Digital radio station basics

You have a digital radio station – now what?

Will you broadcast mixed programming? Every show featuring a different host playing a different genre of music along with speech based shows, local news, and phone-ins?

Or are you going to be a single genre station; playing only jazz, soul, dance, or rock… Or a single decade station; playing just 60s, or 70s, or 80s, or 90s, etc…

Auto DJ

As a broadcaster you have two options, and they can mix and match depending on how much energy, time and money you have.

  1. Upload MP3 tracks and pre-recorded shows and schedule them in Auto DJ to play out at times you set.
  2. Have people present their show live from where-ever they live.

Whichever you choose, do keep the schedule rock solid, week in and week out – listeners like continuity.

One of the issues you face with pre-recorded shows is consistency. They will arrive at different volumes – some at -1db, others at -3db, others again at -6db or whatever the presenter felt like doing that week.

Some will have had compression applied to give them that ‘radio’ sound, others not. As a station owner you might want to prepare a presenter Cheat Sheet that includes

  • Maximum show duration
  • Audio level
  • No compression
  • Bit rate (128k, 192k, 320k)
  • Correct Meta Data so the show name and presenter appear correctly
  • File naming protocol: 001-JustJazz-10Feb2020.MP3

Community radio

Building a studio for community use is quite an undertaking. But it can be done if you have the cash or can convince local businesses and politicians/local council to support you.

You need premises (some have found a spare closet at the local Mall, multi-storey car park, or a room at council offices / community centre). You likely need 24/7 access and good security to protect expensive gear from thieving mongrels.

And that really leads on to vetting the volunteers who come out of the woodwork when news leaks out that you are starting a radio station. You need a formal application form and ideally some way to vet (police check) volunteers.

What type of station?

What I have found is that digital broadcasters fall into one of three main categories:

  1. Someone who runs everything via Auto DJ and uses their spare time check and upload pre-recorded shows.
  2. A group of two or more serious hobbyists who share the work with ambitions to establish a studio somewhere and grow their hobby into a business.
  3. Community stations that serve a specific geographical area and receive help from community organisations/companies to broadcast local news and music.

But we all have to start somewhere; build a reputation, establish a strong listener base, and grow organically. Your front window will be your website – so ensure it looks professional.

However, the key is to actually start. Then build, refine and grow – rinse, repeat. Never stop starting.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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