The Adventure continues – Radio Land Part 2
I’m trying to rotate the content of the blog posts are on this page. Recently we have had some related to gaming and some personal ones so I thought it was probably time to write about the continuing adventure into Radio Land. This also coincides with the webpage for Wilson Waffling Radio coming into existence so it somehow seemed appropriate. So headphones on, finger on that mic button counting down to the end of the song…3….2….1…..
These posts might come across as very boring, but I wanted to share with you my experiences and the traumas that I went through to get to where I am now. We often arrive at a place not remembering how we actually got there, or what we had gone through. Recording the process might also provide some information for other people who want to start up their own stations – maybe it will allow you to avoid some of the mistakes or difficulties I have endured. If the station ever becomes famous these blogs will also be a gentle reminder of my somewhat humble beginnings. In the last part one of my adventure into Radio Land I talked about the equipment I bought, the licensing and the overall cost of the set up. In this ‘episode’ I wanted to focus on the software I use, the shows on the schedule and the general background activity which occurs that the listeners are probably oblivious to. I have to say, at this point, that I didn’t realise that setting up a radio station and keeping it on the air would be so time consuming and, at times, stressful.
Software – When the radio station was being created I knew that I wanted to have some software which I could upload tracks to and play them live. Applications like Winamp would make the connection between my hosting company and iTunes, but I felt that this would actually remove some of the radio experience which I was so looking forward to having. While I was looking into the hosting for the station I had come across SAM Broadcaster. This had some software to download to run your tracks from straight to your streaming service. After watching Youtube videos I took the plunge and downloaded and….yes I did…paid for it. Although the features look great, it didn’t really work for me. When I say work for me, I mean that when I did practice shows, I found that the program kept crashing. I did contact the company on Facebook and got some response about downloading a ‘bug free’ version which still did not solve the problem. While presenting on Radio YSJ I was using a program called Myriad which, after looking into the site on the web, appeared to be used in a range of existing commercial radio stations. The customer service people were fantastic and I soon purchased the program. You need to pay a monthly subscription for this with the license being renewed every month. As of yet – the program hasn’t crashed at all! There was some trouble setting up the ‘database’ that it needs to run with the software, which was all to do with Windows. This again took some time and many a long evenings searching forums, but I eventually got it and started to upload music to the software. There are some great videos on Youtube how to use the software so if you do have a look into using it, then make sure you check them out!
Encoders – Myriad doesn’t connect directly to the streaming site, so I needed to find an encoder which would do this. Eventually I went with, and yes this is the name of the program, Butt Encoder. It was free, worked on my PC and was easy to use. It connects and records the shows ready to be uploaded to the web hosts. One thing which it doesn’t do is actually automatically post the ‘currently playing’ metadata. I found that other applications did do this, but I could not seem to get them working with my sound set up (don’t get me started on that – I still don’t understand sound cards and mixers). I currently, during live shows, update the song information manually. It is no hardship, as long as I remember to do it, and it does gives me some control over what I put.
The setup was now complete – music from iTunes was converted to mp3 format and uploaded to Myriad. Myriad sent the sound to the mixer where the sound from the microphone was also collected. Through two separate channels (not sure if this is how it should be done) these two outputs go to Butt Encoder and, once connected to the Internet-Radio.com streaming service I am Live! phew – all that literally took weeks, well nearly months to sort. But that was just the start of the hard work!
Shows and scheduling – A radio station really needs three things, music (doh) presenters and jingles. While I was applying to work as a presenter at Radio YSJ I had the idea for three shows – the getting ready to go out show which evolved into the Wilson Waffling Radio Show with Alex, a musical show and a chill out/relaxing show. With the station up and ready to go live, I took advantage of my two ready made ideas and created the Musical Show (previously called Friday Night is Musical Night) and the Snuggle Show. The latter has caused many different responses regarding the title choice – but currently I am running with it. Eight o’clock seemed to provide me with plenty of time to get home and set up, so this became the starting time for the shows and, with Butt Encoder’s recording feature, I knew that I could repeat these shows later on in the week if needed. University has recently either finished for must students or is coming to an end shortly. This has meant that the student radio station (Radio YSJ) which I used to have a show on is closed for summer and Alex (my co-presenter) and myself brought the Wilson Waffling Radio Show to an end after about seven months broadcasting. I really like the format of that show and, although it will not be reproduced in its entirety again, there are plans afoot to make the Waffling Show. I’m still working on getting Skype connected to the system, mainly because I would like to have a phone in feature! I didn’t want the station just to be available during the live shows, so the AutoDJ fills the rest of the time so that, as the tag line suggests, there is music 24/7. With the schedule up and running it just needs to be maintained and promoted. Of course, if I miss one show then that might be a listener which is lost – lose three listeners and I’ll be broadcasting to myself.
Planning and Prep – I never thought I was a naive person, but when it came to the work involved in keeping the radio station running, I was. I’m not sure how commercial radio stations get their playlist for their shows, but I have to plan these and then upload all the music to Myriad. There is an add-on which you can use which auto selects music to play, but this has a further cost involved and requires a substantial amount of music to be present within the system. I have between eleven and fifteen tracks per show so initially I have to decide what to play, download them, convert them and then upload them Myriad and then edit them so that they have the appropriate tags and the songs intro, outro and hooks defined. These tracks all get put into a google doc (a spreadsheet) and then I start to plan the content around the music. This might require me to locate information from the web, or current topics to discuss or to set up competitions like the lyrics and/or riddles. Soon I will be doing three shows a week and with each show taking between one to two hours to plan, it does take some time! I’m hoping at this point that, if you have listened to the show, that you see why they are so slick…:). Planning and preparation takes a long time but it is an essential part of the station. People want to listen into prepared and rehearsed shows so the better the planning, better the show and hopefully, the more listeners will come back.
It is only when I am typing this blog post up that I start to realise the amount of time, money and energy that I am actually putting into Wilson Waffling Radio. The reason I haven’t actually acknowledged this yet, is probably because I enjoy doing it so much. There is something quite reassuring to have the show note/plan in front of me on the screen especially when a track ends suddenly and I suddenly think – ‘what do I talk about!’. I would love to be presenting several shows throughout the week but the limit is not actually the time to present but the time to effectively plan the shows. I think I once heard that one of the numerous SAS mottos was ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’. This is definitely poignant with the shows I do. Although there is a lot of early morning or late night planning going on, when I am actually presenting and everything is going live then it suddenly becomes worth it. However, the journey in Radio Land is far from over. Yes the station is live, yes there are regular shows, but there is one thing which the station needs more of. What is this? Well people and this will be the probably focus of part 3 of my adventures into radio land, marketing, promoting and interaction.
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