How to start a radio station: the beginners essencial guide

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How do I start my own radio station? Radio WordPress Theme -On Air 2 will ride through the process in this guide


How do I start my own radio station?
Nowadays creating a radio station is very simple and can be also pretty cheap or almost free. You don’t need expensive gear and now there are plenty of online streaming services to simplify your work. We are now going to list all the things you need so you can properly plan the launch of your amazing radio channel.

How do I start my own radio station? First Step in this guide. Setting Up Broadcast. From Radio WordPress Theme

Choose how to broadcast:

There are 3 types of broadcasting:

  1. Live broadcasting
  2. Automated broadcasting
  3. Mixed broadcasting

1. Live broadcasting

This is the classic model of radio streaming very similar to a classic radio transmission, where you broadcast a direct live output from your computer. It means that you have to broad cast live 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

2. Automated broadcasting

You can set up a weekly schedule and then let it go without any hassle, totally on autopilot.

3. Mixed broadcasting

This is a mix between the two and is the most common way to broadcast: means you have a running schedule but you can interrupt it with a live broadcasting whenever you want.

Of course an automated or semi automated broadcasting guarantees much more freedom and allows you to run your radio station without compromising the normal family or work routine.

There are 2 ways to run an automated broadcasting:

  • Stream directly from your own computer, which requires a software like BUTT (Broadcast Using This Tool – https://danielnoethen.de/ – FREE) or Nicecast (https://rogueamoeba.com/nicecast/ FREE + PREMIUM) or also Radio Dj (http://www.radiodj.ro/ ). You will need of course a stable local connection and a PC running 24 hours. Streaming from local is more risky and expensive, that’s why today you can also go for an online streaming provider (second option).
  • Streaming using an online streaming provider
    An online streaming provider is a web service that helps you running a radio station in the easiest and cheapest way. This option requires a simple setup and is very scalable regarding your growing audience. You can setup your weekly schedule, usually by uploading the podcasts (or shows recorgings) and scheduling the air time for the entire week.
    With a streaming provider you don’t have to leave your computer on, and the quality of the streaming is not affected by the speed of your local connection, as the music stream will be served directly from your online provider.
    This method works on autopilot, and you can choose among many streaming providers (radio.co, Airtime Pro and more). When you choose it just make sure it’s icecast or Shoutcast compatible and verify the services they offer.

Even using an online streaming provider, you’ll be able to interrupt the scheduled shows to start a live broadcasting from your location, which is perfect for special guests, live episodes or live events (concerts, sport or anything similar).

How do I start my own radio station? The tools you need to start a Radio

What you need to start a web radio:

What you need part 1: organization

1. Choose your topic

Start choosing a subject, it may be electronic music, soccer, aliens or anything else, but the key for a successful radio is to focus on your specific niche of listeners, offering selected content based on their real interests, building engagement and growing your fanbase.

2. Choose a good name

They can find you by some random chance, but with a strong name your listeners will be able to come back:

  • Pick something unique and original, easy to pronounce
  • The name of your radio should be simple, short and memorable
  • Choose something related to your nice (like “Flaming Guitars”, or “Silky Jazz Radio”) so that people may choose your radio among a long list because of the name.
  • Always verify that your name has an available domain name: your website will be fundamental.

3. Prepare your branding

If you plan to go big, start working on your branding since the beginning. The branding of a radio isn’t only a good jingle (you can have one on Fiverr.com for 10 bucks) but instead more than ever is based on a professional design, a stable social presence and a strong and useful website.

A strong branding is the key to be recognized as a professional, in order to establish successful collaborations with djs, speakers, sponsors and so on.
To build trust in your partners, it’s good to start from a professional look, including:

  • A good radio logo (GraphicRiver.net /  Envato Studio)
  • A professional website to listen to the radio and check shows and sponsors
  • Corporate logos and background headers in your social media channels
  • Some PDF introduction about the project, easy to share via email

4. Gather all your assets

You will need a lot of audio material: music (not treating royalties here), podcasts, shows, recordings, jingles, biographies of the artists, stories and more.
It is highly recommended to create a proper plan and list of your assets in an excel file, in order to properly plan and schedule a week of streaming.

Don’t worry if it may seem very hard to cover a full week: Build a wise schedule and recycle the best shows on different days, weeks or months. But do not  start a serious project with a 2 hours loop in order to avoid a negative reputation.

To gather more assets, get in touch with the speakers and musicians you like: you may find very collaborative artists in exchange for some exposure! You can provide them with a dedicated email and DropBox folder where they can send you new promos and podcasts every week, granting an automated income of new juice.

What you need part 2: hardware and software

1. Computer:

Nothing special, you will just need to cut/paste audio files, convert in mp3 and maybe record some voice. If you want to stream directly from your studio/home instead of using an online radio provider, a good machine is recommended for stability and performance reasons.

2. Hardware:

  • Microphone (optional)
    A good microphone can be the right investment if you plan to grab some voice. If you don’t plan to spend 3000$ for a Neumann, there are some pretty good options around the 100 – 200$, like the Audio Technica AT4033ASM or the Rode Broadcaster.
  • Speakers (required)
    It’s important to test and prepare your contents before going on air. To start, a good home hi-fi can do the trick for free, but if you plan to invest some money, you may want to consider some professional speakers, from the cheapest Pioneer or Jbl, to the most expensive Dynaudio (3k $) there is plenty of alternatives depending on your budget.
  • Headphones (required)
    A good pair of Sennheiser can really help you with the equalization, starting from about 80$. If you don’t want to invest on this, the headphones that comes for free with your iPhone or Androic mobile can work better than other 20$ models.
  • Cables
    You will possibly need 3mm and 6mm Jack cables, RCA, XLR, microphone cables and more.  Go for in some good ones as the audio quality will be heavily affected by the quality of your cables. Possibly go for gold plated ones.

3. Software:

To run a radio station, you will need for sure to edit audio files. Those editings are required to improve the quality of your stream, stabilyze the volume of music and speech,  mix the voice recordings with the music and any similar operation.
Those procedures are simple even for non-experts, and can be well done with free softwares, but of course there are professional alternatives that can save you quite some time.

For a basic file editing, volume fixing, compression, equalization and mp3 exporting you can use:

  • iTunes (FREE) to correctly encode the MP3 files (Free)
  • Audacity (FREE) to copy/cut/crop/edit your podcasts (Free)

If you want a more professional result, you may use:

  • Ableton Live for the editing
  • Sound Forge for sound cleaning, compression and equalization

If you need to broadcast directly from your location, you will need also:

  • Broadcast Using This Tool (BUTT)
  • Nicecast
  • RadioDJ

As you can see, the hardware and software setup can be pretty simple, and there are many alternatives to start broadcasting without spending a dollar.
We will now analyze the second part of what you need, starting from the radio streaming provider.

Choosing a radio streaming provider

There are 2 main formats for a web radio: ShoutCAST and IceCast. They are popular because they are cheaper and more compatible with other applications ( such as web players, apps and similar).

To create a Shoutcast or Icecast stream what you need is a radio streaming provider.
You may want to use the free official Shoutcast server (https://www.shoutcast.com/BroadcastNow) but remember that this will require you  to setup a live broadcast from your computer.

In alternative, we suggest to go with a much easier solution: an online radio provider (like Airtime Pro or radio.co but there are many) which for few bucks a month will set up all the complex stuff for you, and let you focus on the contents. Be sure your provider supports mp3 streaming (because of the wider format compatibility) and be sure that it allows the creation of an online schedule for the automated broadcasting, to make your experience easier.

As soon as the channel is ready, your radio provider will show you how to upload your podcasts and start to stream.
Once your radio is running, you’ll face the next big step: building an audience.

How to build an audience for your radio

How to spread the world? That’s a very complex topic and we will give you some important tips in our further posts, but you can already start with some social network posting, twitter and radio directory websites (like Tunein). Consider some advertising on Facebook to start having listeners without waiting months.

Start monitoring your audience using Google Analytics in your website, to discover which shows are the most appreciated, at what time you have the peaks of listeners, which music is the favorite and so on.

The feedbacks of your listeners are very important to grow a healthy public, and you should keep them in great consideration to constantly improve your shows and schedule.

Monetizing

You won’t get rich fast, but making money with your radio is possible. There are many ways and the most popular ones are:

  • Sponsorships
  • Affiliation
  • Music promotion
  • Banners
  • Adsense
  • Donations
  • Merchandise

We will see them in detail in another chapter of this serie, but basically the good thing of having your own radio is that you can attract people, and once you attract them in your website, you have full power of monetizing in any way you want.

Monetize your radio station with your website

The best way to monetize a radio station is bu selling ads on your radio station.
Selling ads on the stream is the standard advertisement method, but listening to ads is nowadays not good for your listeners. That’s way there is a much better to sell ads and is using your website, offering sponsored posts, banners and “sponsors” slots.

To do that, you need a good website for your radio station, with the most important features like the radio player, shows schedule, videos, blog and so on.

To reach a professional result, you may proceed in 2 ways:

  • Hire a professional (about 3500 – 5000$)
    You can find a professional online or in your area to build your radio website.
  • Create the website yourself (about 59$)
    Despite what you may think, isn’t hard and doesn’t require particular skills. The easiest way is to create a website based on WordPress, the most popular and free Content Management System, and use a professional radio template like OnAir2 which allows you to connect the radio stream and customize the design in few minutes.

Conclusion

You can set up a radio with any budget, even for free. You don’t need any expensive equipment to start, and maybe you already have all you need at home.

The keyw for a successful radio station are:

  • proper planning
  • strong branding
  • constant networking
  • a professional radio website

Starting your own radio station can be easier than expected, and you can start for free in 10 minutes but, if you can invest a little, your passion can slowly turn into a rewarding activity.