How To

The Best Internet Radio Stations & How To Start Your Own

Photograph of the blog post author, Joelle Banton

Joelle Banton

5.5.2020

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In recent years, streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify have revolutionised the way music is listened to. However, radio still has a huge audience and new hit songs still come through radio stations. Radio is one of the best platforms to listen to curated music if you want to keep up with the latest music trends. However, many mainstream radio stations can be very repetitive. This is one of the main reasons for the rise of internet radio stations – so that you can listen to radio online!

internet radio station sound board

What Is A Free Internet Radio Station?

An online radio station is a live broadcast or recorded show that is streamed via the web. 

The best thing about internet radio stations is that they are not restricted to geographic locations. This is unlike radio stations listened to on DAB and analogue radios. Despite BBC Radio 2 is a UK-based radio station but it has millions of listeners all over the world, which is made possible through its online radio station. Compared to traditional radio stations, internet radio stations are of better quality. Also, many free online stations are a great place to gain inspiration. 

We have made a list of some of the best online radio stations, and have also created a guide on how to create your own internet radio station. 

Best Online Radio Stations

laptop header image The Best Internet Radio Stations

Worldwide FM

As the name suggests, this station has listeners from all over the globe. Worldwide FM is based in London but has partner offices in Kyoto, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and Rio. This is the perfect platform to get immersed in the underground music scenes and music cultures from throughout the world. 

Founded by DJ Gilles Peterson, Worldwide FM has a variety of segments from live music sessions to in-depth discussions. Many global ambassadors are also invited into Worldwide FM’s HQ to shine a light on the local music scene in their country.

Pandora Radio

Pandora Radio is a leading podcast and discovery platform in the US, and is also the largest streaming music provider in the US. Users can give feedback on the songs that they have listened to via a thumbs up or thumbs down. They can give a thumbs up or down depending on how they felt about the music. From this, Pandora internet radio’s playlists become personalised.

FIP

FIP play an interesting blend of classic hits and alternative music from every stretch of the globe. They have built up a large following since it was founded in 1971 in Paris. 

If you are an open-minded listener looking for a station that plays everything from Metal to Mexican mariachi, FIP is the station for you!

NTS

Founded by Femi Adeyemi in 2011 in Hackney, London, NTS has been redefining live radio since it first went on air. Classical, techno, experimental and disco are just a few examples of the genres you can hear on NTS. Also, if you search through the NTS schedule and archives, you’re sure to find a show that you’ll love.

Vintage FM

multiple radios image Vintage FM

Listening to new music doesn’t always mean it has to be the latest hits. Based in Sydney, Vintage FM only plays music that was released in the ’70s and before and originally released on vinyl. 

Many young audiences may wince at the sound of a vintage radio station; however, this may be a chance for you to discover or rediscover classic hits from artists who have shaped music to what it is today. 

If you have an appetite for nostalgic music from the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Jackson 5 and Diana Ross then give Vintage FM a try!

KCRW Eclectic 24

KCRW Eclectic 24 is a 24-hour internet radio station, broadcasting live from Santa Monica College in Los Angeles. They play music from the local music scenes, artists with large cult followings and popular indie bands in the underground music world. 

KCRW Eclectic 24 is the perfect indie station if you want to listen to upcoming artists before they have broken into mainstream radio. 

Soho Radio

Priding itself on having no playlists and adverts, Soho Radio is the perfect combination of underground and mainstream DJ’s. Broadcasting from London, Soho, guest slots have included dub icon Denis Bovell and Haçienda legend Mike Pickering. 

Diversity is not lacking on Soho Radio so if you have musical tastes that span across numerous genres then tune into this station. 

Balamii

Another London-based radio station, Balamii showcases a range of artists from many different musical backgrounds – although its main focus nowadays is dance, hip-hop and electronic music. 

The founders of this station have recently opened a booking agency. They have also started broadcasting in New York as well to share the community radio vibes with the US audience. 

Dublab

Eclecticism is not only preserved amongst East-Londoners – Dublab, a Los Angeles based online radio station, proves this to be true. Broadcasting five days a week, this station gives DJ’s the freedom to flourish and play the music they’re passionate about. 

Dublab also focuses on endorsing emerging unique artists, especially those who have a distinctive sound and blur the lines of micro-genres. 

audio mixer image dublab

KEXP

Known best for its live studio sessions that highlight music from all over the world, KEXP is often one of the first major outlets to shine a light on up-and-coming groups. 

KEXP, which was started as a partnership between the University of Washington and Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project, has gained a vast, almost cult-like fanbase over the years. 

It is the ideal place to listen to never-heard-before music and even artists from alternative music scenes. 

Power 105.1 / WWPR

Started for the alternative hip-hop lovers, WWPR’s daily spin focuses on both mainstream and underground R&B and hip-hop with occasional plays of Latin and reggae music. 

This New-York based station also consists of several talk shows, the biggest being the Breakfast Club hosted by famed radio presenter Charlamagne. 

Cinemix

In love with the greatest movie scores? Then you will love Cinemix. Founded by its listeners, this station plays only world-renowned artists and theme songs from movie soundtracks. 

You might just come away from Cinemix with a long list of new movies to watch more than anything else!

Discovering New Music On Internet Radio Stations

earphones image - Discovering New Music on Online Radio

As mentioned a few times above, free online radio stations are useful for discovering new tracks, artists and even subcultures. Many online radio stations focus on promoting new talent and give aspiring artists a platform to showcase their music

This is the beauty of many free internet radio stations – you might just be listening to the next big artist! If you have a business-like mindset, then developing your own radio station might be for you. 

It is a way for new DJ’s to showcase their mixing skills to the world and shine a light on topics that are relevant to them and the music cultures they support. 

How To Start An Internet Radio Station 

If you are an entrepreneur with a dream of starting an online radio station but don’t know how to go about it, we have broken the process down into easy-to-follow steps. The first thing you need to consider is having the right equipment. 

To get started all you really need is a decent computer, internet connection and content that will be broadcasted. If you are thinking of broadcasting talk sessions or talking in between music tracks, for a basic setup, a good microphone and a digital recording preemie such as Audacity is needed.

Step 1: Getting The Equipment That Is Needed 

home radio image - How to Start an Online Radio Station

Radio Server

An essential cost associated with starting an online radio station is paying for radio hosting. Listeners tune into online radio stations by first connecting to a radio server through a radio server programme like Icecast. 

These programmes take a radio stream and put it online for listeners to connect to it. A radio server can be also created if you don’t want to incur any costs. However, you will be limited to the number of listeners you are able to reach with your self-hosted radio server.  

By downloading and installing a radio server program to your computer, a radio stream can be created. Your internet connection may restrict the size of your potential audience, though. 

Audio Software 

An audio programme is needed for tweaking audio files that have been created. Most musicians and artists who have their own radio show or podcast use Audacity – which is easy-to-use and free! This programme can be used for recording and editing multi-tracks.

Audio Mixer 

A mixer will come in handy for merging and controlling multiple audio inputs. A 4-channel mixer will allow you to connect a microphone, an external music source, a mobile phone and a second mic for when you have guests on your show. 

If a guest is talking too loudly or too quietly, you can control the volume using most mixers. Most audio mixers also allow you to make audio enhancements like equalisation, compression or filtering.

Headphones And Speakers 

Headphones and speakers are also crucial to radio DJ’s to enable them to hear the next song on the playlist and listen to background audio during a talking segment. Monitoring how your voice sound is also important if you don’t have a sound engineer to observe how everything sounds. 

It is critical to remember that the use of a speaker or microphone during live recordings can lead to an annoying echo or a feedback loop if there is a delay in audio playback. 

Reliable Computer & Internet Connection

If you are thinking about purchasing a new computer before setting up your station, you should consider the radio broadcasting programmes you want to use. 

The choice of computer your go for, whether it may be windows or mac PC, will influence which programmes you can use. Most radio broadcasting software is available for download on windows. 

A reliable internet connection is also vital. If your connection is slow then there will be delays that will lead to buffering. 

Step 2: Selecting Playout Software 

A radio station can use 3 different types of programmes to run the show. Media players and DJ programmes are great starting points. However, radio DJ’s must use radio automation software or a combination of programmes. 

Full radio automation is beneficial because it is completely unattended. You simply choose the categories of music and the software will select songs at random to play. Examples of radio automation software include Sam Broadcaster, PlayoutON and RadioDJ. DJ programmes such as Serato Pro, Mixxx and Virtual DJ allow the artist to manipulate sound and add effects to playlists

An encoder programme must be used to encode the show before you can broadcast your station to the server. An encoder programme will capture audio from your microphone or playback device. It will then convert this into the audio format of your choosing. You will hear a few seconds of delay when listening to your online stream. This is because the server stores the audio file before sending it out to the listeners’ player. A server does this to prevent buffering at the user’s end and to create a continuous stream. 

There are many free encoders available online as well as paid for encoder programmes such as Radio Caster. Some radio automation programmes also come with an encoder built-in. 

Step 3: Getting Connected

microphone image

The third step in the process is probably the easiest – connecting the encoder to the server. The website you decide to create a radio server on will give you a unique set of details which you input into your encoder programme. After this final stop – you’re good to go!

Step 4: Start Broadcasting! 

When you have everything up and running, you are now ready to go on the air – however, there are a few things to consider when starting out in internet radio broadcasting. 

If you plan on playing hits and mainstream music you should apply for a licence. This ensures that the artists/record labels receive their royalties for their copyrighted tracks. Also, royalty-free songs do not necessarily mean they are free to stream. 

The way you distribute your stream is also important to think about. You should also set up a website where you can embed a virtual radio player after your radio station is on the air. There are also many radio streaming directories like Streema which help stations gain exposure and allow searches to uncover new stations. 

Conclusion And Advice

Listening to free online radio stations provides many benefits for artists and entrepreneurs. It’s a great way to find new sounds for your music, up and coming artists to possibly collaborate with and understand the workings of online radio. 

As many of these web radio stations help new talents, getting in touch with them is also worth a try. This could result in numerous stations playing your music or even inviting you for a live session. Listening to internet radio stations are also a great way to find new songs to add to your playlists!

The process of starting an online radio station may seem daunting, but hopefully this guide has helped Although starting a free online radio station is an achievement in itself, don’t stop there! Providing a continuous stream of interesting audio content, building a relationship with listeners and ensuring good programming is only just the start of a successful online radio station!

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