Are you new to internet radio?

As you start out, it might seem like there are a thousand things you need to know.

To fast-track your progress… ...we wrote this starter’s internet radio FAQ guide.

Find out what bitrate means, where radio stations get their music, and more.

Let’s get started.

1. Do I need a license to start an internet radio?

You don’t need a license to start an internet radio station.

That's because online radio stations are not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission in the US or by similar regulatory bodies elsewhere.

2. What is Icecast & Shoutcast?

Icecast and Shoutcast are both server-side programs that handle the relay of radio streams to online listeners.

Shoutcast is a proprietary-software, while Icecast is open-source.

They have made online radio broadcasting possible since the late 90's. Learn more.

3. What does bitrate mean?

Audio files have specific bitrates. A “bit” is a unit of data. Rate is the degree of something measured against something else.

Bitrate is the number of bits conveyed per unit of time. It’s mostly in seconds.

Audio files have bitrates ranging from 16 to 320 Kilobytes per second.

The higher the bitrate the more information the file contains. Audio at higher bitrates is more crisp, clear, and pleasant to listen to.

4. Which is the best bitrate for broadcasting?

It depends on the audio codec you’re using. For music broadcasting on the AAC codec, a bitrate of 64 Kbps will sound similar to an MP3 stream at a bitrate of 128 Kbps.

If you’re broadcasting talk programs, you can broadcast at lower bitrates of up to 32 Kbps.

5. What is buffering? How can I avoid it?

Buffering occurs when an audio player lags (halts playing the stream) as it receives sufficient data for playback.

You eliminate buffering by ensuring that the player is receiving data quickly.

Here are some solutions:

→ Broadcast on fast servers

Host your radio station on servers with high-performance architecture, enough bandwidth, good peering, etc. The kind we provide at CloudRadio.

→ Reduce the distance between the server & listener

Next, think of reducing the distance between the listener’s device and your broadcasting server. For instance, if most of your listeners are from North America, opting for a server located in the US or Canada is preferable than one in Europe.

→ Switch to a CDN network

Do you have international listenership? Deploy your station on a CDN network consisting of servers distributed across the world. On a CDN network, listeners are automatically connected to the closest server location.

At CloudRadio, our Autodj Radio runs on a CDN network with up to 7 server locations worldwide.

→ Use a faster internet connection

Your internet connection should have good upload speeds to cater for sending the encoded stream to the broadcasting server.

If you’re a radio listener, you can also eliminate buffering by using a faster internet connection.

6. How can I display artist artwork on my radio stream player?

Currently, the most popular way is to retrieve album art from the Last.FM API. You'll need this feature integrated into your current player.

Is there an easier option?

Just use our free HTML5 player. It pulls album art for each song automatically. When it can’t find the album art, it displays your station’s logo.

How to get the player.

7. How do I get listed on radio directories?

Most internet radio directories have submission pages with forms for you to fill out.

You enter details such as the public stream URL, its bitrate & format, etc.

Start by submitting your station to the following directories:




Once you’re done, find more submission pages on this comprehensive list.

8. What is bandwidth?

When talking about networks, it’s the rate at which data can be transferred across an internet link (the potential data transfer rate).

For instance, your home internet connection might have a bandwidth of 100Mbps, and it will be faster than another connection with a bandwidth of 10Mbps.

In radio hosting, bandwidth refers to the amount of data used during streaming.

Some hosting providers limit the bandwidth used. CloudRadio offers unlimited bandwidth.

9. Do you need technical experience to start a radio station?

No. You don’t need any prior technical knowledge to start an internet radio station.

Here is a shortlist of some of the things you’ll need to know (most you can teach yourself):

  • How to use a radio streaming program. There are plenty of choices, including RadioDJ, SAM Broadcaster, NextKast, etc.
  • How to operate studio gear, including microphones, mixers, etc.
  • How to connect your encoder to your streaming computer.
  • Using audio editing programs like Audacity to record voice-tracks, shows, imaging, etc,.
  • Programming a radio station, for instance, coming up with a broadcasting clock.
  • Also, learn about different types of radio imaging such as jingles, bumpers, vox pops, etc.
  • Get acquainted with some basic radio terminology like the term “cans.”

10. What equipment do I need to start a radio station?

If you’re starting a radio station, you can opt for a simple setup consisting of:

  • USB microphone
  • Laptop or computer
  • Headphones

Favoring a more professional setup? Here are some of the equipment you’ll need:

  • USB mixer
  • XLR microphones
  • Microphone accessories (pop filters, boom arms)
  • Studio headphones
  • Broadcasting desk
  • Streaming PC or streaming devices like the Barix instreamer.

See more gear here.

11. Is a website required to launch a new radio station?

No, you don’t need a website to start a new radio station.

How will listeners tune-in?

For listeners to listen, they only need your public stream URL. You can post the link on your social media pages. Additionally, get your station listed on radio directories.

When you create a radio server on CloudRadio, we also give you links for various media players such as Winamp, Itunes, Quicktime, Real Player, etc.

12. Where can I find music to play on my radio station

Radio stations have a choice of commercial music and royalty-free music. When you play commercial music like a Beatles track you have to pay performance royalties.

Royalty-free music comes with a special type of license that doesn’t require you to pay royalties on each performance (playing a song to an audience).

Radio stations need to purchase DRM free music so they can use it with different types of radio automation software.

Check out the following guides to find music sources for your station.

13. Can you broadcast web radio from any location in the world?

Yes, because unlike FM or AM, online radio is not limited by the reach of terrestrial broadcast signals.

As long as you can connect to the internet anywhere in the world, you can broadcast or listen to online radio.

14. What is a radio automation software?

It’s a program that allows radio broadcasters to perform a wide range of tasks required to keep their station on-air. You can use it to create music libraries, playlists, schedules, voice tracks, etc.

Most radio programs come with an AutoDJ mode, which allows the station to run unattended for many hours or days on end.

You'll also find the live-assist mode useful. It’s where you use the software during a live show to cue & play songs, jingles, sound effects, etc.

Some of the most popular radio automation software include:

  • SAM Broadcaster
  • RadioDJ
  • RadioBOSS
  • PlayIt Live
  • PlayoutONE
  • mAirList
  • StationPlaylist Studio
  • NextKast
  • RadioLogik DJ (Mac)
  • ZaraRadio
  • ProppFrex

15. What is an encoder?

An encoder is a program that performs the following functions:

Capturing sound from an output on your computer → Encoding the audio in a specific format → Relaying the stream to a broadcasting server.

The encoder streams data to the broadcasting server in real-time.

Some of the well-known encoders in online radio broadcasting include:

  • RadioCaster
  • Rocket Broadcaster
  • Audio Hijack (Mac)
  • LadioCast
  • BUTT
  • AltaCast

16. How do radio stations choose the top 20 songs?

Each radio has it’s own unique approach. Some stations reference lists like Billboard charts to rank their top 20 songs.

Songs may be ranked according to the airplay they have received. An advisory panel may decide on the top 20 songs of the week.

17. What is TLH (Total Listening Hours)?

TLH is the total number of hours listeners have spent streaming your radio stream.

For instance, if 10 people spend 30 hours listening to your radio in a given month, the total listening hours for that month will be 300 hours.

18. Where can I get royalty-free music for my station?

Here are 35 + sources of royalty-free music. This type of music is often used in YouTube Videos, radio stations, ads, podcasts, etc.

Copy and paste any name into a search engine to find the vendor’s website:

  1. SoundCloud
  2. Amazon
  3. FMA
  4. Jamendo Music
  5. Foximusic
  6. Bensound
  7. NoiseTrade
  8. Mixter
  9. Partners in Rhyme
  10. Purple Planet music
  11. Incompetech
  12. Audioblocks
  13. Fimstro
  14. Danosongs
  15. Free Soundtrack music
  16. Emipm
  17. PacDV
  18. Musopen
  19. BeatPick
  20. AcousticBro
  21. Pond5
  22. Premium beat
  23. Getty Images
  24. Shutter Stock
  25. Stock Music
  26. SoundClick
  27. Opuzz
  28. YouTube Audio Library
  29. BeatSuite
  30. Epidemic Sound
  31. Atlist
  32. Filmstro
  33. Premium Beat
  34. SoundStripe
  35. Productiontrax
  36. Music Vine
  37. Marmoset

19. Where can I find a free HTML5 player for my radio website?

Right here at CloudRadio. Get started by visiting our HTML5 player page:

20. How can I make my radio station successful?

Most radio station owners see success as having more listenership.

Implement these tips to succeed:

  • Create a good radio website. Make sure listeners can find the stream player easily.
  • Be present on the major social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
  • Be a different kind of radio station.
  • Keep your listeners happy by playing songs they want to hear. Anyone who launches your stream wants to stick around.
  • Never go offline for days. Your online station should be consistent and reliable.
  • Your stream should be of high-quality, free from buffering, glitches, etc.
  • Remember this bitrate rule; CD quality, 128 Kbps for MP3 or 64 Kbps for AAC.
  • Program your station to sound professional. Utilize jingles, bumpers, sweepers, top of the hour news bulletins, vox pops, etc. A good radio station is like a well-garnished Pizza:

21. Do online radio stations pay royalties?

Yes. They pay royalties to performance rights organizations in their countries.

Read more about royalties & licensing here:

Got more questions

Is there anything that we have not covered in our internet radio FAQ?

Drop your question in the comments section.

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