How do I set up my own internet radio station?
Step 1: Decide on your concept
Before you rush into anything, it’s worth taking the time to consider what kind of station you want yours to be. This means thinking about size, collaborators, and content to ensure consistent branding across all of your programming. If you’re planning to work with other collaborators and radio DJs on the station, make sure they’re privy to these discussions to ensure that everyone is on the same page from the very beginning.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
Will my station only play music?
What kind of music do I want my station to play?
Will there be radio presenters / radio DJs? If so, how many, and how often will there be a radio show?
What kind of topics will the radio show cover?
Will the radio show host interviews and if so, what kind?
Take the time to look at what other online radio stations are out there to get a sense of what gap your station will be filling, or what need or audience you’re catering to. This brings us nicely onto the next step, which is:
Step 2: Brand your station
Some of the first decisions you need to make before starting an internet radio station concern the name of your station and programming. This process should consider who your audience is and the message you want to put across, as well as evaluating what’s already out there.
It’s important to check that your station name or any other elements of its branding does not infringe on existing trademarks. You can usually find free online tools for doing this by putting “[your country] + trademark check” into a search engine. A tool for checking this in the USA can be found on this USA trademark website, while here in the UK tool can be found on the UK version.
If you’re stuck for name ideas, you can also use a brand name generator like namemesh.
Step 3: Check copyright laws
Music copyright laws for your country are another critically important element you’ll need to consider to avoid any legal trouble. If your programming is non-musical (i.e. talk shows, panel discussions etc.) this may not be a problem. But if you want to broadcast music, you’ll need to look into buying a license. The cost of this varies depending on the countr(ies) you’re operating in, as well as the countr(ies) you wish to broadcast to. Using royalty-free music can cut costs, but this may still involve buying a one-time license. You can source royalty-free music from a number of places, including Youtube, Audio Blocks and Jamendo.
The Broadcast Law blog contains a lot of useful information and further links pertaining to the legal issues surrounding starting your own online radio station, while copynot.org answers a few frequently asked questions about music copyright – though bear in mind that these laws may apply to the US only. It’s important to remember that music licensing laws can be complex and vary depending on where you’re based, so if in doubt it’s best to contact a specialist legal advisor to help.
Step 4: Get some equipment together
You don’t need a big budget or even very expensive equipment to start your internet radio station. All you’ll need to start off with is a microphone, a pair of headphones, and an output player along with some streaming software.
There are a large number of radio playout systems you can use, they all vary in the amount of work it takes to set up (My first radio station used some software called Ots AV. It has built in shoutcast streaming software. So all you will then need is a music collection and you are away!
If a relatively simple set-up is all you think you’ll need, a USB condenser microphone like the Rode Podcaster will provide a ‘plug n’ play’ all-in-one package that requires little technical knowledge or setup time. Plug your headphones into the included 3.5mm jack, and you’re ready to go on air.
For those of you planning a more sophisticated set-up you may wish to invest in additional equipment to add more functionality to your ‘studio’. An audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett range will convert audio signals from regular XLR studio microphones into a high-quality digital output. Any combination of microphones with the commonly available XLR interface will work, however large-diaphragm condenser microphones (LDC’s) like the Rode Broadcaster are best suited to capturing voices.
Adding a mixing desk into your setup will allow you to physically manage multiple input channels, rather than relying on software mixers. Any regular audio mixing desk will function in combination with an XLR audio interface. Specialised ‘for radio’ digital desks offer additional functionality for broadcasters – such as dedicated telephone inputs and on-board effects – but are also expensive.
Step 5: Find news to share
If your online radio station will be news-oriented, you’ll need to figure out a strategy for planning your news items before the program goes live. One way to do this is to sign up the the RSS feeds of all the blogs and news sites that you usually follow and gather them in one place. That way, you’ll have all the material you need in one place when preparing your show.
There are also a few online tools that you could use for this purpose.
Feedly allows you to “subscribe” to different news and blog feeds, as well as having a feature for creating different lists to organise content.
Tweetdeck is also a useful tool for gathering content from Twitter, allowing you to enter different search terms and see all the content related to those terms at once.
Google Alerts works in a similar way, allowing users to sign up to alerts for specific search terms, though these are delivered via email. If you’re running a sports programme, you might, for instance, be interested in news around the topic of football in the UK. All you’d have to do was set up alerts for the terms “football” and “UK”, and Google will deliver news on this topic straight into your inbox. You can also adjust the frequency of these alerts to suit your needs.
But why not have a go. Or maybe just get some recording software and record a show and submit it to deluxradio.com