Here is a guide to building an internet radio station.
1. Station themes.
The first question is to ask yourself what do I want to broadcast? Whether it’s talk, music, noise or something else entirely, you’ll need to consider what your aim is.
Once you’ve chosen a theme you’ll need content. Here your options are licensing existing copyrighted or using free / creative commons content. If you chose to go the licensing route you’ll need to decide which countries you plan to broadcast from and where your audience will be, contact the relevant licensing authorities and pay the required fees. If you chose to go the free content route you’ll need to start finding some, which there are plenty of ways to go about doing but that’s something for another article.
Researching your target audience is an important step here however. Think very carefully about what they want to hear and do some market research. Choose your themes according to popularity and market saturation. Consider how many other stations there are in a given niche.
2. Audio formats.
Once you’ve chosen a theme, you will need to pick one or more audio formats to broadcast in. MP3 is the most common these days but others are available too such as Ogg Vorbis, Windows Media Audio, RealAudio, and HE-AAC (or aacPlus) each with their strengths and weaknesses.
Having chosen an audio format, you will also need to choose a streaming bitrate. Considerations here are the quality of the source material, the cost and amount of internet bandwidth you have available.
3. Set up the software yourself or find a steaming provider.
An internet radio station requires source software to stream content to a server, which listeners then connect to. Here your choice is whether to set up all the software required and run it yourself or lease streaming services from a provider. Running the software yourself will require some configuration and enough quality bandwidth for the job. While using a provider will allow you to concentrate on the job of running the station. If you chose to setup the software yourself however, your choices are Shoutcast and Icecast.
4. Running your station.
Running a station will require you to think about schedules, playlists and radio imaging. With scheduling you program a rotation of playlists and radio imaging, which is all about branding your station in the mind of your listeners through the use of station idents, sweepers, jingles and promos. Here you can make your own or find a professional who will make it for you. Your playlists might include a weekly chart run down or different themes for different times of the day.
5. Let the world know.
With your station finally up and running you’ll need a web site in order to interact with your audience. Above all else this web site should make it as easy as possible for any potential listeners to tune in to your station. Featuring obvious links to your stream(s) in formats which the range of available media players will support and an HTML 5 media player which any internet browser can play natively is also important.
When it comes to running a web site, Facebook and Twitter are obvious choices being easy to use and including all the necessary means of interaction. But you have a long list of alternative choices available of course such as WordPress and Joomla for example.
Last but not least, you will need to work on getting listed in as many radio station directories as possible. The four most important of which are Shoutcast.com, iTunes Radio, Internet-Radio.com and Tunein.com.