Creating your own Internet Radio Station!
All throughout the world there are blues societies, Folk Music Societies, Indie music groups, etc, some big and some small. Each is working within their areas to support and expand their genre in their communities. If you are part of a blues society, a Folk Music Society or any other group that is passionate about music, creating your own internet radio station can be a great way to promote your local scene and the touring artists within your genre. The best part, it is not as hard or as costly as you might think. The end result can be not only beneficial to your organization but can help the musicians and the music you are passionate about, get out to the world. With this kind of outlet it raises the online profile and immediately gives you a certain credibility with your music community.
A Case in Point
It was back in February 2014 I was approached by the Board of the Atlanta Blues Society asking about what it would take to start their radio station on the internet. I thought this was a bold and interesting project, so I started to do some research to find the easiest and most cost effective means of making it happen for them. Once I had the right formula, I presented it to the board and within a few weeks we were up and running.
Now, since their launch in April 2014, they have become the #18 blues radio show in the world (on their streaming service). They are heard in over 40 countries and in all 50 states! They showcase not only their Local blues artists but they are showcasing touring blues artists that come through the Atlanta area, and some they would like to have come through Atlanta. What makes this station even more valuable to blues community is the fact that they have setup the station to report all the new releases that are being played to the Roots Music Report “Blues Radio Charts”! This is a huge benefit to not only their local artists that are doing a radio campaign but it also helps the touring artists that are out there trying to make a living playing blues.
After running the station as an automated playlist for the last couple months, on August 17th the Atlanta Blues Society will be broadcasting their IBC Challenge LIVE from the Hard Rock Café in Atlanta Georgia on their Stream. Once again leading the way for other blues societies, showing what can be done with some innovation and out of the box thinking.
How did they do it? Well, why don’t you tune into the ABS Bluescast (Click Link Below) listen to the station, and I will take you through my research and the steps of setting up your own radio station! The best way for you to see how this works is to experience it for yourself.
Rules of the Road
As of July 2010, Internet radio broadcasters must pay royalty fees each time they use copyrighted music in their broadcasts. First, they must pay the three traditional companies associated with music: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. These three companies collect license fees for web broadcasting and distribute them to composers and writers of music. Broadcasters who simultaneously broadcast over the airwaves and on the Internet do not need to purchase a separate license for Internet use.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) states that performers must also be paid royalties if their music is broadcast on the Internet. Internet broadcasters do this by purchasing a compulsory license from Sound Exchange. If broadcasters do not purchase a license or do not satisfy the terms of the license, performers can sue them for copyright infringement.
To obtain a license, an Internet broadcaster files for a Section 112 and Section 114 license with the U.S. Copyright Office. This costs $20 as of 2010. The broadcaster must specify whether it is a subscription or non-subscription service, as royalty fees are slightly different for each. Once the broadcaster obtains the license, it must pay royalties on a monthly basis for all songs broadcast.
Internet broadcasters may not play more than four songs from a particular artist in a three-hour period or play more than three songs from the same album or CD within three hours. Internet radio stations must be non-interactive–broadcasters pick the songs and lineup and do not post song lists in advance or allow users to create their own song lists. Broadcasters may allow users to request songs as long as the broadcaster decides which requests are honored and when to honor them.
What this means you can’t start a station and play only YOUR bands songs, or play songs from one artist all day every day. Nor can you have a request line that request a certain artist over and over again. Yea, I saw those wheels turning.
Finding the right Streaming Service
There were two ways to start streaming your own station. The First is to find a streaming service and then find a licensing service and pay them both. One of these services is CrossFire where they will rent you streaming Hosting. Then you have to deal with complying with the DMCA rules and paying the respective royalties to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and Soundscan. You then have to register with a service like StreamLicensing.com in order to make sure that all your royalties are paid and you are legal. When I Looked at this service plan, it just did not make sense for the ABS, it was cumbersome and was more suited for creating a more “Commercial” type internet radio station. To top it off you had to have your own broadcast software and server to send the stream to their broadcast server. Too much paperwork and too expensive for a non for profit group.
EDITORS NOTE: AS OF Feb 1 2016 LIVE365 has gone out of business and have ceased all broadcasts.
The next step I took a look at LIVE365. This is a service that not only gives you a streaming service, but it also takes care of all your Royalty payments and DMCA rules. All your music is uploaded to their server and you can create “Playlists” which can be scheduled throughout the week. So, for an example, you can have an indie show on Mondays from 10am-1pm and then it can change to a metal show from 1pm-5pm, etc. Everything is done online, so administering to the site, Is as simple as logging into your account and uploading mp3’s and adding them to your playlist. The cost is nominal. For approx. $26 a month you can get 128khz Stream with 1000 MB storage for your mp3’s. and you can have up to 60 regular listeners on your stream at one time (that is a lot for an internet station) and Uulimited “VIP” listeners (we will get into this later) on your stream at any given time.
The Downside is there are commercials that come in every 20 mins or so, these help pay your royalties and such. BUT, this is where the VIP Listener comes in. If you get someone to sign up for a VIP Membership, the first thing is they get a commercial FREE experience, and YOU get a 25% of their first months membership fee to apply towards your next bill. In addition for every hour they listen to your station you also get “streaming Fee” which adds up over time. In addition, LIVE365 supplies apps for Android, IPhone and Windows phone, to give you an opportunity to broadcast to many of the online devices. This seemed like the right fit for the ABS Bluescast.
What we did with the ABS Bluescast we uploaded approx. 14.5 hours of music (Which used approx. 852MB of our 1000MB) and created one big master playlist. What this does is, if you tuned in at the same time every day, the music would be different each time you tuned in. The stream would shift ahead by 2 hours each time you tuned in at that time. You would have to listen for 14 hours before you heard the same song again. This keeps it fresh for a longer period of time. We added ABS member bands in two song blocks with a bumper ID that Says “Here is a two pack from an Atlanta Blues Society member Band”. This gives lets you know that this is a member band, We also created some station ID’s which play before and after each commercial break and when you log into the stream. The Atlanta Blues society also has been collecting ID’s from touring Blues artists that are added throughout the playlist. As an incentive to venues that book local and touring acts there are ID’s that announce that that “The Following Band will be performing at “Venue” This Saturday”, etc. So far the bands love it, the venues love it and the touring acts Love it.
Now here is the important part, now you have an internet radio station and you really want to support the artists you are playing, then you should report all your new release spins to Roots Music Report and any other chart that collects radio airplay for your genre. (See End of the article for links to reporting charts). But for the purpose of this article we will concentrate on the Roots Music Report. To set yourself up to be a reporting station, you just email then with your station information and they will send you a login. IT’s that simple! Reporting is going to take you some time initially, usually when I report to RMR it takes me about ½ hour or so. But, I play almost exclusively New Releases. That is the important aspect of the charts, they are not for a classic recording that was done 10 years ago, they are primarily for releases that are 1 year or less.
Choose how many spins you report is another story. With the ABS Bluescast what I do is take the amount of hours in a week (168) and divide it by 14 (subtracting 1/2 hour for ID’s, Commercials, etc) and you basically will hear that song 12 times during the week. So I report 12 spins for each song that I report to Roots Music Report (RMR). If you don’t change your playlist for that week, because the 14.5 hour playlist keeps it fresh for a few weeks, you just have to copy your last playlist and lock it. IT can take you all of 30 seconds. The time you take to do this can make a world of difference to the musicians especially if they see their music is charting on the RMR Charts. Also the good thing about RMR is they cover any genre of music. So no matter what genre you play, there is a chart for you to report to on RMR and they make it easy to report to multiple charts at the same time.
Now, there is an upside for you. All the indie record lables watch these charts and look for new stations that are reporting. Once you start reporting your spins, you will start finding CD’s in your mailbox. I can tell you that I average about 15-30 CD’s a week from labels like Blind Pig, Alligator and a wide assortment of Indie Labels. So, if you are into getting music, reporting to the charts is a good way to get on the radar of the record companies and getting on their mailing lists.
The other aspect to having your own station is you can have LIVE shows that can broadcast from your home computer onto their server and then out to your stream. On August 17, 2014 the Atlanta Blues Society is going to broadcast LIVE from the Hard Rock Café in Atlanta Georgia their IBC Challenge. 12 bands will be competing for the right to represent Atlanta in Memphis the beginning of 2015. They will be taking a separate board mix and putting into a laptop that will be connected to a LAN line. For this you will need some sort of broadcast Software. I highly recommend Sam Broadcaster. I have tried many of the options out there, but Sam seems to be the only really stable and professional software available for the Internet radio station owner. It can be a bit pricey, but if you plan on doing a lot of live broadcasts then it is a must. From here you just switch from stream to Live Broadcast on the LIVE365 control panel and start your stream.
What this does is gives you is the opportunity to have a live DJ show on your radio station. And when there is no one available to do a live show, you just switch back to your playlist. Simple as that.
Well here you go, you could be up and running with your own Internet radio station in the matter of a couple hours. The research I did was basically for a small genre specific internet radio station for a Blues Society. What I can tell you is, it has been a huge success on many levels. The Atlanta Blues Society’s board of directors took an out of the box idea and executed it in such a way that they got a big bang for their buck. Just reading the comments on their station page (Which I hope you already saw since you should be already listening to it) you will see that the response is overwhelming positive.
So if you have a music related group or a Blues Society, why not take the plunge and start your own “Bluescast” !