10-Step Checklist for Setting Up a Radio Station Online

Are you setting up a radio station online?

We made this checklist for you.

It covers the planning stage, the technical setup phase, and how to build an audience for your radio.

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Part I: Planning phase

Definitely start with planning. It may sound like a cliche but failing to plan, is planning to fail.

1. Determine what your radio will be about

For a radio station to be a success, you need to know why people will seek out your tunes.

The truth is, there are so many choices for entertainment; from YouTube videos to podcasts to marathons to bat watching, etc.

What will attract people and make them your staunch listeners?

First, be clear about your unique value proposition.

You could say:

“Suez Canal Radio assists listeners to get entertained by offering the best music selected from the best music online libraries, blah, blah, blah.”

We both know that's boring. What about...

“Suez Canal Radio plays music, that puts you in a cruising mood.”

I'm confident you'll come up with something better. Do these tasks to nail your radio's unique value proposition: 

  • Write down your vision statement (What you aspire to be – your purpose & goals)
  • Come up with a mission statement (How you plan to achieve your vision—steps you'll take)
  • Decide on your main format.

2. Know your market/audience

Do you have a vague idea of your ideal listener?

Can you see him or her in your mind’s eye?

Before you embark on branding your station, creating shows and more –carry out market research.

Here are actions to take:

  • Find and listen to radios in your niche, noting what you like and don’t like. But take care not to copy them, instead focus on what you can do better.
  • Create personas of your ideal listeners. Where they come from, what they like to listen to, and what topics or choice of music might appeal to them.
  • Pitch your radio idea to friends and strangers, and gather feedback.
  • Choose your radio name. You need to make sure your radio name is unique.
  • Visually brand your station by creating a logo.

3. Generate radio show ideas and sources for radio content

As you're setting up a radio station online, keep in mind that audio content is the reason people listen to the radio, be it music, talk shows, sports events or newscasts.

Because of the numerous sources of music on the web nowadays, playing music alone may not give you an edge.

So what do you need?

Good content that entertains and informs.

You also need imaging such as promos, sweepers, drop-ins, etc.

Good imaging sonically brands your radio station making it unique—instantly identifiable—and memorable.

Actions to take: 

  • Look at schedules on several radio websites to get a feel of the programming. An excellent place to start is the BBC sounds schedule page.
  • Listen to some morning, mid-day, afternoon, and evening radio shows.
  • Brainstorm some show ideas (Our guide on radio show ideas might help)
  • Create an imaging plan for your radio (Need help? Learn about types of radio imaging). 
  • Create a mock radio show (Nothing fancy just a short piece. And you can record it with your mobile or computer mic.)
  • Search for syndicated radio content to fill holes in your programming

Part II: Technical setup

Setting up an internet radio station online without planning is like navigating without a compass.

So before starting on part II of this checklist, I hope that you now have a list of shows on paper and an idea of the equipment needed to produce them.

For instance, if you have a show where you carry out field interviews in your local area, that means you need a dictation audio recorder and camera.

4. Acquire radio equipment

Relax, you don't need to invest $1000s when starting out.

A more careful approach is to start with the absolutely vital equipment.

Once you decide this is your thing, you can invest more of your time and money.

Essential gear for radio station includes:

  • Microphones
  • Mixer to converge different audio inputs into one output that goes into your computer
  • Broadcasting desk
  • Computer

Need help? Learn more on our radio equipment guide.

5. Get Software for your radio station

Next, you need software for your radio. First, you need software that plays back your media.

Playback software:

Your Windows Media Player could do the trick. But we need something more suited for broadcasting: radio automation software or DJ program.

A radio software, in particular, will also allow you to create playlists, schedules, rotations (automated playlists) and broadcast live shows.

We have reviewed radio automation software and DJ programs to give you a quick start.

Recording program:

To record shows and create imaging for your radio, you will need a Digital Audio Recording Program. Check out Audacity, which is free an open source.

Encoder program:

You need another program called an encoder. It converts audio into a stream and sends it to your radio server.

Note some radio automation programs and DJ programs like Mixxx have built-in encoders.

Here is a quick list of what you need to do for this step:

  • Install a radio automation software or DJ program.
  • Install a digital recording program
  • Setup your gear to work with your radio automation or DJ software
  • Install an encoder program like BUTT (if your radio automation program is missing one)

Need help? Check out our we review on radio automation programs, DJ programs, and encoders.

6. Set up your server

As we have talked about setting up a radio station online, so far, we haven’t looked at how radio streaming actually works.

It’s easy to understand, and I will use something you’re familiar with; websites. 

Now, online radio stations kinda work like websites. A website lives on a server. When you visit a site, files are sent from the server to your browser, which then renders the page.

Online radio stations need servers. The server can be your personal computer or a dedicated server that’s hosted in a data center.

It’s preferable to host your radio on dedicated servers with enough bandwidth to support listeners.

CloudRadio allows radio stations, both FM and online, to create SHOUTcast, Icecast or Steamcast servers.

Don't worry if it sounds complicated, SHOUTcast and Icecast are just programs that enable the server to receive and distribute an audio stream.

And they perform similar functions: Receiving music from a source client or encoder and relaying it to listeners.

And what investment does it take to have a dedicated server?
It's less than you think.

At CloudRadio, you can create a radio server that can accommodate 10 to 1000 simultaneous listeners.

You can start with fewer slots and pay a little amount. When your station gets popular, you can increase the listener slots.

Actions to take for this step: 

  • Create a radio server with a third party host like CloudRadio.
  • Connect your encoder with your server.

Do you need an online Auto DJ?

An auto DJ allows you to play music and shows from the web, eliminating the need to broadcast from your computer.

Learn more about our Auto DJ>

7. Get licensing

You may need to license your stream depending on the content you play.

For instance:

If you have a talk show radio and most of your content is self-produced and original, this means you have the rights to the works.

As long as you don't play commercial music, you won’t need any licensing.

Note that there is royalty-free music that doesn't require you to pay any royalties.

There is paid royalty free music and free royalty-free music. For paid, you purchase the music license once, and you don't have to pay royalties for recurring uses.

Still with me...

When you play music on your radio, this is called a public performance.

You'll need to part with a small fee, called a royalty, that goes to the music publisher, songwriter, label or independent artist.

It would be impossible for the radio to wire money to the copyright holder directly.

In comes, Performance Rights Organizations, which are organizations tasked with collecting royalties.

In the USA, for example, there are four PROs – SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
SoundExchange is the PRO that handles digital performance royalties.

The performance has to be "non-interactive," like on internet radio, where the listener can't choose the song they want to listen to.

But what if I’m in Europe and I play music by an artist based in the US?

SoundExchange has agreements with counterpart foreign organizations. It allows them to collect royalties for the performance of music outside their jurisdiction.

Disclaimer: None of this is legal advice. CloudRadio doesn’t provide stream licensing or facilitate royalty payments. This info is meant to inform you of the guidelines required to play commercial music. We recommend that you consult with the relevant authorities in your country.

Actions to take: 

Part III: Winning listeners to your radio

Glad you made it this far!

In this section, we’ll look at how you can get more listeners for your stream. And the tools you’ll need to do so.

8. Create a radio website & social media pages

Think of a site as the first point of contact most listeners will have with your radio.

Hey...you really don't have an excuse for not having a website, considering that you can create one for free.

Two of the most popular places to launch free sites include WordPress and Wix.com.

You'll have to forgo having a unique domain name, but you get a web presence.

Social media accounts:

You need social media pages for your radio.

Consider starting with a Facebook page or group.

It's what a lot of radios are using. And it has over 1.7 billion active users.

You can also join Facebook groups for online radio broadcasters like Internet Radio Promotion, where you can advertise your shows.

Also join Internet Radio Broadcasting, where you can chat with your peers, ask for help and more. Though, they don't like self-promotion.

What's more, smart radio broadcasters host live shows, from their Facebook page, and ask people to share their live stream on groups or on their personal feeds.

Actions for this step: 

  • Create a free radio website
  • Create social media profiles for your radio (Facebook, Twitter)
  • If you plan on creating videos, open a YouTube channel.
  • Embedded your radio stream player on your website (we offer a free HTML5 player)
  • Share links to your radio stream on your social media page and site.

9. Get noticed

Have you created your website and social media pages?

Give yourself a shout of victory!

WOO HA!

Next, get people to notice your radio. Here are some tactics to try out: 

  • Write down five things you can do to get the word out (let the ideas spontaneously flow from your brain)
  • Create a launch event for your radio station.
  • Try running a giveaway contest. The gifts can be simple like branded t-shirts.
  • Connect with other broadcasters and offer to be a guest if you can.
  • Check out more promotional tactics.

10. List your radio in directories

An internet radio directory is like the yellow pages for radio streams.

It helps people discover radio stations they are familiar with or new stations they have never heard of.

Get listed on as many directories as you can. Not only is it free, but it also broadens your exposure.

Actions in this step: 

What did you make of our checklist?

Was it helpful?

As you have seen, setting up a radio station online is something a newbie can do with the right guidance.

Don't stop here, join communities of webcasters.

Keep coming back to our blog; we have more knowledge to share.

Finally, if you need the best radio hosting experience, CloudRadio should be your first choice.

Till next time...

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