This guide will teach you how to setup your very first internet radio station using free tools available to everyone on the internet. Through this tutorial, we will be creating a fictional radio station called “My Stream Radio.”
Step 1: Plan the format of your radio station out.
The first step is to figure out what will be broadcast on the station. For most, the answer is music. Others may want to include talking, preaching, or sounds of nothing. it’s your station, and you can do whatever you wish.
For our fictional station, “My Stream Radio,” we will be featuring the soothing sounds of cavemen yelling, screaming, and an occasional chant. For “My Stream Radio”, I just happen to have several CDs, tapes, and even a few vinyl records full of this kind of content. I now know what I plan on broadcasting…step 1 complete.
Step 2: Digitalize Your Content
Now it’s time to take all of my CDs, tapes, and vinyl records and convert them over to a digital audio format. How exactly do I do this? Well first, I need to understand a little bit about digital audio. For my radio station, I am going to convert all of my content over to a very common format, mp3. Let us get to know our friend, mp3, a bit better….
In simple terms, a mp3 file is an audio recording format that strips away all of the sounds that the human ear cannot hear into a nice, small file size. The quality of a mp3 is determined by the bitrate that it is created at. There are several different bitrates available.
Sound Quality based on bitrate:
24 to 32kbps = AM radio quality – good for talking
48 to 80kbps = FM radio quality – decent for music
92 to 128kbps = CD quality – great for music
192kbp to 320kbps = better than CD quality
Remember the higher the bitrate you choose to rip at, the more space the files will take up. This probably won’t be a problem since most computers come equipped with WAY to much memory. Seeing that I have all of this extra memory on my computer, I will go ahead and rip my CDs at 192kbps (to me, this bitrate has an excellent sound quality and does not take up to much space).
Now that I have figured out some of the basics of a mp3 file, it’s time to start ripping! I am really anxious to get “My Stream Radio” up and running, so I will go ahead and rip the easiest things to rip…CDs.
How to rip CDs:
1. Download a CD ripping program. Common and easy to use ones include Windows Media Player, iTunes, and Freerip. (Windows already comes with Windows Media Player installed…lucky you!)
2. The next few steps depend on the CD ripping software that I downloaded. For my rip, I decided to use Windows Media Player. Now before I start ripping, I want to make sure the proper settings have been set in Windows Media Player. To access these options, I go to the “Tools” menu, than select “Options.” I then select “mp3″ under “format.” I then set the audio quality to 192kbps. I am now ready to rip!
3. Simply insert the CD, and a menu should pop up asking you what you want to do. Just click on “rip the CD using Windows Media Player” and your on your way!
Alright, after hours and hours of ripping CDs into mp3, I now have enough to play on “My Stream Radio”. I will cover the ripping of tapes and records later on…I am ready to get this station up and going!
Step 3: Download and install software capable of broadcasting.
“My Stream radio” is on a very tight budget, FREE. Before we actually start installing software, let’s understand the basics of how internet radio traditionally works. It is very similar to how television, terrestrial radio, and even satellite broadcasts work, except it is done entirely through the internet.
How Internet Radio Works
1. Your computer plays the content, and sends it to a streaming audio server.
2. The streaming audio server resides on a powerful computer, which is made available to anyone that has access to the internet to connect and listen.
3. Listeners connect to the streaming audio server, and listen to the content that is playing on your computer.
So, let’s go fetch one of the most popular free applications used in internet broadcasting, Winamp. Download and install the latest version of Winamp.
Winamp alone does not enable me to broadcast. I need to get a special plugin called the “SHOUTcast Radio DSP plug-in”
After you have downloaded and installed this plugin. STOP! It is time to go to the next step. Don’t worry, we will come back to finish setting this part up after we figure out step 4.
Step 4: Determining The Streaming Audio Server Setup
Before we begin to configure and setup a streaming audio server, we must understand how a server works…
In FM/AM radio, the broadcast is sent to an antenna where it is broadcast out to everyone within a certain listening range. All that is needed to listen is a radio, but NO DIRECT CONNECTION is made to that antenna…the listener is just receiving an outgoing signal.
Internet radio is A LOT different. Since a direct connection is made between the streaming audio server and the listener, we must make sure we have enough bandwidth available so that listeners can connect and listen. If there is not enough bandwidth available, the listener may encounter skipping (or buffering) while trying to listen. We must keep this in mind for the next step…
It is now time to figure out the setup of the streaming audio server. The streaming audio server that I have chosen to use with “My Stream Radio” is called Shoutcast. There are two options available: hosting the Shoutcast server on the same computer that I have setup to broadcast “My Stream Radio” or renting a Shoutcast server from a hosting company. Now it is time to weigh both options..
Hosting my own server on my computer could save me some money, but I would be limited to the number of listeners that I could have (depending on the speed of my internet connection). I’m also not very computer savvy, so it could be a security risk if not setup properly. If I go with a hosting company, I know that the Shoutcast server will be on a large internet connection capable of handling the amount of listeners that I want. I also know that the connection will be stable. I finally will not be responsible for the configuration of the Shoutcast server (which can sometimes be tricky). Since I want my listeners of “My Stream Radio” to have the best listening experience that they can, I have decided to go with a hosting provider.
Most hosting providers sell based on the bitrate that you want to broadcast at, and the number of listeners that you wish to allow to connect at one time (or slots). The higher the bitrate you choose to broadcast, the higher the cost. Remember our bitrate to sound quality chart from above. To keep my costs reasonable, I decide to go with a 64kbps server. Since this is a brand new radio station and noone knows about it, I decide to go with a low amount of listener slots (25) [this can always be upgraded later on if needed]. This comes out to $5.95 a month with the hosting provider that I have chosen to go with…not to shabby at all!
After signing up for the server, the company sends me the information on my particular server. This usually includes information for a control panel so that I can start, stop, and restart my server or use the AutoDJ. I can also change a few of the settings around if I need to. Alright, now that I have all of this information…it’s onto my last and final step!
Step 5: Configuring the Shoutcast DSP settings in Winamp to begin broadcasting.
Start Winamp and open Preferences (CTRL-P) and click on the DSP/effects subcategory under the Plug-ins tree. Click on the NULLsoft Shoutcast Source, then click “configure active plugin.”
1. Click on “Output” tab.
2. Check the box that says “connect at startup.”
3. Input the information provided by your hosting provider (server IP, port, password, etc.)
4. Click on the “Yellowpages” button.
5. Fill out the information (station name, any instant messengers you might use, etc.)
6. Click on “Encoder” tab.
7. Make sure “Encoder Type” is set to mp3. For “My Stream Radio”, I had decided to broadcast at 64kbps, so I select 64kbps/44khz mono.
8. Click on the “Output” tab again.
9. Verify that the information in the “Status” section says “Sent.” If this is the case, than you are currently broadcasting! Congratulations!
Sometimes you may see an error message. If you do, please make sure that any firewalls that you have are set to be open on the “port” that was assigned by your hosting provider.
We are done! Now everyone can listen to “My Stream Radio” and enjoy the sweet sounds.
Play what you like to the world!