How to run your own internet radio station (Equipment, legal considerations and more)

Anyone who has the right equipment can start and run their own internet radio station. However, there are a few other things to consider, such as how to build your audience. You’ll also need to inform yourself about music rights and licensing. There are various different companies and associations that deal with music rights and licensing, and we’ll provide you with an overview below.

Who can run their own internet radio station?

Anyone who wants to, essentially. Alongside the necessary equipment, which when compared to other hobbies is quite limited, you will need to dedicate time and energy, and show staying power. Your listeners will expect you to be working hard.

Having the technical equipment is often not enough to be successful. Your presenters must be able to show they have certain skills. Especially if you want to ensure that listening to your radio station is an enjoyable experience:

  • Passion when speaking into the microphone
  • Clear speech
  • Enjoying talking to guests, both online and offline, and inviting them to the show
  • Knowledge of how the systems work and/or the initiative to learn
  • How to plan and run a radio show
  • Marketing, network and contact building skills
Note

For some people, creating an internet radio station can be a way to build their own personal brand and become known for their interests or expertise. This is a key part of personal branding.

What do you need to pay attention to when operating your own internet radio station?

In short, there are six steps to running your own internet radio station:

  1. Having the necessary equipment (hardware and software)
  2. Finding music and spoken-word segments or producing them yourself
  3. Managing radio shows
  4. Choosing a hosting service to stream the content
  5. Designing your site and uploading audio content
  6. Advertising the station and becoming better known

The first point is particularly important. Those wanting to start their own station will not get far without investing in basic equipment. Those who already record podcasts on iTunes or iTunes alternatives will already have a large amount of the equipment needed.

Alongside the necessary hardware and software, you’ll need a suitable room to be able to produce the shows without encountering problems. This is particularly important for those who not only play music, but also have spoken segments. The room’s acoustics need to be just right.

On top of this, you will need a server to store your content. SHOUTcast Server is a popular freeware streaming service among those who have their own stations.

Other basic equipment includes:

  • a PC or a laptop
  • a good internet connection
  • an external microphone or headset
  • a collection of music files
  • software and a server to stream your own internet radio station
  • a quiet room
  • a mixing deck (optional)
Tip

If you’re looking to start your own internet radio station, you can rent a server from IONOS for a great price and with everything you need.

What legal considerations are there when running your own internet radio station?

Those who are looking to set up their own internet radio station should inform themselves about local laws.

This is particularly important for those who are looking to turn a profit from their station. You need to get all the information beforehand, so as to avoid any costly mistakes. Make sure to check both federal and state laws and take into account the following:

  • If you play licensed music, you will normally have to pay a fee.
  • The content should be suitable for children, not contain hate speech or otherwise be illegal.
  • Any paid ads need to be recognizable as such.
  • There may also be certain conditions attached to license-free music. For example, composers and the title may need to be mentioned.
  • You don’t need to guarantee that you’re on the air 24/7.

Which music rights are there and who enforces them?

If you want to run your own internet radio station, you will need to play some music. If you’re playing music that has been produced by others, there are a few things you need to take into account. As a beginner, you need to inform yourself about music licenses from the very beginning. As a general rule, if you’re playing licensed music, you will need the rights to do so and you will need to pay for them.

In the U.S., there are two main associations who deal with music licensing, BMI and ASCAP. However, since they both represent different artists, you may end up needing both. In order to play licensed music on your own radio station, you will need to register at one or both. Playing licensed music without the correct rights can lead to fines of up to $1,000 for EVERY song you play without the correct license.

Definition

BMI and ASCAP: BMI stands for Broadcast Music, Inc., while ASCAP stands for American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. They ensure that musicians, composers, songwriters and other music professionals receive royalties for their work every time their songs are played on radio, TV, in the cinema or streamed online. These associations collect royalties on behalf of the artists they represent and distribute them based on how often their songs are played.

Is there royalty-free music?

There is some royalty-free music. For example, radio stations can ask lesser-known artists to play their music for free in exchange for publicity. But be careful! Cover versions of songs may still require you to pay a fee to the original artist.

Another possibility is free music pools such as Jamendo, ccMixter and Soundtaxi. There are also other services such as SoundCloud alternatives and some artists also make licenses for their music available via Creative Commons. But there are still certain rules to take into consideration. For example, artists need to be named and they may place restrictions on their music for commercial purposes. You will need to check the terms and conditions of the site and/or the piece of music.

By using royalty-free music, you are able to access the music of lesser-known artists, giving them publicity and saving yourself money on licensing fees. You will also be able to distinguish yourself from stations that tend to only play the biggest hits from the most popular artists.

Tip

If you want to be a bit different and allow your audience to see you as well, you could become a streamer. There are different streaming services such as Twitch or YouTube. Which one you choose is up to you.

Click here for important legal disclaimers.

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