If you thought only a professional could start an internet radio station, you’d be wrong. Anyone can! After reading this step-by-step guide you could be ready to broadcast this afternoon. We’ll get you up to scratch on the necessary equipment, legal issues, and even how to turn your station into a business.
Things to consider before starting an internet radio station
Step 1: Decide on your concept
Before you rush into anything, it’s worth taking the time to consider what kind of station you want yours to be. This means thinking about size, collaborators, and content to ensure consistent branding across all of your programming. If you’re planning to work with other collaborators and radio DJs on the station, make sure they’re privy to these discussions to ensure that everyone is on the same page from the very beginning.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
- Will my station only play music?
- What kind of music do I want my station to play?
- Will there be radio presenters / radio DJs? If so, how many, and how often will there be a radio show?
- What kind of topics will the radio show cover?
- Will the radio show host interviews and if so, what kind?
Take the time to look at what other online radio stations are out there to get a sense of what gap your station will be filling, or what need or audience you’re catering to. This brings us nicely onto the next step, which is:
Step 2: Brand your station
Some of the first decisions you need to make before starting an internet radio station concern the name of your station and programming. This process should consider who your audience is and the message you want to put across, as well as evaluating what’s already out there.
It’s important to check that your station name or any other elements of its branding does not infringe on existing trademarks. You can usually find free online tools for doing this by putting “[your country] + trademark check” into a search engine. A tool for checking this in the USA can be found on this USA trademark website, while the UK tool can be found on the UK version.
If you’re stuck for name ideas, you can also use a brand name generator like namemesh.
Step 3: Check copyright laws
Music copyright laws for your country are another critically important element you’ll need to consider to avoid any legal trouble. If your programming is non-musical (i.e. talk shows, panel discussions etc.) this may not be be a problem. But if you want to broadcast music, you’ll need to look into buying a license. The cost of this varies depending on the countr(ies) you’re operating in, as well as the countr(ies) you wish to broadcast to. Using royalty-free music can cut costs, but this may still involve buying a one-time license. You can source royalty-free music from a number of places, including Youtube, Audio Blocks and Jamendo.
The Broadcast Law blog contains a lot of useful information and further links pertaining to the legal issues surrounding starting your own online radio station, while copynot.org answers a few frequently asked questions about music copyright – though bear in mind that these laws may apply to the US only. It’s important to remember that music licensing laws can be complex and vary depending on where you’re based, so if in doubt it’s best to contact a specialist legal advisor to help.
Step 4: Get some equipment together
You don’t need a big budget or even very expensive equipment to start your internet radio station. All you’ll need to start off with is a microphone, a pair of headphones, and a registered Airtime Pro station.
If a relatively simple set-up is all you think you’ll need, a USB condenser microphone like the Rode Podcaster will provide a ‘plug n’ play’ all-in-one package that requires little technical knowledge or setup time. Plug your headphones into the included 3.5mm jack, and you’re ready to go on air.
For those of you planning a more sophisticated set-up you may wish to invest in additional equipment to add more functionality to your ‘studio’. An audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett range will convert audio signals from regular XLR studio microphones into a high-quality digital output. Any combination of microphones with the commonly available XLR interface will work, however large-diaphragm condenser microphones (LDC’s) like the Rode Broadcaster are best suited to capturing voices.
Adding a mixing desk into your setup will allow you to physically manage multiple input channels, rather than relying on software mixers. Any regular audio mixing desk will function in combination with an XLR audio interface. Specialised ‘for radio’ digital desks offer additional functionality for broadcasters – such as dedicated telephone inputs and on-board effects – but are also expensive.
When it comes to broadcasting software, Airtime Pro makes online radio automation and streaming easy. Once your physical equipment is all set up, we’ve included a step-by-step guide below to quick-starting your station with Airtime Pro.
Step 5: Find news to share
If your online radio station will be news-oriented, you’ll need to figure out a strategy for planning your news items before the program goes live. One way to do this is to sign up the the RSS feeds of all the blogs and news sites that you usually follow and gather them in one place. That way, you’ll have all the material you need in one place when preparing your show.
There are also a few online tools that you could use for this purpose.
- Feedly allows you to “subscribe” to different news and blog feeds, as well as having a feature for creating different lists to organise content.
- Tweetdeck is also a useful tool for gathering content from Twitter, allowing you to enter different search terms and see all the content related to those terms at once.
- Google Alerts works in a similar way, allowing users to sign up to alerts for specific search terms, though these are delivered via email. If you’re running a sports programme, you might, for instance, be interested in news around the topic of football in the UK. All you’d have to do was set up alerts for the terms “football” and “UK”, and Google will deliver news on this topic straight into your inbox. You can also adjust the frequency of these alerts to suit your needs.
Get started with Airtime Pro
Airtime Pro isn’t just great-value internet radio broadcasting software; it’s also super easy to set up. First, you will need to sign up and start your 7-day free trial (no credit card required). Soon after you’ve done this, you should receive an email letting you know that your station is ready, and inviting you to sign in at your chosen domain.
As soon as you’re logged in, you can start building your online radio station by programming content and adding/selecting DJs and contributors.
Step 1: Set up your station, time zone and user roles
First, you’ll need to head to “settings”, which can be found in the left-hand menu. In the screen that appears, you’ll be able to configure several things, including the name and description of your online radio station, as well as the time zone. This all needs to be done before you can begin programming your station.
At this stage, you’ll also need to input some details about your own time zone, so click on “My Profile” (underneath “General”) in the left hand menu. Here, you just need to click on the last dropdown menu, select the correct timezone and save. Even if your station is set to a different timezone, users can set their own, which allows them to program content and calendars to match their local time zone.
Step 2: Add other DJs or Program Managers
Of course, you may not want to run your station alone. One of the best things about Airtime Pro is that it allows you to add other DJs and Program Managers no matter where they are in the world. The difference between the two is that “DJs” can upload content but only to shows that you’ve assigned them to. A Program Manager can create, delete and edit shows as well as being able to assign DJs to them, but they won’t have access to the system menu.
To add a DJ or Program Manager, head back to “settings”. Select “Users” from the menu to open the “Manage Users” screen. After that, click the “New User” button and a screen should appear for you to fill in that user’s username, password and email. After doing so, choose their user type then click “save”. Once you have done this, this user will now be able to upload music and schedule playlists and tracks to shows that you’ve assigned them to. You can also find information about this step in the Airtime Pro manual.
Step 3: Upload Audio
Once you’ve set up your users, it’s time to get to the good stuff. To begin uploading audio, click to “Upload” button on the left hand menu. In the screen that appears, you can either drag and drop audio files or click to browse your computer.
You can also upload via file transfer protocol (FTP). For your login details and/or help from our support team, you can speak to us through live chat or you can file a ticket in the “Help” menu.
Step 4: Create your first radio show
Now you’ve uploaded some media, you can begin scheduling your first show. Head to “Calendar” in the menu on the left to get going. To begin with, you’ll want to use the weekly view as there won’t be anything in your calendar yet. The daily and monthly schedules will becoming more useful later down the line when you’ve scheduled more content.
On the calendar page, clicking on the day you want to schedule your show will open a window on the left hand side with a series of details about the show you want to create. Here, you’ll need to name the show and then select a time for it to be scheduled. After you’re finished filling in the details, simply click “add this show”.
The scheduler has a lot of complex features, including options for repeats and inputting a live stream, further details on which can be found by heading to this section of the Airtime Pro manual.
Step 5: Make playlists and use smartblocks
Once you’ve set up a show, it’s time to start adding content. One way of doing this is to create a playlist. In your “Dashboard” you’ll see a “Playlist” button in the right-hand side navigation menu. If you click on this, a new playlist should appear on the right-hand side of your screen. Here, you’ll be able to choose a name for the playlist, add a description and drop and drag your uploaded audio files from the dashboard into the playlist. When you’re happy with it, click “save”, and you’ll now have a playlist you can use and reuse for any show you like.
Smartblocks are another handy Airtime Pro feature for building your radio shows. Smartblocks use smart radio automation software to generate playlists based on criteria that you set. To create one, head to the Library and find the ‘open media builder’ button on the right side. Click it and then choose the ‘new’ button. A drop-down menu will appear. From there, simply choose ‘new smart block’. In the screen that appears, you’ll be able to choose certain criteria such as BPM, genre and date range, which will determine what tracks the smartblock generates. For a more detailed look at how to use smartblocks, you can check out our blog post on the Airtime Pro website.
Step 6: Add content to your show
To add content to the show you created a couple of steps ago, click on “Calendar” at the top of your screen, where you should see your show at the time you scheduled earlier. When you click on your show, a series of options will appear. Click “Add/Remove Content”. This will open a list of scheduled tracks (if you’ve programmed them) on the right side of your screen and your library of content on the left. Find the playlist you made earlier by searching or scrolling through the library and drag it to the right side into your playlist, you can also highlight and drag individual tracks as seen below. Your first show is now ready to go!
Promote your internet station
Before your radio station can start speaking to the community it represents, you’ll need to build that community. Friends and family tuning in might be safe bet, but growing your audience will take some work. Airtime Pro has a number of handy integrations like our Facebook Player and Soundcloud plugin to help out, which you can read more about here. Other than that, there are a few simple ways to bring in new listeners whilst engaging with the ones you already have, which we’ve detailed below.
Step 1: Set up your social media accounts
It’s one thing setting up your own internet radio station. It’s another getting listeners to tune in. This is where social media is your greatest friend.
First, you’ll need to decide which social media channels you’d like to use to promote your station. If you’re a small team, or even just one person, it might help to be selective, rather than spreading yourself too thin across several platforms. Think about which demographic you’re trying to target and do a little research into which social media platforms that demographic uses most often. The Pew Research Centre’s report on 2018 social media use by demographic can be found on their website – though it’s worth noting that only Americans were surveyed for this particular report.
Once you’ve made a decision about which channels you’ll be using, you might also want to consider setting up an account with a social media manager like Hootsuite or Buffer, which will allow to to schedule posts ahead of time. Do some research into how to boost engagement on these platforms too, as there are often hashtags or trends you can piggy-back onto in order to reach as many people as possible. This article from Jacobs Media, for example, offers tips on using Twitter’s #FollowFriday hashtag to increase your reach.
Step 2: Connect with local influencers
Another valuable resource for promoting your internet radio station is online influencers. Use social media to search for influencers in your niche, whether related to the music you play or the focus of your content, then connect with them.
There are several ways you can leverage influencers to promote your station. One might be setting up an interview to connect your startion with the influencer. This has the bonus that the influencer is likely to share the interview on their own social media channels, directing their followers to your page(s). While the interview is playing, you could also live-tweet some interesting quotes and tag the influencer’s Twitter account, maximising your chances of being shared with their fans.
When you’re planning the interview ahead of time, make sure to be creative with the topics you’ll be discussing, and try not to focus too much on your own show. You might have an interview with the owner of a local music venue, for instance, where you could talk about the evolution of music in the area and upcoming shows.
Hearing the word “influencer” today often brings to mind instagram models with hundreds of thousands of followers. But an “influencer”, as far as your station is concerned, is anyone in your niche who is an authority on it. This could be anyone from local bands to bloggers or local television personalities. Think outside the box!
Step 3: Create a website, and set up a newsletter
Although Airtime Pro comes with a radio web page, you might want to create your own website for more customisable options like sharing news, having a chat room, and also having a newsletter sign-up widget to capture the email addresses of your radio fans. One way of doing this at a low cost is to use a service provider like WordPress or Wix.
Free services like Mailchimp will allow you to set up a newsletter for your subscribers to keep them informed about news and events. Email lists are a great way to get any news about exclusive radio shows, special offers and competitions out to your loyal listeners.
Step 4: Use of Youtube
Once you’ve got a studio set up, YouTube might be another great avenue for promotion. If you’ve got a special guest or celebrity in the studio for an interview this is particularly good way of boosting your following. Recording a video of the show and uploading it to Youtube could bring new listeners to your station. If you have your own website on WordPress or Wix, you’ll also be able to embed the video on your page to encourage more traffic to your site.
Step 5: Run your own event
Every now and then it might be worth organising an event for your station, if you have the capacity. You might, for instance, invite local bands to play at the event and broadcast the whole thing live for those unable to attend in person. You can either find a nice local venue to run the event in or get a bit more creative. Thinking outside of the box can often attract more buzz, so if you have the space, you could, for instance do some “living room sessions” in your own house. You can then promote your event (or series of events, if the first is successful) on Eventbrite, Facebook Local and other related platforms to reach as wide an audience as possible.
Make money from your internet station
Whilst operating an online radio station is a fulfilling hobby, as your audience grows you might want to look for ways monitise your station. This can help contribute towards operating costs, new equipment, or even you own living expenses. We’re not promising your station will make you rich, but here are a few points to get you started.
Step 1: Use radio ads and banners ads
There are several ways you can monetise your internet station. It’s worth bearing in mind that some of these methods can be fairly time-consuming, but once your audience is large enough, the pay-off can be worth it.
One way of monetising might be to connect with local brands and ask them if they would be interested in advertising on your station. As another example, if you run a religious radio station that plays gospel music, you could try emailing companies or groups who you know would be sympathetic to a religious message asking them if they would be willing to promote them company via your station. You could also make announcements during your programming explaining that you are looking for sponsors to help keep the station going.
When reaching out, be ready with a simple media kit to share with potential promoters that tells them as succinctly as possible what your mission, vision, metrics and target audience are. Offer them different options for promotion, whether this is banner ads placed on your radio station’s homepage or mentions during your show. Make sure to have different options and prices in mind before reaching out, and to calculate this figure try to find out how much other similar local internet radio stations are charging for promotions.
Step 2: Make use of Google Adsense and other ad networks
Setting up an account with Google Adsense is another way to monetise your online station. This involves featuring ads on your website or blog, which you will receive payment for when your readers click on the ads. Google AdSense is one of the most common ways to monetise your website. However, keep in mind that it can take a long time until you build a large audience and make any significant revenue from Google ads. You will need to sign up for an Google AdSense account, after which you will receive a personal code to add to your website. You’ll be able to choose how your ads will look, where they’ll show up, and even what kind of ads you’re willing to accept (you may want to exclude sensitive ad categories related to sensitive topics such as politics for instance).
Step 3: Find affiliate partners
If you’re not familiar with affiliate marketing, here’s a practical example: you have a radio show which you use to talk about sports like football and basketball. Through affiliate marketing, you’ll partner with sports brands, earning money whenever one of your listeners clicks on a link you share and purchases a product or service.
If you sign up to be an affiliate partner of an organisation, they will likely send you a URL to share with your listeners which will direct them to their service, whether that’s a 3 day gym pass or discount tickets to a football game. Commission is paid whenever one of your listeners signs up to the service. If you want to know more about this practice check out this guide to affiliate marketing by Neil Patel.
Brainstorm brands which are relevant to your show, whether because of its content or the demographic of you listeners. Once you’ve made a list, do some research into whether they offer affiliate programmes. If they do, sign up, and get an affiliate link or banner ad. If you’re struggling to do this yourself, there are a few affiliate networks out there that can help you connect with suitable partners. Affiliate Windows, Webgains and Tradedoubler are a few avenues you could try.
You should think carefully about how to integrate these ads into your output in an organic way. You’ll lose listeners if you keep bombarding them with poorly-placed commercial ads.
Step 4: Sell your own merchandise
Another great way to make some extra money from your station is to make branded merchandise. You could make t-shirts, mugs, hats, pens, notebooks and other cool stuff with your radio station’s logo. If your fans like your station and you have cool merchandise to give them, they’ll almost certainly be willing to wear it.
Make sure you have some interesting designs, and try to think about something that you would wear yourself. You could use a site like Vistaprint, Promotique or Zazzle to create your own merch, while a website like spreadshop.com will help you start your own merchandise shop and sell print on demand merchandise.
Final notes: Evaluate what works and what doesn’t
Once you’ve got your internet radio up and running, it’s always good to check in regularly to see which elements are working and which elements aren’t. You can use the following questions to evaluate your progress, and if you have the resources, write up the data and answers into spreadsheet for keeping track of your growth.
- Which shows are the most popular, and why?
- Which time zones have the most listeners? (Analysing this also allows you to provide relevant content tailored to where people are listening from)
- Which social media channels have been the most effective in bringing traffic back to your radio’s site?
- Which of your social media channels are seeing the greatest amount of listener engagement?
- Which influencers, if any, are interacting with your radio shows and/or social media?
- Are your newsletter list(s) and social media channels growing in terms of fans? If not, why is that? How can you alter your strategy to bring in more fans?
These questions are, of course, just a start, but they’ll get you thinking strategically about the work you’re doing. Over time, you’ll begin to get a clearer picture of what does and doesn’t work, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Above all, choosing to stick to what you’re passionate about is the most important part of starting up your own online radio station. It’ll make all the background work seem a breeze. Good luck – and we hope to catch you on the airwaves soon!