Do you have aspirations to be a radio broadcaster? Would you like to share your favorite tunes interspersed with a few words as to why you like them, or share other tidbits of wisdom on the airwaves? While you can start your own TV channel with YouTube, or launch a podcast and make it available on platforms like iTunes or Audioboom, setting up an actual Internet radio station is a bit tougher.
However, we’re going to put all of that to one side and look at how you can start your own Internet radio station. We’ll take a look at the equipment you need, the online services you should sign up with, how to deal with playing music legally, and how to attract listeners.
Once you’ve reached the end, you should be able to set up and run your own Internet radio station, perhaps leaving it running with minimum involvement other than a few occasional tweaks and recording the odd new link every now and again.
My Past Experience with Online (and Offline) Radio
I’m currently the weekly host of a community radio show on Zetland FM in the North East of England, broadcasting locally on 105 FM (and you can listen online to Zetland FM at www.zetlandfm.co.uk or on the TuneIn Radio app). My radio career officially started in October 2015, but really it started many years ago…
MakeUseOf has previously shown you how to set up your own online radio station for little or no expense. However, things have changed a lot over the past few years, with more dedicated services available to help you reach your online radio webcasting dream.
What You’ll Need to Get Started
If you’re still convinced that it is an online radio station and not a podcast that you want to launch, you’ll need to invest in some hardware. While an existing PC or mid-to-high end laptop should suffice at first (tablets and smartphones aren’t quite ready for the job), you may prefer to purchase a dedicated device so that you can keep the online radio station running without interruption from other PC tasks. Although an Apple MacBook or a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 might seem attractive options, you should be able to find a suitable device for under $1,000.
Next, you’ll need a good microphone. If your budget is tight, the Blue Snowball Ice is a good option, but it isn’t quite broadcast quality. For stepping things up to the next level, something like the HEiL Sound PR40 is worth considering – though it’s far more expensive.
A good set of headphones is also required. This will help you to keep external distractions at bay, and focus on producing the radio show.
A few other things that you will also need:
- A name for your radio station or show
- A playlist
- Topics of conversation, if you’re planning a talk station
- Someone to interview (again, if you want to do talk radio)
Along similar lines, if you’re broadcasting a show with regular news topics, then you should probably make sure you have a reliable source of news. For locally-focused shows, ensuring you have people “on the ground” as it were, to report from particular locations, is a good idea.
Local vs Remote Stream Server
If we had written a guide like this in 2009/10, there would have been some discussion about whether to stream your radio show directly from your computer using a tool like Winamp or via a stream hosting server (such as FreeStreamHosting).
Using Winamp (in conjunction with the Edcast plugin to convert the music into a stream, and IceCast2 to serve it) would have meant that your stream could only be listened to by a few people, due to bandwidth limits imposed by Internet Service Providers (they provide high download bandwidth, but much smaller upload for domestic users). ShoutCAST continues to be an option here, but the set-up is pretty dirty; it requires an expensive static IP and certainly doesn’t offer “out of the box” functionality – although the community support is strong. ShoutCAST does offer a more streamlined service for established Internet radio stations, however.
The alternative to this is to rely on a hosting server to stream your radio show to listeners. All you need to do is upload or stream your show to the server, and your audience will listen from there.
Put simply, unless you have massive upstream bandwidth, there’s no reason to host a radio station on your own hardware…
Choosing a Service
These days, things have moved on from collating a playlist with Winamp and streaming it. For a more dynamic approach to streaming your own radio station from the comfort of your PC, we suggest trying one of these dedicated services.
Promoting Your Radio Station
Promoting an online radio station is much like promoting a website. So make sure you have a website or blog set up already, preferably with the radio station feed embedded into a prominent location (such as the header or sidebar) on every page.
o find an audience, you should also look offline, perhaps having t-shirts and flyers made, as well as sending out press releases to local and national newspapers and magazines. Meanwhile, once you have a radio station up and running and outputting a stream, you can add this to TuneIn Radio at tunein.com/broadcasters/.
Not only is starting your own online radio station simpler than ever before, it can be done with little expense. Now is the time to hit the virtual airwaves, getting yourself the experience you need to join a professional broadcast radio station, or build your own project up into something far bigger.
Have you set up an online radio station? What tools did you use? Are you planning on starting soon? Use the box below to tell us all about it.