Be a DJ!

Have you ever wanted to be a DJ? Does the thought of having your own radio station make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? If so, you’re in luck! There’s this new invention called “the Internet” that allows you to (among other things) broadcast your favorite tunes all day long if you wish! So if you’ve ever felt the jones to be your own broadcaster, check out this article! You’d be amazed at how easy is really is to set up your own Internet radio station.

Here’s what you need to get started:

• The latest version of WinAMP
• The Shoutcast DSP plug-in for WinAMP
Shoutcast Server
• A stable Windows-based computer
• A broadband Internet connection

The Big Picture

WinAMP was the first MP3 player for the Windows platform. Although it has expanded over the years to include library functions and the ability to play videos, at its core WinAMP is still just a basic MP3 player.

Shoutcast Server was developed by the same people that made WinAMP. Shoutcast is a streaming audio server. It provides audio streams to listeners. Shoutcast server is available for Windows 9x, Windows NT, Windows 2000\2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, Linux and Solaris.

The Shoutcast plug-in for WinAMP connects the output of WinAMP to the input of the Shoutcast server. It takes whatever is playing in WinAMP, converts it to the appropriate bitrate and\or format, then forwards it on to the Shoutcast server. The Shoutcast server then sends this input out to listeners as a stream of data. The Shoutcast plug-in is also where you enter the name of your station or show and any contact information you’d like to add.

Getting It All Set Up

If you’ve never used WinAMP before, download and install it, then spend a couple of days getting familiar with it. You will especially need to be familiar with the playlist functions, as this is how you’re going to get started as a DJ. Basically, an Internet radio station is just a giant playlist of songs. You’ll need to be able to assemble such a playlist on your computer. The playlist can be as long as you want – in fact, it will need to be several days long if you want to have a full-time station, although it can also be just a few hours long if you want to do brief “shows” instead of broadcasting full-time. Also, note how to save your playlists (click LIST OPTS > SAVE LIST in the playlist window). This is important, since you’ll be tweaking several things during the setup process, and there’s the distinct possibility that you might accidentally erase a playlist you’ve spent hours putting together. It’s just better to be safe than sorry, right?

After you’ve gotten acquainted with WinAMP (or if you’re already familiar with WinAMP), you need to do the next step, which is installing the Shoutcast plug-in for WinAMP. Assuming that you’ve already got WinAMP up and running on our system, click here to download the plug-in. Installation should be simple – in most cases, the plug-in installer will detect where WinAMP is installed on your system and it will then install the plug-in in the correct location. So, for most of you, installing the plug-in will means double-clicking on the plug-in installer file, then clicking Next > Next > Finish.

The final step is to install the Shoutcast server. In most cases, you’ll want to install Shoutcast on the same computer that runs WinAMP. However, there may be circumstances where you’d want to install Shoutcast on a different computer. And the reason why you’d want to do that is really important when it comes to broadcasting.

All About The Numbers

“Broadcasting” on the Internet is really just about moving data from one computer to another. For this reason, your connection’s upload speed is of the utmost importance. If you have a “standard” broadband connection, you probably have download speeds of around 5Mbps and upload speeds of around 256kbps. You can control the quality of your broadcast in the Shoutcast plug-in in WinAMP. You can, for instance, set up your station to stream at 24kbps. This would allow you to have 10 listeners at a time (your 256kbps upload speed / 24kbps = 10). Unfortunately, 24kbps streams sound awful for music. Imagine the worst AM radio station on the planet, and a 24kbps stream will sound worse than that. You could increase your stream to 64kbps (which will improve the sound immensely), but that will limit you to 4 listeners at any given time (256 / 64 = 4). For the best sound, you’d probably want to pick a 128kbps stream. As you might guess, this limits you to 2 listeners (256 / 128 = 2).

If you have a friend that has very fast upload speeds (such as Verizon’s FIOS Internet service, which offers upload speeds of 2Mbps), you can install Shoutcast on his computer. You can then broadcast directly to his computer, and your listeners can take advantage of his massive upload speeds. For example, if your friend has 2Mbps upload speed, he could host 83 listeners at 24kbps, 31 listeners at 64kbps, or 15 listeners at 128kbps. Of course, you’d need your friend’s permission to do this, but if this option is available to you you might want to look in to it.

If you don’t know what your upstream bandwidth is, go to this site and run a bandwidth speed test. Run the test a few times throughout the day, and make sure you turn off anything that might be using the Internet when you run the test (downloading files or talking on Skype while the test is running can produce inaccurate results).

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Once you’ve installed the Shoutcast server on a computer, now is the time to configure everything. Let’s begin by configuring the Shoutcast server. Click on Start > Run > Programs > Shoutcast DNAS > Edit SHOUTcast DNAS configuration. A text window will open up. Change or edit the following settings:

MaxUser – this is the maximum number of listeners your station will support. Use what you learned in the “All About The Numbers” section to choose a limit.

Password – you must have a password to broadcast a stream. Be sure to change the default to something else. Anything else.

PortBase – this is the default port that Shoutcast will broadcast on. Leave it at 8000 for now, unless your ISP blocks that port, in which case pick another port.

SrcIP – this is the “source” IP address, or the IP address of the computer that’s allowed to connect to the Shoutcast server. The default option is ANY. If you’ve installed Shoutcast on your local computer, change this to 127.0.0.1 (this prevents any other computer from connecting to your Shoutcast server). If you have installed Shoutcast on a different computer than the one you will be broadcasting from, you might want to enter your IP address here (although you might need to update this information from time to time as your IP address changes).

AdminPassword – if you enable this option (remove the ; at the beginning of the line to do so), this will change the function of Password so that it becomes a broadcast-only password, while only the AdminPassword can log in to Shoutcast’s web interface and perform administrative duties. In other words, if you had some roommates that wanted to broadcast too, but you didn’t want to give them rights to the Shoutcast admin panel, enable this option to create an “admin only” account. Without this option, Password becomes a “super password” that can both broadcast and access admin functions with the same password.

AllowRelay – By default, Shoutcast servers can relay for other Shoutcast servers. I don’t want to give my bandwidth to someone else, so I set this to NO.

AllowPublicRelay – I set this to NO for the same reason above.

Once all of these options have been set to your satisfaction, save the changes and exit Notepad. Click on Start > Programs > Shoutcast DNAS > SHOUTcast DNAS (GUI). The following window should open up. Make sure it reports no error messages:

Shoutcast Startup

The Shoutcast server installation is complete. Now we’ll have to turn out attention to the Shoutcast plug-in in WinAMP. Open WinAMP by clicking on Start > All Programs > WinAMP. When the WinAMP window appears, click anywhere on the WinAMP window an press CTRL+K. This will open the “Plug-Ins Preferences ” panel. Click on “DSP/Effect” in the left hand pane, and then click on “Nullsoft SHOUTcast Source DSP” > “Configure active plug-in”. A window similar to the following should open:

Shoutcast DSP 01

Click on the “Input” tab and make sure that “WinAMP” is selected as the input device. Then click on the “Encoder” tab and make sure that “encoder 1” is selected, and that encoder 1 is set to “MP3 Encoder” as the encoder type. Here’s where you select what bitrate to make your broadcast. Remember that you can only upload as much as your connection speed will allow. In this picture, the stream is configured for 128kbps:

Shoutcast DSP 02

Next, click on the “Output” tab. Click on the “Connection” button in the middle of the window. Here you’ll need to enter the connection information for your Shoutcast server. This includes the server’s address (use “localhost” or “127.0.0.1” if Shoutcast and WinAMP are on the same computer, otherwise use the IP address or host name of the external server), the server password (you chose this when you set up the Shoutcast server), the port nuber (if you changed the port on the Shoutcast server) and the encoder you chose in the previous step. Lastly, make sure that the box marked “Automatic Reconnection on Connection Failure” is checked. This will allow the plug-in to reconnect to the Shoutcast server should your network connection drop for any reason.

Lastly (I swear we’re almost done!), click the “Yellowpages” button in the middle of the window. Here’s where you can have some fun. Enter the name of your station or show in the “Description” box. If you have a website you’d like to advertise, enter that address in the “URL” box. You may also enter your station’s genre, your AIM or ICQ names, and any IRC chatrooms you’d like (if any). Make sure that “Enable Title Updates” box is checked. This will allow your listeners to know what song you are playing in their players (with this option disabled, their media player will say “Whatever You Chose For The Description Box”; with it enabled, their players will say “Led Zepplin – Whole Lotta Love – Whatever You Chose For The Description Box”.

Everything is ready to go. Leave the Shoutcast plug-in window open as you go to the next step

Bringing It All Together

So far we have downloaded and installed WinAMP, the Shoutcast plug-in for WinAMP and Shoutcast server. We have also configured the Shoutcast server and the Shoutcast plug-in for WinAMP. It’s been a long, difficult road, but we’re almost there… I promise!

At this point, all you need to do to start broadcasting is: a) make sure that Shoutcast is up and running; b) open WinAMP and load a playlist; c) press the “Connect” button on the “Output” tab of the Shoutcast plug-in; and d) start playing the playlist in WinAMP.

However, as with all things computer-related… it’s not exactly that simple. If you have a router, you’ll need to forward two ports to the computer running WinAMP – the port you chose to run Shoutcast on during the initial configuration, plus the next port number. So, for example, if you chose to accept the default port (8000) for Shoutcast, you’d need to open ports 8000 and 8001 on your router and forward them to the IP of the computer running Shoutcast. Likewise, if you chose port 16781 during the Shoutcast configuration, you’d need to forward ports 16781 and 16782 to the Shoutcast server (if you have no idea what “port forwarding” is, click this link and choose your router’s model number; the site will give you complete step-by-step instructions, custom made for your router, and complete with screen captures). If you chose to install Shoutcast on a different computer (say, at a friend’s house), you’ll need to forward the ports on the other router instead of your own. And, of course, if you are running any type of firewall software, you will need to add exceptions for Shoutcast, so that incoming connections can be made to the server.

Once everything is up and running, you can check on the status of the broadcast by viewing the web-based Shoutcast status page. To view it, just open a web browser and type in the IP address of the Shoutcast server with the port attached (such as http://123.456.789.123:8000). You’ll see something like this:

Shoutcast HTTP

It’s a bit hard to make out from the small picture, but the page shows you the status of the server, how many people are listening, the maximum number of listeners, the average listening time, the name of the station\show (which you entered yourself when you configured the Shoutcast plug-in), the genre, URL, ICQ and AIM names and IRC chatroom for the stream (if you entered such information), as well as name of the song that’s playing currently. Both you and your listeners can get the names of the last 10 songs played in the stream by clicking on the “Song History” link at the top of the page. And lastly, you can login to the admin portion of the site (which lets you view more in-depth statistics, as well as kick and\or ban certain users by IP) by clicking the “Admin login” link at the top of the page. Remember, if you set up an AdminPassword on the Shoutcast server, you’d need to use that password (and not the broadcasting password) to view this information; if you chose not to have an admin password, then you can view this information with the broadcasting password.

A Quick Word About Formats

The Shoutcast plug-in for WinAMP will convert any file type you can play in WinAMP into an MP3 stream. So if you have chosen to broadcast at 128kbps, you need not worry about playing 192kbps or 256kbps MP3 files or variable bit rate (VBR) MP3s… or even high-quality FLAC files. When I was an “almost full-time” Internet broadcaster, I did six shows a week: a Monday-Thursday show that focused on new music (with some 80s thrown in), a Friday all-80s show, and a Sunday show dedicated to classical music or movie soundtracks. For the weekday shows, I used a variety of MP3 files at all kinds of bitrates; for the classical show I used FLAC files exclusively. Shoutcast was able to broadcast all of these streams with no problems.

The Advanced Class

OK, so… you now have an Internet radio station. How can you spice things up a bit?

For starters, you can add your own voice! There are two ways to add voiceovers or other commentary to your show: the first is to record your banter in advance using a program like Audacity. You can save your files as MP3s and simply add them to your playlist as necessary. I preferred to do this as a DJ – although it lacked the spontaneity of speaking live, it was easy to do a retake if I screwed up, plus Audacity makes it easy to add any of the millions of the wacky sound effect WAV files available on the Internet. Your other option is to go to the “Input tab of the Shoutcast plug-in and change the input from “WinAMP” to Soundcard input. You’ll then see a number of options appear, as well as a small mixer for controlling the levels of the music, “background music, the microphone, and the fade time. To talk over the music, simply press the “Push to talk” button and speak into the microphone. You have to be careful using this option, though. Not only is your voice being broadcast live, anything that comes across your sound card (like new mail or instant messenger sounds) will be broadcast too. So make sure that you’ve got everything that makes a sound closed when using this option.

Professional DJs – the guys with turntables and mixers – will be happy to know that you can broadcast a live event simply by running a cable from the line-out of your mixer to the line-in on your computer (you’ll have to change the input options, as noted above). You will have to play around with the levels before you can actually broadcast, but it’d be a lot of fun to do, don’t you think?

Conclusion

You’ve just learned how to set up an Internet radio station. At this point, the only thing holding you back is your imagination. You can broadcast a variety of shows, with all kinds of wacky voiceovers, Skype call-ins… what have you. Although it’s a lot of work setting it up at first, once you have everything set up, it’s easy to keep on broadcasting… as I said, the only thing that limits you is your imagination!

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