How to Start a Radio Station

Everything you need to know about starting a radio station

Research & Refine your Business Idea

A radio station will enable you to find a creative outlet and focus on a theme or a music genre that you love. While the creative side of things is very important, a radio station should be treated like a business in order to be successful.

What exactly does this mean?

You need to come up with a sustainable concept and a business plan that will enable you to grow the popularity of your station in the years to come. A clear understanding of the cost of running a radio and the revenue generation possibilities you’ll be reliant on will also be required.

In order to launch a successful concept, you have to do some preliminary planning.

The first thing you have to make sure you have in the bag is an original radio station idea.

Think of it this way – what makes your brand unique? How are you going to attract listeners, advertisers and sponsors? To accomplish these goals, you need a radio station concept that’s different or better from what’s already out there.

Start with competition research to identify the radio stations that run similar themes. Once you do, you can come up with your own idea that will enable you to occupy a unique sub-genre. If you’re inclined towards political commentary, for example, you can have a focus on local politics and social issues. Inviting local representatives to discuss matters of importance to the community will make your station different from a radio that looks at national or international political issues, for example.

Creating your Business Website

A business website will play an important role in your sustainable development strategy.

This is the stepping stone of all your online marketing efforts. You need a brand that’s properly represented in the online realm. Your radio station website will tell the world who you are, what you do and what makes you different.

In the case of a radio station, a website provides additional business opportunities.

There are various options you can choose in terms of broadcasting. Online radio streaming is a great addition to the standard opportunities. In fact, online radios have become quite popular. US statistics suggest that 41 percent of people aged 18 to 49 have listened to online radio over the past month. The internet radio revenue share of the total for audio broadcasting stations is growing. Americans are listening to online radio for nearly 14 hours per week – a number you simply can’t ignore.

Setting up online broadcasting is a lot easier than establishing standard radio broadcasts. This is yet another reason why your website matters and why you should be paying special attention to the opportunity.

Setting up a website isn’t as hard as it may sound, in-fact, many hosting providers have tailored their service around small businesses who may not be tech savvy. We suggest going with BlueHost to host your website, they’re service is simple and easy to use/setup and they’re currently offering 60% off hosting, including free domain registration.

Additionally, creating a blog on your website is also a great way to attract organic traffic and expand your business. Checkout our full guide on the best and easiest way to setup a WordPress blog here.

Get Ideas for your radio station business name!

Marketing Your Business

You can advertise a radio station in a wide range of creative ways. From traditional to online marketing, there are so many options to try when it comes to attracting the right target audience.

For a start, you should explore the cost-effective and highly targeted online strategies. A few of the best advertising approaches for radio stations include:

  • Content creation via your official website or radio station blog
  • Social media marketing on relevant networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even YouTube
  • Search engine optimization so that you achieve a good search engine position for keywords of preference
  • Pay per click (PPC) or banner display advertising in relevant websites, communities and forums
  • App development so that people can view your campaigns on the go
  • Email marketing (while an old-school approach, it still delivers excellent results when the content is relevant and the audience is segmented)
  • Starting a podcast to create additional content and shed some light on the topics discussed on your radio show

Apart from digital advertising, a radio station can also benefit from some old-school promotion.

A billboard is a great choice for radios that want to target a local audience. The same applies to the distribution of flyers or brochures.

Sponsoring events, participating in workshops and conferences, setting up your own party/panel discussion will also increase brand recognition. You should be visible locally and tying your name to a successful event is a great way to accomplish the goal.

Running contests and getting your audience actively involved in winning new listeners over for your station is an engaging marketing approach that’s cost-effective and that usually yields excellent results.

Setting Goals and KPI’s

Tracking KPIs will provide valuable information about the performance of your radio station.

In order to benefit from the analysis, however, you’ll have to select the right KPIs to track.

Radio stations and broadcast media should get in the habit of paying attention to the following metrics:

  • Audience reach: the number of individuals or households in a target market who were exposed at least one to advertisement on your station within any given period.
  • Percentage of programs completed under budget: obviously, production cost-efficiency is one of the essentials for financial long-term success.
  • Level of maintenance spending: this is a KPI that will show you how radio station maintenance spending is going to have an effect on future capital expenditures.
  • Cost per broadcast hour: yet another financial metric that will enable better strategic planning.
  • Industry-relevant awards and recognitions received: a somewhat different KPI, this one stands as evidence of both popularity and the quality of the broadcast programs.
  • Customer retention rate: could be applied to your advertisers. How many of them have you managed to retain in the long run and what percentage did you lose after running just one advertising campaign on your station?
  • Outreach engagement: how many new customers (advertisers, sponsors) have you managed to gain through outreach efforts like email or a phone call? The KPI will let you know whether your marketing and communication strategies are good enough.

Don’t forget to try our radio station business name generator!

Plan your Finances

Running a radio station can be costly – you’ll need a studio and broadcast equipment on top of the other operational expenses.

Calculate the amount you’ll need to get established.

Based on that information, you can begin pursuing the best possible sources of funding.

If you don’t have enough to bring the idea to fruition on your own, consider getting a business partner or an angel investor. To accomplish the goal, however, you will need an excellent business strategy that will impress a seasoned entrepreneur.

Launching a kickstarter campaign is another funding possibility. Once again, your concept will have to appeal to a general audience in order for you to land some funding.

Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Even if you consider yourself to be an artist or a content creator, you’ll still have to adopt the entrepreneurial mindset to ensure the long-term survival and growth of your radio station.

Entrepreneurs are practical and goal-driven. They know the important milestones and what it takes to get from point A to point B. Their work is characterized by consistency, effectiveness and a focus on getting the job done for the greater good.

You may need to educate yourself in order to begin adopting the entrepreneurial mindset.

Luckily, there are numerous courses, tools and educational materials you can rely on.

Creating Powerful Radio by Valerie Geller is all about conceptualizing the business, finding the right audience and crafting shows people will want to listen to. Beyond Powerful Radio: A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age is another excellent choice.

Other things to consider when starting your radio station

Legal Requirements: 

You will need to consider the placement of your transmitter and the licenses needed in order to start broadcasting. The licensing requirements will vary from country to country.

Most often, radio broadcasting companies will need an FM radio license. There are Low Power FM licenses that are best suited to the needs of local radio companies and Full Power FM commercial licenses that ensure much wider coverage (for example – national).

In the US, you will also have to apply for a Federal Communications Commission construction permit, you’ll have to apply for your frequency and you’ll also need to get a broadcast business license. Operating unlicensed radio stations is illegal and it can contribute to hefty fines.

Accounting & Bookkeeping: 

Radio stations usually have various types of expenditure, as well as multiple revenue streams that need to be tracked.

In order to do a good job and ensure regulatory compliance, you should hire an experienced bookkeeper.

If you don’t have the funds to make an accountant a part of the team, consider outsourcing bookkeeping to a company or a freelance professional. The second option will be much more cost-efficient in the very start.

You’ll also need to get the right type of accounting software for your business. Xero is an excellent choice because of its flexibility.

Hiring Employees:

Running a radio station on your own will be exceptionally difficult.

Even in the very beginning, you’ll need to hire certain professionals that have sufficient radio, technical and broadcast knowledge.

A few of the vital team members to look for include announcers and DJs, sound and studio engineers, program directors (music, news, etc.), advertising and sales professionals, station managers, news writers, editors and reporters.

Obviously, you may have no need for some of these professionals depending on the specific niche you operate in. A music station has no need for news writers or editors. Take some time to determine the specifics of the program and based on this information, you can get started with the hiring process.

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