A Beginners Guide to Internet Radio

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Have you always dreamed of running your own Internet Radio station, but you are unsure of how to go about this or even where to begin and also the tools that you will require? If this is the case, then the following guide is for you and provides a little introduction into the world of Internet Radio. It will cover the basics of how Internet Radio works and cover some of the tools that you will need to get started.

Internet Radio, as the name suggests, is an online radio service that is broadcasted over the internet on dedicated radio servers. It is still broadcasted in much the same way as traditional radio in regards to its presentation and format. However, with the advances in technology over the last 20 years, now just about anybody with a computer, music collection and internet connection has the ability to broadcast their own radio station from their own home or wherever they may have such equipment. This ability was once only limited to those with access to professional radio studio's or the more traditional radio transmitter equipment.

How does this work?

So, you may now be wondering how this works? Well, there are three different pieces of software involved in broadcasting your radio station live to an online audience. Essentially, all of the basic equipment that you require to get started is a computer with a soundcard and an internet connection. Encoding software installed on your computer then sends the computers audio signal via the internet to the radio server software on our own dedicated servers. This encoding software then basically compresses the audio signal into a more streamable format allowing for a quicker data transfer rates. The radio server software then subsequently broadcasts this same audio signal via the internet which then allows listeners worldwide to connect with the tune-in links that we provide to the audio stream with a player of their choice. This could be a standalone player like VLC, Winamp, iTunes, Windows Media Player or even a flash player embedded in the radio stations website. The radio server requires large amounts of bandwidth to cater for all the connecting listeners. This is where our services come in, as we can cater for the large amounts of bandwidth that is used whilst providing a control panel interface for you to control and manage your station.

For those who do not wish to host live streams, an 'AutoDJ' feature is available which allows for users to upload their music libraries to one of our dedicated servers via the servers control panel (or to the FTP server) and then create scheduled playlists with these audio files. As these playlists are automated and the audio files are uploaded directly to the radio server, the user is not required to have any stream encoding software installed on their computer. The radio server will then broadcast this automated stream to the listeners player as per the scheduled playlist. The 'AutoDJ' feature is also useful for stations that use live streaming but may wish to have a 24/7 broadcast for when their shows are not being broadcasted live. Some more information on our 'AutoDJ' feature can be found here.

Getting started

To get started with Internet Radio you will first need to sign upto a radio server, this can be done here. You then basically have two options for the type of streaming server that you can opt for. These are 'Shoutcast' servers and 'Icecast' servers. To help you decide which is better suited for your own stations needs, the topic and main differences between the two is discussed in further detail here.

Next you will need to decide upon a bitrate for your stream. The higher the bitrate that you opt for the better quality your stream will be and vice versa for lower bitrates. A more detailed explanation of bitrates can be found here with some audio examples for you to listen to. All of our streaming servers have at least a minimum of 500 listeners and a maximum bitrate of 320 kbps.

For those that are wishing to stream their radio live, you will need to decide upon your stream encoder software. As we discussed earlier, this encoding software basically compresses the audio signal into a more streamable format allowing for a quicker data transfer rates, this signal is then sent to our dedicated radio servers. There are several stream encoders available, some of which are free and some others with more advanced features you would be required to purchase. You can find a link to some of the stream encoding software that we would recommend to you here. Our 'Guides' section of our forum also provides several detailed and easy to follow tutorials on correctly setting these encoders up for use with our radio servers.

Stream encoding software and common set-ups.

There are two common ways in which users tend to stream “live” with Internet Radio. Firstly is by having the stream encoding software that we have just mentioned above installed on a computer and then streaming to the radio server directly with this software which is running in the background whilst at the same time playing music from another program on the computer. Some of this software such as 'Virtual DJ' emulates a traditional DJ set up of two turntables and a mixer and allows you to mix many audio file formats (such as Mp3) whilst at the same-time streaming this audio live to a radio server. Other popular encoders are programs such as 'Sam Broadcaster' and the 'Shoutcast DSP' plugin for 'Winamp'. A list of recommended stream encoding software can be found here.

Secondly, some others users opt for using a more traditional DJ set up of turntables and a mixer, this could be with either Vinyl or CD decks. When mixing in this way, the audio output of the DJ mixer is fed into the line-in of a computer's soundcard. This computer will then have stream encoding software installed and running which subsequently sends this audio signal from the DJ mixer to the radio server.
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How does the 'AutoDJ' feature work?

So perhaps some of you may decide to use our 'AutoDJ' feature either on its own or for when your station is not streaming live. As we mentioned earlier, this feature allows for users to upload their music libraries to one of our dedicated servers via the servers control panel or by FTP file transfer and then create scheduled playlists with these audio files. In order to create your music library you are first going to need to encode your files into Mp3 format, an in depth guide on this process can be found here. Aside from ripping tracks from your own CD collection, you may wish to alternatively purchase tracks that are already in Mp3 format. There are many online digital download stores available for this such as Juno Download, Beatport and iTunes to name but a few. Please remember that if you are purchasing tracks that are already in Mp3 format for this purpose, they are going to need to be at the same bitrate that is configured for your stream.

Once your music library is ready to go, you will then need to go about uploading your files via the servers control panel (or to the FTP server) and then set about creating playlists with these files. A guide on uploading your files via the servers control panel and then begin creating your 'AutoDJ' playlists can be found via the here.

My station is up and running, how do I get listeners?

Once your station is up and running, you are probably wondering how you are going to get some listeners. Well, the many social media sites currently available are a great place to start. Most of us have a Facebook account nowadays, so get sharing your station on your profile or perhaps you could even create a Facebook fan page for your station. All stations that host with us are also automatically listed on our websites stations directory's. Your station will also be listed on the Shoutcast and Icecast directory's (depending on the server type that you opt for) which both attract a lot of extra potential listeners. For further information and tips on promoting your station, please see the following forum post on station promotion.

One thing to consider when setting up your station is your target audience. Your streams genre classification in both your servers control panel and stream encoders settings is very important. You should choose genres that accurately reflect what your radio station plays. Its all very well playing a niche genre such as 'Moombahton Death Core Rap' (if this were to exist), but if potential listeners are unable to find your station when searching for this genre, you could be wasting your time and loosing many potential listeners. We discuss choosing your genres wisely some more here.

What’s the legality of running an Internet Radio station?

If you plan on playing copyrighted material which you do not have permission from the copyright owner then you should have a license. We do not provide licenses with our servers, so its down to your own responsibility to make sure that you have the correct licensing that you require. Licensing differs between countries so if you live outside the UK or plan on broadcasting outside the UK then you may need to research multiple countries to check licensing requirements. More detailed information on this topic can be found here.

If you are a music producer or in a band and wish to use Internet Radio as a promotional tool for your music, as long as your are playing your own original content then licensing will not be an issue for you.

We are also able to provide 'Geo Locking' on our servers which is the ability to block certain countries from accessing your radio stream. This feature is useful for any clients who are required by their radio license to limit broadcasting to certain countries.

Still have questions?

We hope that this guide provides a better insight into setting up an Internet Radio station, but if you have any more specific questions or feel that you do not understand any of the information that is provided here. Then please do feel free to contact us through our Contact Form with any questions that you may have. Thank you and welcome to the world of Internet Radio.
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