Before the Internet, only a handful of people could think of having their own radio station.
Today, it is much easier for just about anybody with the right skills to operate their own Internet radio station. Unlike broadcast stations, the Internet variety do not require powerful antennas to transmit radio signals. Instead, you operate over the same Internet lines that you use to surf the web.
The only difference is that you may need more capable Internet connections than those you use for personal purposes. You may also need to set up dedicated servers for higher performance capability.
Platforms like Live365.com provide easy-to-use tools for you to set up your own radio station. This online radio station how to guide will also show you how to set up streaming broadcasts to the Shoutcast and Icecast that many major radio stations use.
In this radio station how to guide, you will learn the kinds of personal skills you will need to operate your own station.
You will also need to consider what type of content you should provide. For example, will you stream retro music, or maybe country or hip hop? You may decide to set up a talk show radio station instead.
The equipment for your radio station
Depending on exactly what you intend on doing, you may already have much or all of the equipment that you will need for your radio start up. Basically, you can do with a dedicated computer to act as a server, an Internet connection, some apps and a microphone.
However, if you want to set up a more competitive radio station, you should at least have these items:
• Microphone and headphone – The microphone does not have to very expensive depending on much you plan on using it. If you want to keep your hands free and to be able to move around while talking, you should consider a headset, i.e., headphones with an attached mic. Keep the microphone close to the mouth to reduce the amount of background noise that it picks up.
• Mixer – A mixer allows you to connect multiple microphones and telephone interfaces to your broadcasting system. All your audio inputs go into the mixer and come out as one combined signal. You may want to find a mixer that accommodates USB or other HD digital cables.
• Headphone amplifier – If you will be having multiple hosts and/or guests on your broadcasts, you should have a headphone amplifier. With this equipment, you can give each person their own headphone with with boosted output for each signal. Mixers often have only a single headphone jack, so you will need the amplifier to boost the signal for each pair of headphones.
• Server – A server is simply a computer that you will dedicate to your Internet radio broadcast. While you could use your regular personal computer, if you plan to own a radio station, you will need a dedicated server to provide acceptable quality. The computer should have ample RAM memory, processing power and similar features because serving a radio signal can consume significant hardware resources.
• Internet connection – Your regular Internet connection probably will not suffice for your radio station. Think of having at least a 56 Kbps stream to provide your listeners with good audio quality.
• Computer connection – If your mixer does not have a computer-compatible interface, then you will need a USB or other interface that will allow you to connect the two devices so that you can pump the audio from the mixer into your computer.
• Telephone interface – A telephone interface allows you to take calls from your audience. Obviously, this is vital for Internet radio talk shows. For music stations, it is optional, but many of your competitors will probably be accepting calls. If you only plan to take a call at a time, then you can use a single-line hybrid. To deal with multiple callers on hold, then you will need a talk show system with multiple lines. These systems may require that you install separate analog phone lines at your radio station location. Make sure that your mixer can properly handle “mix-minus” signals if you are using analog phone lines.
• Internet radio apps – The simplest way to stream music is to use a web streaming service like Ustream.tv or Justin.tv. These services allow you to send your audio input to the service’s web servers in MP3 format. When you are done live broadcasting, you have the option of hooking up your YouTube playlists to provide listeners with content on a 24/7 basis. For something more sophisticated, you will need apps that allow you to choose and organize music files quickly and that will convert your audio feed into streaming format. Winamp is an example of a music-playing app while Edcast is a audio conversion app. You can use such a setup to create a live stream to services like Icecast. Shoutcast offers a free plugin that you can download to convert your audio into a format for their Internet radio broadcast.
Personal skills required to own a radio station
If you will be handling all the tasks at your Internet radio station on your own, then you will need to have DJ, management and all the other skills required for your station’s operation.
In a traditional radio station, you will have individuals working as DJs, radio station engineers, station managers, ad sales people, etc. However, many Internet radio stations do not have the cash flow to hire such employees.
An Internet radio DJ or host must have good speaking skills that will vary in their requirements depending on the type of broadcast. For talk shows, more conventional voice and verbal skills will usually suffice. The requirements may be different for DJs that will offer hip hop or jazz music. However, in all cases, the person must have a clear confident voice and must be quick on their feet when it comes to speaking.
The DJ must be familiar with the music genres involved, and they must know how to use the various apps for selecting and organizing song files and for converting audio into streaming format. All of this can be difficult for a single person to handle.
Generally, it is better to have experience before attempting to stream a radio broadcast. However, there are also classes that you can take to learn the ins and outs of the business. Speech classes can help with improving the speaking voice.
Many DJs work as apprentices at radio stations in order to acquire their skills. The good thing about the Internet is that you can practice broadcasts privately before you go live. Ask friends and family to act as guests for your practice talks shows or music broadcasts.
Record the broadcasts so that you can analyze your performance later. Try to use realistic situations that will mimic the rush and stresses of an actual live broadcast in which just about anything can go wrong.
A good radio DJ or talk show host must be able to stay positive no matter what types of personal situations they may be facing. Your audience will expect quality air shows regardless of how your private life may be going at the moment.
Setting up your servers
You can choose to use your home or garage as your radio station, or you can select some other location including a colocation provider.
Colocation services allow you to install your hardware at the provider’s location that includes the communication hookup, power and other infrastructure needed for server operations. Some colocation providers will also allow you to lease powerful servers in case you need juiced-up equipment that you cannot afford to buy.
Your Internet connection should provide at least about 56 kbps although you will want something in the area of 192 kbps for high quality streaming. However, you can use radio-streaming services to make up for any inadequacies in your Internet connection.
In this instance, all you need is a connection acceptable to the radio-streaming provider. Once they receive your broadcast, they buffer it a bit and then send it out over their powerful dedicated communication lines.
You will need to pay for dedicated radio streaming, but you also have other free options on Shoutcast and Icecast. When you a free radio server, they will place ads on your stream rather than billing you directly.
If you do not use a external radio streamer, then you will need to have a dedicated home Internet connection or a powerful colocation connection. Icecast and Shoutcast have software that you can download to set up your home or office servers.
Once you have your server up and running, you will need to install your music playing software like Winamp. Also install your audio conversion app like the Edcast Winamp plugin. Hook up all your audio equipment including microphones, headsets, amplifier, mixer and telephone interfaces. Make sure you have the right software settings for your equipment. If you are using Shoutcast or Icecast, you will need to configure their apps to include setting the encoder type, i.e., MP3 or AAC.
Connect your server to the Internet, and you will be ready to broadcast. However, before launching your radio station, there are some other matters to take care of.
Firstly, you want to ensure that you are operating on firm legal ground so that no one sues you for copyright or other violations. You will need a license if you want to use other people’s music, shows or words. If you plan to have advertising, you may also need additional licenses depending on your state and local regulations.
Rather than paying each recording company for each song you play, you can obtain licenses from services like Live365.com that will allow you to pay a monthly fee for musical content. The amount of the fee will vary depending on factors like your audience size.
If you are playing indie music, then you may only need to get permission from the bands and artists. In most cases, they probably need the exposure, and they will be thankful that you played their music for free. Some artists even advertise their music for free distribution on services like Creative Commons. In such cases, you only need to provide the required attribution each time you play the song.
Most Creative Commons licenses allow you play music so long as you do not sell the songs. Generally, it is okay of you have advertisements on your station although you may want to read the fine print of the license to make sure.
Promote your station before launch
The worst thing you can do is to launch your radio broadcast with no one listening. Before your first song or talk show, make sure that you have done proper marketing and promotion.
Send out a press release announcing the launch of your station. List the station on appropriate websites and blogs. Set up as many social media profile pages for your station as possible well before launch time.
You can use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to increase the number of visitors to your websites and social networking pages. You can easily find SEO guides using the major search engines. Try to arrange interviews with existing talks shows and web publications to help get the word out.
Of course, you want to make sure that all your family, friends and associates will be tuning into your initial broadcast.
Using this guide on how to start your own radio station, you should be able to get off on the right foot. Of course, maintaining a viable station will take a lot of work and perseverance. Study what successful Internet stations do to keep people listening to their broadcasts. Do not be afraid to incorporate some of their methods and techniques in addition to innovating your own.