The hardest part of starting an online radio is not the actual setup!

Well, the most challenging aspect is keeping listeners entertained with original content. You need to constantly source fresh music and originate creative shows.

Creating shows is a massive undertaking. That's why some radio stations find it easier to broadcast syndicated content.

Today, get set to discover:

  • What is speech and music programming?
  • Radio day parts;
  • Radio content sources;
  • New sources of free and paid syndicated shows, including bartered shows;
  • Places to get paid music for radio.

If you're new to the broadcasting world having recently created a new radio station, we also explain more about radio programming.

Let's get started:

Introduction to Radio Programming: Speech Vs. Music Programming

The audio content at a radio station falls into two categories:

  • Speech programming – It refers to the spoken content at the station. Talk radio stations rely heavily on spoken content, and it makes up more than 50% of their programming.
  • Music programming – Do we have to unravel this one? Well, it's the songs played at the station. Songs fall into different genres, including Jazz, Hip-hop, Blues, Punk Rock, Alternative Rock, Folk, Popular Music, etc.

When a station features a particular genre as most of their programming, we tend to give it the name of the genre. For instance—Jazz radio stations, Classical music stations, Hip-hop stations, etc.

Many online radio stations make the mistake of playing music all day, year-round. But the best combination that listeners love is a balance, music together with spoken programs like morning drive time shows.

In fact, most commercial radio stations don't purely play music. They also have interviews, news broadcasts, radio dramas, game shows, etc.

The top talk radio stations also favor a balance and don't broadcast spoken programs for the entire broadcast day. During the evening hours when the listenership has fallen off, they may play relaxing or cultural music from around the world.

What are radio day parts?

The broadcast day is segmented into blocks:

a. Morning drive

The morning segment at most stations starts from 5 am or 6 am. It lasts for about 3 or 4 hours ending at 9 am, 10 am, or 11 am.

Radio stations know that the most ad revenue comes from the morning drive!

That's right. It's because most people listen to the radio in the morning.

Think about it, people will be stuck in morning traffic jams. Some people turn on the radio as soon as they get out of bed. It's a great accompaniment during morning routines.

Morning radio hosts are usually the biggest stars at the station. With the stiff competition between radios during this segment, radio stations have found many ways to make their shows the best.

The programming is composed of interviews, links between songs, wake up calls, prank calls, weather announcements, comedy bits, political voxs, newscasts, phone-ins, traffic segments, giveaways, etc.

Commercial radio stations try to achieve a balance: 50% music, 50% speech. Sometimes 60% speech and 40% music.

b. Mid-day

The segment starts from 9 am to 11 am. It ends at 2 pm or 3 pm.

Mid-day hosts take over the airwaves during this period when people are busy working or performing house chores.

Music is the main programming during this slot. People can passively listen to music as they work. Talk radio stations may take this opportunity to broadcast lengthy features, documentaries, talk panels, etc.

c. Afternoon drive

The second most popular segment of the radio broadcast is the afternoon drive. It starts at 3 pm and ends at 7 pm. Audience numbers soar again due to the evening commute.

d. Evenings & Overnights

Evenings start from 7 pm to 12 pm. Radios receive fewer tune ins since people are either watching TV, streaming shows or sleeping.

Overnights or if you prefer the more ominous name “graveyard” shift spans from 12 am to 5 am or 6 am.

Radio Content Sources

a) Station generated programming

The goal of the programming department at a radio station is to produce original on-air content.

For music stations, the radio personalities work in shifts that maybe two, three, or four hours long.

Popular examples include The Steve Harvey Morning Show that airs from 6 to 10 am and the four-hour Matt and Mollie Weekend Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 1.

On the other hand, talk shows are under sixty minutes. For instance, the Freakonomics radio show, This is America Life, etc.

Newscasts tend to be shorter 5 to 15 minutes at the top of each hour.

Which content can you produce on your radio?

You can do newscasts, hosted shows, phone-in run shows, panel game shows, DJ mix shows, countdowns, contests, radio dramas, newscasts, weather announcements, man on the street segments, concerts, interviews, investigative pieces, and more!

b) User-generated content

User-generated content relies on the contribution of radio listeners. Your listener is a rich source of content. Think about, they are experts in different fields, for instance, a chef, nurse, doctor, teacher, banker, endocrinologist, pulmonologist, otorhinolaryngologist, and at this point, I’m just googling professions with difficult titles.

Some users have a knack for producing original audio content. And the proof is in the numerous podcasts you’ll come across on the web.

c) Syndicated Content

Syndication is licensing content to different radio stations.

Who creates syndicated shows? Radio stations, media companies, or individual producers.

Are there pros of using syndicated content?

Let me use this illustration:

You can make your own bread in your kitchen. But you don’t! Why, because it's much easier, less-expensive, time-saving, and yummier to just buy bread from the bakery.

This metaphor explains the benefits of syndicated content.

Do I have to pay for syndicated content?

Some syndicated content is free. The producers may want their programming and message to reach as many people as possible.

They nudge radio stations to take up their shows by giving them out for free.

What are paid syndicated shows?

It takes time and money to produce high quality shows so many producers can’t just offer shows for free.

What you pay may depend on the show’s popularity and demand. The notion is; if a show is popular, it will attract more listeners. So the radio can charge more money for ad-slots.

What is bartered syndicated content?

Cash doesn’t always change hands for content. Some syndicated content is offered on a barter arrangement.

The producer offering the show may ask for time on the affiliate station to run ads instead of money.

How can I spot bartered shows?

Check if one of the requirements listed on the show’s website is bartered minutes; for example “8 Bartered Minutes.”

Unhosted shows explained

Radio stations strive to maintain their local vibe. And though they may use syndicated shows to fill up their programming, they will still want the show to sound local & original.

Some syndication companies meet this need by having the original host mention the affiliate’s call letters and station ID.

Unhosted shows have empty slots. They ship with cue sheets used to prompt the live host when to fill in with speech. Most unhosted shows you might encounter will be music shows like The Top 40 countdowns.

Are syndicated shows similar to network radio programming?

It so happens that several radio stations may fall under the umbrella of one corporation, for instance, Emmis Communications in the US owns about fifteen radio stations.

In this setup, the corporation produces network radio programming that's syndicated across its network. One radio program may air on several stations owned at the same time.

There is a similarity between syndicated shows and network shows in that they are broadcasted on multiple stations. But I think the difference is clear.

Where can I find free syndicated radio content?

Okay, here are places you can find free syndicated content for your radio:

1) NRT Radio Syndication

Do you operate a Christian or church radio? New Release Today has been offering free Christian radio content since 2006. P.S. They also cater to internet radio stations.

2) FrequencyCast Radio Programme Syndication

FrequencyCast offers syndicated shows to internet, hospital and community radios for free and on a non-profit basis.


ON AIR distributes shows created by artists. They ask for so little in return.

You have to provide feedback on how you use the shows; promote the shows to your listeners on social media among other requirements.

4) Public Radio Exchange

PRX is the largest distribution marketplace for radio shows. They rep some big names including This American Life and Reveal.

While public radio affiliates get their content from PRX’s automated delivery platform, advertisers can also use PRX to find shows to sponsor.

5. Vinyl Impressions Radio Shows

For six times in a month, you can get the Vinyl Impressions show for free.

The shows are generic, which means you can broadcast them at any time of the day.

More Places to find Free Syndicate Shows

More Places to find Free Syndicate Shows

There are as many free syndicated shows as they are stars in the sky. Well, at least wish there were.

Still, you can score more free radio content sources on these external lists:

6) The Radio Directory

It’s a links site where radio industry members can contribute links. Lucky for us, there is a page just for syndicated shows:

It’s a radio links site with a syndicated show list.

Bartered and paid syndicated sources

8. ORBYT Media

It’s a syndication group that distributes shows like On Air with Ryan Seacrest & American Top 40 Countdown in Canada.

9. GLR Network

It offers Spanish programming like Minuto 60 a five-minute newscast on a bartered arrangement.

10. Hispanic Communications Network

The network has over 270 Hispanic affiliated stations in the US that syndicate their six radio shows. Their shows have bartered slots.

11. This is Distorted

Music and speech shows.

12. Old-Time Radio Hour Wood Songs.

It’s a show about grassroots music syndicated in 515 radio stations.

13. Radio America

For daily and weekend talk programs.

14. Mid York Syndication

They are behind the Retro 80’s weekend show.

15. National Public Radio (NPR)

There is a little confusion as to how NPR works. NPR member stations are radio stations that air NPR shows. They are usually non-profit, non-commercial, public-owned, and college radios.

To be an NPR member, you have to meet certain requirements like broadcast for more than 18 hours a day and have at least five full-time employees. Affiliates pay yearly fees to NPR, which earns them voting rights, and they also pay fees for NPR programs they broadcast.

16. Public Radio International

PRI is a non-profit that distributes content to public radio stations.

17. Syndicast

Syndicast helps its members get their shows on radio stations. They work with Online, FM, DAB, and Satellite stations.

18. Radio Express

Discover weekly shows


Syndication distributes shows and also helps producers prepare their shows for syndication.

20. Pacifica

Pacifica is a network of community stations. Using their web-portal –Audioport – the stations can distribute their shows nationally.

21. TOP 40 with a TWIST

It’s a two-hour un-hosted show.

22. The Dave Ramsey Show

It is a three-hour show with over six hundred affiliate stations.

23. BlueRevolution

Blue Revolution is also another platform with a variety of shows.

d) Paid Music sources

Are you looking for places to buy music for your radio? We covered some of the sources in a past blog. Iterating the same information here will take the joy out of discovering it for yourself. So check it out.

e) Royalty Free Music Sources

Royalty free music is music that you don’t have to pay royalties for every performance. Check out our blog on royalty-free music sites.

More radio programming..

Have you discovered more sources of radio content? We hope so. If you have more sources, share them in the comments below.

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Till next time.