blog
07/03/2008
doing some DIY radio
Posted by Steve Woolf

On the show this week, we did a short segment highlighting a few web radio broadcasting tools. There are a lot of choices out there, but I like to focus on reliability and easy of use. There have been so many times that I've set up complicated applications designed for specific purposes that were potentially awesome and powerful, but turned out to the be a royal pain in the ass.

Nicecast is an app from Rogue Amoeba designed to allow you to create your own Internet radio station, and it also allows you to listen to your own iTunes library from anywhere in the world, which is very cool. The app itself is for OS X only, but the streams it broadcasts work with any of the major audio players on all platforms.

It also has a voiceover effect that allows you to insert your own commentary, so you can really use it like a DJ. This product has been around for years, so it's mature and stable. Ok so what's the downside? Well, it's ain't free. There's a fully-functional demo you can download, but if you want to keep using it, it's $40. In my opinion, if you're going to do this kind of thing a lot, it's nice to have a tool that comes with support when you need it, since that's really what you are paying for.

Shoutcast from Nullsoft is an interesting tool with a strong community. If you can get past the problematic website layout and make sense of what they are presenting to you, it's very cool that they have a directory of all the stations available to listen to. Unlike Nicecast you can use Shoutcast on any platform, but there are additional hurdles to get past.

Setting this one up is more complicated. You need to have access to a server with good connectivity for one thing. Then you can use the broadcasting app on your local machine to connect to the server and deliver your stream. On the listener side it's as easy as any of the others -- just use your favorite application to tune in. Shoutcast is free to download and use, and there is a very active support forum to help you clear through technical issues.

Peercast is a P2P application that's open source and totally free. There are clients available on all platforms, and the broadcast streams are essentially anonymous, since it's difficult to trace sources across a P2P network. And no data is stored locally on any machine connected to the network, so no one is "unintentionally" violating copyright.

This tool is not for the technically challenged. Sure, you can use default settings to get going, but if your streams are dropping out and you need to refine things to tailor your network requirements, be ready to roll up your sleeves or get someone who knows what they are doing. There are support forums on their site, but they are not very active.

Ok, I really, really like simple, easy-to-use tools.

Blip.fm is exactly like Twitter for music. In fact, it even asks the question, "what are you listening to?" at the top of every page. You can see what all of your friends, or everyone on the public timeline, is listening to at that moment. I think it's an awesome tool, but it would be great if it was tied into your iTunes, Last.fm, or Pandora playlists so that you don't have to manually post your songs.

Last.fm is simply great all around. It's a social network, it's a collaborative tool (check out the EPIC FU group on last.fm and add your songs!), and it has a standalone application to keep your tunes going in the background all day. Plus, it has an open API, so there are tons of tools out there built to take advantage of Last.fm's integration capabilities.

These last two are not exactly like being a DJ in a studio, so if you crave that experience you'll want one of the first three. But I'm certain that there are better tools out there and better ways of setting things up. If you have a way of doing DIY radio that we haven't talked about in this overview, please email us or post it on show discussion thread on MIX.

Happy July 4th!

tags: radio