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Broadcast Yourself: Starting An Internet Radio Station

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Introduction

There are advantages of operating a broadcast station, but the process required to obtain a broadcast license is complex and costly. A lot of stations now start out as Internet stations.

You may find it surprising, that it is not that difficult or costly to start your own audio stream.

In this Hub, I will discuss what is needed, and how to find a server to stream your audiocast.


Decide On Programming

The first thing you should do is to decide on your programming type and audience.

This is important, because without knowing this, you will not know what you need to continue.

Will your programming be mostly talk, or have some music?

If it is music, what kind?

Also keep in mind that any music you play may be subject to copyright and royalties. It is not a lot for Internet stations, but make sure you have a budget for it. Although, it is not often enforced, you may be called on it, and have to pay for the music. Be prepared.

Also, if you are broadcasting music, you will need a higher bitstream. You will have to make sure you find a server that can handle it.

This will be discussed later.

Script Outlines and Playlists

The best thing to do is to make your audiocast sound professional, even if it isn't.

I always scrip my shows before I go live. It reduces the chances of mistakes, and reduces the number of "Ummmm" and "Ahhhh". Before I started scripting, I did a lot of this. I did not realize how annoying it was, until I listened to one of my own shows. Try to avoid it.

Decide what you are going to say. This is called "announcer banter". Write out outlines of what you would like to talk about. These outlines are known in the industry as logs. Make it interesting. People listening to you don't really care what you did on the weekend. Unless, something interesting or unusual happened. Also, when writing your outline, remember to write as if your audience is on the same intelligence level as you. Never talk "down" to people. Talk to them as you would your own friends.

Find an interesting style. Nobody wants to hear a monotone, boring voice, or a constant complainer. However, there is "creative complaining". When I hosted radio programs in the past, I was known for my sarcasm. People would actually listen to my show to hear my sarcastic comments. This does not work for everyone. "Creative complaining" is an art that not everyone can do. Practice with different things, and find what works for you.

Your log should have time points. At this time, you should know how long your program is going to be, so you should have it timed on your log.

Once you have your log done, you need to add the other elements of your broadcast into it, so it all makes sense. For example, if you are talking about a movie, follow it with a song from the movie.

You should also add breaks and program idents.

Program IDs can be produced in advance using audio editing software.

Breaks can be paid adverts or public service announcements. In most cases, you will use public service announcements, called PSA for short. The procedure for running paid ads is very complex, requires legal agreements, and some host servers - especially free ones - do not allow them. When you are starting your station for the first time, stick with PSA breaks only.

Music should be listed on your log, but the actual music (title) to be played, is never on your log. It is on a separate sheet, called a playlist.

Here is an example of an actual log from one of my previous audiocasts:

3:42/33:12 [Music, line 6 on playlist 2]

1:30/34:42 [Banter] Talk about a negative experience with food delivery

0:10/34:52 [Banter under music] Short weather report, Current temp. and condition only

--- Throw to current music -->

3:02/37:54 [Music, line 7 on playlist 2]

0:30/38:24 [PSA] Kids Help Phone

0:30/38:54 [PSA] Youths Rule

1:00/39:54 [PSA] Canadian Diabetes Association

0:15/40:09 [Station ID]

4:11/44:20 [Music, line 8 on playlist 2]

--------------

Your playlist should have the song title, artist, length (should match log), and location (directory/filename) if MP3, or CD, tape, LP number if on a physical media.

Finding A Host Server

You will next need to find a host server to stream into.

There are a lot, and some are free, some charge a monthly fee.

I suggest going for one that is free to start. As you gain more listeners, you may want to opt for a premium service, as these offer advantages such as more simultaneous listeners (streams), higher bitrates (better quality), and Auto-DJ. Auto-DJ allows you to store your programming on the server so that it can be streamed 24/7 without you having to do anything.

There are two types of audio streaming servers, Shoutcast and Icecast. There is really no difference, but you need to know which one you are using when you set up your software for the first time.

Most will support bitrates up to 128 kb/s or more. The minimum bitrate for music programming is 96 kb/s, and 64 kb/s for talk-only programming, but I recommend 80 kb/s for talk. Even for talk, anything less than 80 kb/s sounds tinny and choppy.

It is also convenient to find one that includes music licensing fees so it will be one less thing to worry about.

Music Licensing

If you want to play music of any kind on your station, you will need permission to do so. Since getting permission for each piece of music a station plays is very time-consuming, most countries have a music licensing program. You can pay a monthly fee for a license that allows you to play music without getting individual permission.

As mentioned earlier, there are some streaming hosts that will include this fee along with your monthly service fee. The amount you pay for music licensing depends on how many listeners and the overall revenue for your station. I run a not-for-profit community station, and I pay less than $20 per month for my music license. Commercial stations pay more, but if your streaming service pays the fee for you they will do the calculation for you. Keep in mind that the fee could increase if your station begins to create more revenue.

Software

The next thing you will need is software to play your programming and stream it to the server.

Some of this software is free. Simply search for "internet radio station software" and find one you like.

In addition to software, you may also wish to use a mixing panel. This is especially handy for microphones. I find that an external mixer gives me more control than software alone.



External mixer used in addition to software.

External mixer used in addition to software.

Microphone

All I can say about this is to invest in a decent microphone and boom. Don't use a cheap computer microphone. Also, avoid using a USB microphone. Use one with a balanced XLR connector.

Finally, you do not need a windsock (foam cover) on your microphone if you are broadcasting from inside. There is no wind indoors.

PHANTOM POWER

A note on phantom power. This is important. Some microphones actually require power to operate, while others don't. Most mixing panels will have a switch that indicates "Phantom" or "+48V" or both. Check to see if your mixer has this function. Some have a switch and some do not. Some have phantom power always-on, and some don't have it at all. Check the manual for your microphone, and if there is no mention of phantom power, do not turn it on! Enabling phantom power with a microphone that does not require it will destroy the microphone. If your microphone requires it, it will be mentioned in the instructions.

broadcast-yourself-starting-an-internet-radio-station
broadcast-yourself-starting-an-internet-radio-station

Playing Vinyl

Vinyl records have returned and a lot of radio stations are going back to using them.

My setup does not allow the "live" playing of vinyl, but I can save it as a file to play later.

If playing vinyl "live" is something that you wish to do, some software allows for that. This process is called "vinyl control". It is a bit of a complicated process to set up, and don't forget that you have to cue a vinyl record before playing it to allow for speed-up time. The cue vinyl, turn it back one complete turn before the first note.


Station IDs

You may also want to produce some station IDs so that you don't have to announce them every time. I use a text-to-speech service for this purpose, and it turns out fine. A station ID does not need to be fancy.

Also, you do not need to play a station ID or talk after every song. I will sometimes play an entire set by just running songs together. It takes a bit of experimentation, but some songs mix together quite well.

Summary

That is all I can tell you right now about how to get started.

Get out there and have fun.

I look forward to hearing your stations!

© 2013 paulbrec

Comments

Cyrellys from Montana on August 18, 2016:

I currently use PlayItLive software from (http://playitsoftware.com/) you need to be sure to grab the broadcasting plugin to go with it. Its all free. I combine it with the Voicemeeter Banana digital mixer which is a donationware from Voicemeeter. They work great together.

ALINANI NGAMBI on September 22, 2014:

I AM STARTING RADIO BUT FIRST WANT TO START WITH INTERNET RADIO

J on May 12, 2014:

I need something that's compatible with mac computers and give me the option to go live and speak on my microphone.

DJ FTB on April 08, 2014:

Just wanted to tell you that, since this article was published, new radio broadcasting software packages are coming up that include streaming (take, for example, Radio Pro (http://fluviusmedia.com) or other services like Radionomy and Radiojar), and are much easier to use in general than SAM Broadcaster and more flexible than Mixxx.

James Cridland on November 29, 2013:

You might also enjoy http://www.mediauk.com/article/34466/how-much-does... which contains more details about how to start up a radio station - and how much it costs.

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