How to Start Your Online Radio Station

So you want to be a DJ, but not the kind who remixes house and trap music in a basement in Bushwick. Yes, this is a thing. You can go down the AM/FM route, which is arduous, expensive, time-consuming, resource-heavy, and comes with many legal road bumps. Or, if you fall under the category of average person with an average budget, an internet connection, and a desire to be heard, you can set up a digital radio station and broadcast online. But let’s say you’ve never done this before and don’t know where to start. Don’t be overwhelmed—we’ve got you covered!shutterstock_85077796

Branding your station

As with any program, product, or service, you need a name. It should ideally be one that is short, catchy, and easy to remember. Think of stations similar to you on traditional AM/FM radio that one would usually listen to. Would you tune in to something called 98.8 All About Roadkill or Boring Silence Radio? Well, maybe if you’re into that. Not that it’s weird or anything. It might be fun to take advantage of the fact that there are little to no naming restriction guidelines for internet radio.

Even more obvious but required “equipment” is a solid genre for your station. What do you offer to listeners? What topics are discussed on your shows or what kind of music do you play? Who will your guests be? These are questions which you should have the answers to before you dive in. And if you haven’t already, you might also want to consider setting up a dedicated website for your station. Luckily, Primcast’s internet radio hosting services come with a radio player deployed on a custom page.

How it works

Obviously, broadcasting online is different from doing so on the airwaves and even more different from writing song lyrics on parchment and sending it via pigeon to multiple people. Audio content played on your computer travels as a stream of data from the computer to an audio streaming service such as Shoutcast or Icecast, the use of which we will discuss later in greater detail. The server of the streaming service (say that five times fast) makes this data available to anyone in the world who wants to listen, as long as they have an internet connection to connect to the server.

Equipment

Now that you know the nuts and bolts of how your radio station works, it’s time to acquire these nuts and bolts. You may even already have some of the hardware needed for digital radio. This includes the obvious, like a working PC or high-end laptop, a microphone, and headphones. But if you want the results to be high quality, it makes sense to invest in high quality equipment and, more specifically, audio equipment. It’s possible that you will need extras like sound screens, so keep this in mind when working out your budget. Oh, did we forget to mention that you should know your budget?

Now, to get back to Shoutcast. This is one of the aforementioned servers that deliver your stream to listeners and one of multiple audio streaming software supported by Primcast. Deciding which equipment is right for you may require a bit of research, and even more so with the adoption of hardware. Audio encoding and broadcasting hardware has many advantages (and some disadvantages) in comparison to its software counterparts, but they can also work in tandem.

Setting up

Having a studio space is ideal, but not necessary. If you’re broadcasting from home, set up your station on a designated desk space somewhere quiet with little room for disturbances. Remember that any good recording or broadcasting environment should have good acoustics. You might be surprised to learn that testing acoustics is as simple as clapping your hands. The clapping sound should be amplified, not echoed or muffled. Acoustic panels can help in this situation.

Growing a listener base

Every radio station needs listeners. Otherwise, it’s just a lone person talking into a void, which I tend to do often. Luckily, you have social media at your disposal to promote and get likes and shares. Promoting your station across your personal social media profiles is one way to do it, but it’s advisable to create profiles for the station itself and do the same. You can link up these profiles or automate posts so that your followers are alerted of show times and updates as they happen. It may also be helpful to know that if you choose Shoutcast or Icecast as your streaming server, you will be automatically listen on their website station directory.

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