WWW FAQs: How do I start my own Internet radio station?

2006-07-23: What kind of radio station do you want? There are different solutions for different needs. The most important issue is a legal one: do you own the rights to the music? If you didn't record the music yourself - and write the song yourself - the answer is probably no.

You'll be pleasantly surprised to hear that you can still share music you don't own without getting in trouble. But you have to do it the right way, by working with one of several companies that can give you the legal right to share other people's music. Otherwise, telling the world that you are broadcasting someone else's songs is a perfect recipe for getting sued. And you don't want that.

So what do you want to do? There are four scenarios, and I've provided an answer for each of them.

BREAKING NEWS 2009/07/07: SoundExchange has struck a deal with several webcasters. In a nutshell, the deal calls for webcasters to pay reduced rates or 25% of their revenue, whichever is greater. This is a good deal for "pure-play" webcasters who don't have other sources of revenue apart from advertising on their sites. See the soundexchange.com web site for more information about these recent developments.

1. You want to broadcast other people's music, and you don't want to provide the music files yourself. Example: you want to play popular songs you would hear on the radio. Several companies offer ways to do this legally, for free, and you don't have to upload the music - they've already got it. You just pick the playlist, which is the easiest way to go. The end result won't be a part of your own website, you just get the satisfaction of sharing it and getting your name out there.

For the solution, see the article How do I share a music playlist on the Internet?

2. You want to broadcast other people's prerecorded music, along with your own commentary, and you already have the audio files. Example: you have rare Pearl Jam tracks that hardly ever get played on the radio. You want to broadcast them on the Internet, and maybe do some commentary as well. At least one company provides an inexpensive way to do this legally. You can personalize your station but it won't be on your own website unless you pay extra.

For the solution, see the article How do I legally broadcast copyrighted music on the Internet?

3. You want to broadcast your own music or talk show, prerecorded. This is easy to do on your own website. You can also work with companies that can do a professional job of managing your online station, even if you're using your own audio content. Also, you can use podcasting to reach users who prefer to listen on portable audio players, or who just like to receive their audio through iTunes or a similar "podcatcher" program.

For the solution, see the articles how do I broadcast my own prerecorded music or talk show on the Internet? and how do I make a podcast?

4. You want to broadcast your own music or talk show, live. And when I say live, I mean straight from the microphone! Live Internet broadcasting is a special technical challenge. Many people discover that they don't really need to go out live - delaying the show an hour so that you can clean it up and upload it to your website as a simple MP3 file can save a lot of effort and grief. But if you're serious about broadcasting live, there are ways to do it.

For the solution, see How do I broadcast my own live music or talk show on the Internet?

Congratulations - you're an Internet broadcaster!

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