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comment by ButterflyEffect
ButterflyEffect  ·  1738 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: School radio


(This became a huge post and I'm sorry if it appears overwhelming but it really isn't! There are a lot of steps and if you find people to help it will become a lot easier. I just wanted to be as thorough as I could be on a Sunday night while I'm doing laundry and I really hope this is of benefit to you!)

It depends entirely on the scope of what you're trying to do. If you want to broadcast over the air, a structure similar to ours (that would be WITR) or WTBU would be a good start. If you're looking to start something that is internet streaming only, then I would recommend a structure similar to RadioUTD, down in Dallas. That should really be where you start: Do you want this to become something that will have to ultimately be regulated by a Telecommunication Commission, but also be of a much larger scope and visibility, or streaming only which will be much easier to setup and will face a lot less scrutiny.

THE TECHNOLOGY (For streaming purposes only)

1. An audio stream and a server (for our streaming we use icecast so I'm going to link you to this article). You'll probably want a dedicated computer and server to host all of this, so that you won't have it turned off all of the time. Honestly, if you read that article and this one it will give you a pretty good idea on that end.

2. Want to play music and make it convenient for people? Automation and a digital library is a great, great thing. That's where something like the Rivendell Project comes into play. If you have a bunch of great CDs, and want other people to be able to play it, you can rip them to whatever directory you have set up and then import them into the program. From there, it's as simple as a search to get them playing. Any software like that is a powerful tool. You can also prerecord a show using Rivendell and have it set to play at a specific time, which is a great way to fill time.

3. Royalties. I have no idea how the royalty system works in Canada, so that's something you'll want to look into. I highly suspect you're going to end up having to pay some company a good chunk of money on a yearly basis to be able to play music. The nice part about streaming is that you won't need a license, which you will the second you decide to broadcast over the airwaves.

4. If you're interested in doing a broadcast, let me know and I can try my hand at explaining that too. You'll need a lot more money and equipment to do that.

THE PURPOSE (Or: I went through the tech side of things first because I go to a tech school).

1. Now what? You've got all this fancy stuff to make an online stream possible, some people interested and willing to help, etc. I'd start thinking about a mission statement now, and also branding (more to come on that later!).

2. Formatting! What do you admire in radio? Here's the part where, as thenewgreen mentions, listening to radio comes into play. I strongly recommend doing that. Our station (back to WITR...oh no...): We have a general daytime format called The Pulse of Music where no matter who is on it's going to be a similar, Indie Rock, themed show. The stylings will range from electro-pop heavy to garage-rock heavy but in the end, you know what you're hearing. We do specialty shows at night and on weekends, which are shows devoted to a single genre of music. Now, a college like WTBU? They do things differently and it works for them. It really depends on what you like.

3. The above two things tie in to this: what demographic are you targeting? It's a college station, so chances are the local college students. It's your (and whoever elses) job to appeal to your demographic while maintaining the integrity of the station. Basically what I'm saying is don't ever sell out to iheartradio.

THE PEOPLE (or: be friendly, be outgoing, and surround yourself with ambitious people)

1. People. You're going to need them. Probably lots of them, and you're going to want them to buy into this awesome opportunity to start a station. Know how many people do that? Not many, that's how many. I would be shocked if you can't find people who aren't passionate about music and would love to be involved with radio. Know any music related groups at your university, because I'm sure you can find people there that would love to help out.

2. A minimum number of people is hard, but if you want to fill a lot of time you're going to need a lot of DJs or have long shows - and a system of standards and training to make sure everybody is up to par. You want to have a high level of quality before you start letting people go out and doing whatever, and that involves the stuff with setting a format and ensuring that it's being followed and having people to enforce that (see: the contact pages I linked to way above).

3. People within your university. They'll probably be interested to hear about this, since it will be representing the university in some form and also the community at large. Due to this, some will probably be very happy to help. We have 1 and sometimes 2 advisers, along with 1 technical consultant for when things go wrong with our tech. The advisers can help with tons of things regarding logistics for events, a space to host whatever equipment you may need, recruitment and publicity, so on and so forth which leads us into...

MARKETING (or, why people should care).

1. You have a station set up, with DJs who are trained and care about what they're doing, but that doesn't mean people are going to listen or know about it. Market hard, yo. Brand yourself, and set up branding and cultural guidelines. Know what else this is good for? Helping with transitional periods after the old guards graduate.

2. Branding: You'll want some sort of a slogan, you'll want a name for your station, and you'll want a logo for it. Google any number of radio stations and you'll find that they're all different. From there, you'll want to find some sort of consistency for all of your marketing. Avenues include but are not limited to posters, promos in local publications, using your own station to promote yourself, reaching out to other community organizations and working them for a mutual benefit, etc.

3. A website is a great thing to have and you'll need one. Yell at insomniasexx about that. I'm actually hoping to hire a new webmaster for us sometime this week or next, to embark on a complete overhaul of our website and bring us up to snuff with a lot of great stations such as KCRW (seriously ghostoffuffle, this site is killer).

4. Events! Get yourself out there at concerts, musical events on campus, whatever else might tickle your fancy. We do a ton of events ranging from providing music for other groups to putting on concerts to having a presence at local art galleries.

5. Fundraising! You're going to need money to sustain an operation no matter what you do. This is what I've spent years doing at this point, and there's no easy way to do it. The best bet is time, and building up a loyal audience.


1. OH HEY DON'T FORGET ABOUT ALL THIS BECAUSE IT'S ACTUALLY SUPER IMPORTANT. But yeah, you're going to want to establish policies and procedures, bylaws, and all of that stuff since, you know, this hopefully won't be a one year and done thing. It's something that will likely be a lasting organization and will have an impact on the university around you, maybe not at first, but at some point in the future. This is an aspect where an adviser or working with an internal legal department is very, very helpful.

elizabeth  ·  1738 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Wow thanks so much for such a detailed response!

My University's pretty small and I'm doubting I could fill up a lot of time. What I had in mind was probably not really a radio... Maybe I should have said something more like a podcast combined with a bunch of playlists. Start slow but eventually build a little team that has little "shows" throughout the week. And eventually grow it into something bigger if people are into it :)

A school radio would be a fascinating thing to do tho. I'll see how far I can push to actually turn it into a radio but I'll settle for a podcast for now. Just gotta get my feet in the door before I start pushing for more.

It's a business school so I think there are lots of opportunities to talk to teachers and involved students.

ButterflyEffect  ·  1738 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Hey, I know a guy in Radio Saltire which is basically exactly what you're describing with starting as a podcast based platform and turning it into more. Granted, they're in Europe but it's the same kind of thing. I totally gave you way more information than you probably wanted, so my apologies for that.

I think you'd be surprised at how many people would be interested in such a thing. Even with 13,000 students (we have 18,000 which isn't out of your league, and at one point there was a streaming only group on top of our station). The podcast thing is getting bigger too, people have started reaching out to us about syndication and stuff like that of shows they do on their own.

Would love to hear more about where you end up going with this.

elizabeth  ·  1738 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It's never too much info. And it's still very applicable advice. It's not because it's a smaller operation that I should not be thinking of branding and targeting. And the technical part is some useful stuff to know in case I want to grow that project out in the future. Y'all got me pumped for this idea. I was just mildly thinking of mentioning it in my interview to show off I have ideas and could contribute nicely to the association but now I actually believe it could work out.

I'll let everyone know if it ever works out.