In this do-it-yourself age where sites like YouTube, TuneCore, and Etsy give the masses wide-open access to creative industries, the options for building and operating your own Internet radio station seem to grow with each passing year. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the most cost-effective methods of creating your own radio station from scratch.
Step 1. Get Your Own Website
This first step is necessary only if you plan on making your Internet radio station available to the public. If you only expect to share your station with friends and family, this step can be skipped. But for those wanting to take their station to the world, you will need a place online where listeners can find your station and stream it. This guide to creating a web page is a great place to start, or you could start a blog through an established blogging site.
If you want your radio station linked to a business, you can create top-notch business websites for reasonable prices with the following well-known companies:
Both of the sites above will automatically give you a domain name for your website.
Step 2. Download a Broadcast Player
When you create your own Internet radio station the source of its audio will be your personal computer. Because of this you will need to download an audio player that is compatible with the radio broadcast software that you will be using.
For PC Users
Winamp is the only free audio player for Windows that works well with the primary streaming hosts, Soundcast.com and Voscast.com, that service DIY radio stations. To configure Winamp properly for radio streaming, you will need to download and install two software components separately:
- Winamp's free audio player for PC
For Mac Users
Unfortunately, DIY Internet is PC-biased. Although Winamp has just recently launched a beta version of its first ever audio player for Macs, it does not yet support radio streaming. This leaves the Mac user with limited options, especially those who wish to broadcast music. Ultimately, if you insist on using a Mac, you will have to choose between free tools with very limited options or a paid tool that will give you much more freedom.
- The free BUTT (Broadcast Using This Tool) software program is simple, effective freeware, but it can only be used for talk radio stations or for users who pre-record their music broadcasts in a recording studio and patch their recordings into their computers using an external mixer. In other words, BUTT cannot stream music from iTunes playlists, which is the easiest and most desirable method for broadcasting music if you're a Mac user.
- Apple's free broadcast player uses the Quicktime software that comes with your Mac. Like BUTT, it also cannot broadcast music in a streaming playlist format and is therefore only useful for talk radio or users who use an external mixer.
- The only option for broadcasting music from an iTunes playlist is Nicecast. It is also the only platform that works with Shoutcast or Voscast and their vast DIY radio resources. It has attractive features, such as options for creating a flash player that embeds in your site as well as allowing live DJ voice-over during the broadcast using your computer's built-in microphone. You can try a limited version of Nicecast for free, but the full version has a one-time fee of $59.
Step 3. Choose a Stream Host Provider
Now that you've signed up for a website and downloaded a broadcast player, your next step will be choosing a stream host provider. In order to have more than a small handful of people listening to your radio station at once you must have a large amount of bandwidth. Unless you're a business with deep pockets, you will need to connect your broadcast to a stream host provider who can offer you plenty of bandwidth for a reasonable price. Two massively popular companies for this service are:
- Voscast ($16-$32 per month for professional quality audio)
- Shoutcast (starts at $29 per month for professional quality audio)
The primary choice you must make when signing up is the bitrate for your radio station. The higher the rate, the better quality audio you will get. If you're doing talk radio, 64k is more than adequate. If you're broadcasting music, 128k is the standard rate for stations that sound professional. Do not go below 96k or your music will begin to sound like it is playing through a telephone.
Step 4. Connect Your Player with Your Stream Host Provider
The next step involves opening the broadcast player you downloaded, such as Winamp for PC or Nicecast for Mac, and configuring it to send your radio show to the stream host provider. When the stream host provider receives your stream from your player, it then broadcasts your show live online for the world to hear. The following videos provide step-by-step visual guides designed for folks who are not tech wizards:
For connecting Winamp to your stream host provider:
For connecting Nicecast to your stream host provider:
Once these steps are completed, you can go live with your station by:
- Opening your music player, either Winamp or iTunes
- Creating your playlist and pressing play to start it
- Opening Nicecast if you're using a Mac
- Clicking "Start Broadcast"
Your radio station is now streaming live for anyone in the world to access.
Step 5. Put Your Station on Your Website
Once you've completed the previous steps your streaming host provider gives you a web address for your station's feed. If your station is something you're sharing with just a few friends or family members, you can simply email them this link. Once they click on it a very simple stream of your radio station will open in their browser. However, if you've created a website, then you're likely wanting to share your station with a broader audience. To have your station available to access as an embedded Flash player, follow these steps:
- Log into your account on your stream host provider's website.
- Access their page for free Flash players. Voscast and Shoutcast both have these pages clearly visible in your main dashboard once you log in.
- Follow their instructions for customizing your Flash player for your radio station.
- Once this is complete, you will be given HTML code for your player, which you can then copy.
- Go to your website and log in to where you can edit your site.
- Find the page where you want your radio station to be seen by visitors.
- Open the HTML editor for that page and paste the code you just copied. Once you save your changes, your radio station's player will be accessible to your visitors.
Step 6. Purchase Licensing, if Necessary
If you plan on broadcasting music or material other than your own original compositions or programs, you will need to obtain a license from one of the major licensing companies -- BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and SoundExchange -- depending on which organization holds the license for the artists you broadcast. This takes times to determine as you will have to search each site's list of artists. Purchasing a license from one of these organizations averages around $200 annually, with an additional sign-up fee to submit your application.
A Thriftier Option for Licensing
The most cost-effective way to pay for licensing is to use a third-party company that offers licensing coverage with all of the major organizations for a reasonable monthly price. For example, starting at $23 per month (plus a one-time $20 set-up fee), StreamLicensing will act as your representative to all of the major licensing organizations and they will obtain all of the needed licenses for you, depending on your playlist that you submit to them.
All-in-One Radio Hosting Option
If these steps seem cumbersome and you'd prefer something easier, using an all-services-in-one radio hosting site is a convenient alternative. One of the most widely-used radio hosting platforms on the market, iRadeo offers a web page location for your station, a built-in broadcasting player, bandwidth for stream hosting, access to music libraries, and licensing services in one location.
Once you have an Internet radio station, there are several ways to make money with it:
- Advertisers: You can have advertisers pay to place their ads on your station's website or in your live broadcast. To do this, you must create a page on your website that gives advertising options and pricing. Attracting advertisers, however, will not happen unless you create a high-quality product that attracts a large audience, which takes time to build.
- Google AdSense: If you don't want to wait for ad clients to come to you as your station grows in popularity, you can tap into Google's pool of advertising clients and get a share of their revenue depending on how well your station performs with their ads that you place.
- E-commerce: Add a "buy" button for original merchandise related to your station. The website builder you use should have a section in its tools that is devoted to creating e-commerce options such as buy buttons and credit card processing.
- Third-party sales: If you do not have original merchandise to sell, you can become a third-party seller through Amazon and sell, for example, the mp3s or merchandise of the artists that you're streaming on your site.
- Promotion services: Target recording artists and offer advertising packages for independent artists to have their songs streamed on your station, or have ads run for their shows and merchandise.
- Subscription levels: Instead of offering free access to your station you can require a subscription where listeners pay a monthly fee and use personalized log-ins to access your site. Your website builder should offer a log-in only option in its e-commerce section that can configure this log-in structure for you.
- Live365 features: Live365 users can also use some of the commerce options above as a part of the package when you sign up.
While it is possible to make money as an individual broadcaster, meaningful income only comes if you invest in the process with a business-minded approach. It is a good idea to research the steps in starting your own business before you invest significant time and resources in these money-making opportunities.
Find Your Niche
The best approach to succeeding in Internet radio is to focus on a niche. Trying to be all things to all people will not attract a large audience. With the dizzying array of options available to listeners online, your odds for success are higher if you design your station to please a very specific group of listeners, then focus your attention on playing what they want to hear.