How to start an Internet Radio Station
You want to start an Internet Radio Station but there is a minefield of complicated information to digest. This guide aims to help you set up your first Radio Station and get your content broadcasting to the world.
Step 1 – Choose what content to broadcast
Before you start you will want to choose what content you will be broadcasting. Most Internet Radio Stations are music based but you could also broadcast speech only or a mixture of both.
If your station is music based it is a good idea to decide on the main music genres you will be broadcasting.
Step 2 – Decide if your station will broadcast live, from Auto DJ or a mixture of both.
This is an important step before you start your station.
If you choose to broadcast live without the back up of an online Auto DJ service will you be able to keep your content available 24/7?
Radio Stations with a central studio will often broadcast live from the studio and if they do not have live DJ’s they will have a system in place to automate their playlist content.
There are many automation systems like WideOrbit Automation that are used typically by commercial Radio Stations.
Sam Broadcaster is also a tool of choice when automating content.
For more budget solutions you may decide to automate content with free tools such as Winamp or iTunes.
Auto DJ is an online playlist system where you can upload your content to broadcast when you have no live feed available.
This works in the same way that software automation systems work but are hosted online.
Stream GB use the most popular Auto DJ system Centova Cast to deliver your content.
- Upload content via control panel or FTP
- Automatic stream recovery
- Custom scheduled playlists
- Heavy, light and medium rotation
- Drag and drop content
- Track statistics
- Album art
- Allow DJ permissions to upload content
- Royalty reports
As your content is stored online Streaming Media Providers typically charge by the disc space you use for Auto DJ.
Step 3 – Choose your Streaming Platform
There are 2 main streaming platforms to choose from, SHOUTcast and Icecast.
For new Radio Stations SHOUTcast V2 is recommended as your station can be added to the SHOUTcast streaming directory which will help your station grow a following.
Icecast has it’s own directory but typically the SHOUTcast directory is more widely used and a great start to get new listeners.
You can read more about the pros and cons of these 2 platforms in more detail in our Difference between SHOUTcast and Icecast article.
Step 4 – Choose a streaming codec
MP3 – is the most widely used codec and supported by the majority of Streaming Encoders. This is best to use for compatibility.
HE-AAC – is suitable for Bitrates up to 128k. A 48k HE-AAC stream can sound similar to the quality of a 128kbps MP3 stream. Typically used for mobile devices on data plans. HE-AAC is not as compatible with playback devices as mp3 and would be recommended as a second option.
Step 5- Choose a Bitrate
In simple terms the bitrate you choose will determine the audio quality of your Radio Station. The higher the bitrate the better your stream will sound.
Higher bitrates use more data transfer from the streaming server to the end listener. This is something to keep in mind when delivering content to mobiles on data plans.
Bitrates are typically measured in ‘KBPS’ (Kilo Bits Per Second) and in terminology can be shortened to ‘K’ For example ‘128k’.
Many Radio Stations will offer more than 1 stream to cater for different network conditions at the end users location.
With Stream GB Auto DJ plans we can automate this process for you by outputting different lower rates from 1 high KBPS stream.
- 320 KBPS MP3 – High quality-Better than CD quality.
- 256 KBPS MP3 – True CD quality sound.
- 128 KBPS MP3 – Minimum Bitrate for a good near on CD sounding stream
- 80-96 KBPS MP3 – Minimum for low bandwidth connections from the encoder.
- 24-64 KBPS MP3 – Low quality sound typically for mobile content on data plans.
Step 6 – Choose your expected listener count
If you are purchasing an audio streaming plan you will need to select how many maximum listeners your stream can handle. The more listeners you have, the more data transfer you will use.
For billing purposes Radio Streaming Providers typically charge by a mixture of bitrate and maximum listener slots. With stream GB you can upgrade your listener slots at any time, so for cost purposes it’s best to start low and upgrade as your station grows.
A typical example of a new Internet Radio Station would be:
50 Maximum listener slots streaming at 128kbps.
Step 7 – Download a Streaming Encoder for live streaming
There are many free and paid streaming encoders available to use with SHOUTcast and Icecast.
A simple encoder we recommend is butt – broadcast using this tool.
This is a simple encoder that is light on computer resources and runs on Mac OS X, as well as Linux and Windows.
As well as streaming your shows to the server, you can also record the shows to your computer.
If you have purchased a plan from a Streaming Provider like stream GB you will receive the following details by email to enter in to your encoder.
- Server Hostname or IP address
- Server port
- Your server streaming password
- Your chosen maximum bitrate
- The platform – IE SHOUTcast (v1)
You can view a full guide to this encoder with download link by clicking the following link:
Step 8 – Start Streaming your Internet Radio
If you have purchased a plan through a streaming Media Provider like Stream GB you will receive a control panel login where you can administrate your stream and control the Auto DJ if purchased.
The control panel will also list your streaming URL to submit to directories and provide you with links to play your stream with external players like iTunes, Winamp and Windows Media Player.
Now you can start streaming to the world!!
Why not get started with a free 14 day trial from Stream GB. You can test SHOUTcast v1, v2, Icecast and Auto DJ