Broadcast Yourself: Starting An Internet Radio Station
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 Mark Wahlberg in "The Fighter"
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 setup your software for the first time.
Here are some audio streaming hosts:
All of these 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.
There are more host servers, but these are the most popular.
The next thing you will need is software to play your programming and stream it to the server.
There are two very good software for this: SAM Broadcaster and Mixxx. (Screenshots below)
SAM is the best. It is what most "real" radio stations use. However, since it is designed for a broadcast station, as opposed to internet casting, it does not work well with Shoutcast and Icecast servers. I have never been able to get it to work.
Mixxx is much better for steaming audio.
Both of these software are available for free:
I am not going to give you instructions on how to use these software, as there is so much you can do with them. Please refer to the respective online manuals.