So, you want to create your own radio station? Here’s a beginner's guide to starting out
As a member of the PlayIt Live community, it's likely that you are interested in launching your very own radio station, or have already done so. In this week’s article, we’ll be discussing topics that will be useful, no matter the stage you are at. We will be taking a look at how to reach more people, how to handle branding and to effectively communicate with your potential listeners.
If you are yet to download and install the software, you can find it on our Products page. We already have a fantastic instructional video of the software, how to get started with it and some of the more advanced functions, which you can find on YouTube.
Transmission type – For newcomers, Internet is your simplest point of entry
A short-range radio transmitter that lets you transmit to the local neighbourhood is a fairly low-level investment; low end AM units start at around $80 and will let you broadcast to roughly the square mile surrounding your abode. It’s the tried and trusted method of teenage radio stations the world over, but problems occur when this method is used to scale.
In theory, (in nearly every country at least) any broadcast requires a broadcasting license, purchased from your local regulator, while many municipalities will overlook very small units or may even have legal exceptions (check your local regulations). Once your broadcast capability is large enough to interfere with existing users, you’ll be forced to navigate broadcast and bandwidth licencing, as well as any local requirements in terms of content and standards.
Digital or DAB was originally deployed as an upgrade to traditional broadcast – solving many of the problems associated with FM and AM, which suffer very noticeable degradation with loss of signal strength. Digital also comes with the advantage of allowing a much simpler process between where content is recorded and where it can be broadcast from. As such, many local areas are starting to launch public access, or small-scale DAB – allowing the public to access (for a fee), the local multiplex. DAB formats are compatible with common radio software solutions, making the transition from a smaller scale project relatively simple, so this is a potential consideration for taking your station to the next level.
Internet broadcasting is free (more or less), and it gives you access to 4.6bn users across the globe. You can brand and share visual content with your users with ease. The downside is that you’re competing with a vast array of professional and amateur stations. Over the last decade, paid and free streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube have also taken a big chunk of music market share, meaning that breaking through to find an audience is that bit more difficult.
On a positive note, the growth in popularity of podcasts have also revived interest in web radio that offers more of a personal touch, with users placing more value on curation and character in an age of VoD (Video on Demand) streaming. Additionally, all manner of devices has crept into our houses, and it’s now more common than ever for the main source of music in the household to be connected to the web, giving you access to a user who can engage on a deeper level.
For newcomers, internet broadcasting is the best place to start.
Decide what you do – focus and create
To carve out your slice of radio real-estate, you’ll need to give your audience something to engage with and understand. There are two big ways to do this: 1. your content, and 2. your brand.
It’s tempting to fill your new space with everything you like, but remember that listeners generally come to a station to fulfil a specific purpose. This can often be something defined from typical genres but can also be a love of niche or hard-to-find content, and specific curation is something which is in demand. To launch your own station and define what it is, it's best to start specific and grow where you find the demand reaches you.
While access to literally billions of listeners comes with its advantages, it's also very easy to get lost in the noise.
The biggest generic stations can have generic names, as users gravitate to the power that that name represents, but for the minnows of radio you’re going to need a name and a brand that defines who you are and what you do. Your brand needs to be relevant, memorable and yet distinguishable from the rest - it can include a clever play on words or a niche reference that will appeal to your audience, but don’t make them work too hard as you’ve got around two seconds of attention to your brand before your user moves on.
For example, let’s say you’ve decided to create a radio station for dog owners. Keep it simple and to the point - make sure that your audience instantly knows that your new station, “Radio4Dogs”, is the place to go to for all their canine audio needs.
Think around your content. While, in theory, your station could just be a string of back-to-back songs (very simple using PlayIt Live), engaging with your audience will maintain interest and keep them coming back for more.
If you’re niche is just right, and your connections are solid, considering bringing guests to the fold in order to cement the genre you are carving out for yourself.
Give your audience context, tell them why you have chosen the content that you have and let your personality meld with the brand of your radio station. Engaging with your audience is your main way to convey your aims, and to help them understand what content to expect.
List, promote, share, like, retweet, tag
Now that you have a theme, a brand, some idea of where to distribute the next step is, naturally, to gather listeners. While it's possible that listeners may stumble across you if you have chosen a traditional transmission, most likely they won’t, and at this point you’re pretty much invisible.
There are roughly three steps to get noticed: 1. Get listed. 2. Create a social presence, 3. Promote your brand like hell.
Get listed: Many radio users choose their stations carefully and will put time into looking for what they want. For you, this is great news - if you get listed in the right places, you’ll get exposure to the most engaged audiences, who are the easiest to convert. Make sure to check out which sites promote radio in your local area, but for international audiences, be sure to check out sites such as Internet Radio, TuneIn and radio.garden, as well as doing your own research to get on as many lists as possible.
Socialize: This one should be familiar, but get on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, Twitch, and anywhere else you can engage with potential listeners. Use your consistent brand and theme to simply explain who you are, what you do, and where you can be found.
Try explaining to your friends your whole station in one short snappy sentence. Once you’ve nailed it down, congratulations, you now have an opening pitch! Take this and use it often.
Share, Like, Retweet, Tag: A big misconception about social is to assume that if you post content, people will come. They won’t - at this stage, they don’t know who you are, and they’re not going to make the effort to find out. Social media is a two-way medium, and to get noticed you’ll need to interact in as many places as possible. Fortunately, you wouldn't be here if radio wasn’t a passion of yours, so take that passion, take it online and engage using your new brand. Get in discussions on Reddit, find like-minded groups on Facebook and Twitter, respond and reply on Twitch and hashtag your way to success on Instagram.
Finally, don’t be discouraged.
Building an audience takes time. You will experience a form of exponential growth, as well as churn and competition. You won’t find success overnight, but be confident that if you define yourself, push hard and build your niche, over time you will build a loyal group of likeminded individuals who share your passion.