    • Cory says:

      Audie, that’s an interesting question! From past experience, sometimes a cell phone or a land line do not connect properly when so many people are calling in at one time. So it doesn’t necessary mean that a winner was already chosen, especially if they are looking for caller #95. On the other hand, if they are looking for caller #8, there is a good chance that a winner was chosen in 30 seconds or less. Unfortunately, I do not know what a recording would come on when most stations will call out your number when they answer the phone (ie. you’re caller #1, you’re caller #5, or you’re caller #8 our winner). After the winning caller is determined, any future callers are typically ignored with the phone lines ringing and ringing (without a recording). Or sometimes they will answer and say “we already found our winner”.

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