Hey DJs…what if I told you there’s a way to go from mixing it up in your bedroom to broadcasting your mix-sets worldwide in a matter of hours? Call me crazy, right? Hey…hey…hey…not so fast! As many of you already know, there are numerous ways to host your own streaming radio shows right from the comfort and sanctity of your bedroom. Or, at least pre-produced and uploaded to any number of services that handle the either technology for you or you can encode your mix and upload it yourself.
Are you a mix-tape DJ who keeps his profits under the floorboard in his house and can’t go out for fear someone might cap his ass just walking to the store to get his mom some milk? Don’t fret, man…I’ll spell out a few ways for you to chill in the crib and make yourself heard without having to resort to wearing that bullet proof jacket your girl got you for Christmas!
When I started DJing 25-years ago, the casette tape was the method of choice to get yourself heard on the streets. I’d get excited to learn someone clear across town got their hands on my mix-tape and loved it–never mind clear across the globe. Back in the day, I don’t think anyone dreamed they could be heard by a global audience without having to do anything more than clicking a few buttons.
For a time, many house DJs chose reel-to-reel technology because of the length of time you could record and the ability to splice sets together with a razor and editing block. I remember DJs trading reels and returning them to the source like one would check out a book from the library. Of course, all this changed with the advent of CD burning in the late 80’s.
A few years prior to the explosion of personal computing, if you wanted to put your mix on CD, you could buy a Marantz or Pioneer CD-player/burner that would allow you to record direct to CD as you would direct-to-tape; then insert your track i.d.’s by pressing a button at the time-code you chose to designate track separations. These so called “mix-tapes” migrating to CD started showing up at local 12″ shops, replacing the cassette tape whose quality would degrade over time. Since tape runs across the play and record heads of a cassette deck and the friction cause noise while the magnets leave particles from old tapes on new tapes, a CD’s operate by laser and don’t have that problem.
Inexpensive blank CD’s (which actually outsell commercial music CD’s now) and new burning technologies made it infinitely faster to copy a show master, and the CD quickly became the format of choice for fans of hip hop, house, trance and techno DJs in their local markets. Add in advances in automated duplication technology where you can load 100 CD’s at a time, faster computer processing and cheap editing software–the format exploded helping DJs like DJ Clue, who’d already been known for his cassette mix-tapes, reach a wider audience. CD’s brought his masterful hip-hop and house music programming style to a new generation of underground music fans far beyond the streets of New York.
Fast forward 10 to 15-years later and the MP3 revolution totally changes the game. A DJ can now download tracks using a p2p client such as Limewire or Morpheus, or purchase music for download through legal MP3 stores like iTunes (2020 Update: Apple has sunset iTunes in favor of Apple Music. See Software How for iTunes alternatives) and Beatport. A DJ can mix the music using mixing software like Native Instruments TraktorDJ and put a mix-set up on his Web page using a variety of tools and techniques, for example Real and Windows Media, Flash or MP3 to deliver sets to millions of users worldwide without ever having to leave the house.
When I created Netmix in 1995 just before the MP3 format exploded, I used streaming Real Audio and Windows Media formats to encode my mixes for broadcast over the Internet. The advantage of using Real and Windows was; 1. a listener couldn’t record or technically download the mix to the desktop, which made copyright holders happy, and 2. the use of streaming technology allowed for a requested audio file to be broken up into millions of packets of data, which would then be distributed to the requestor’s computer over the Internet. The data packets would reconvene at the end-user’s player software, which then sorts the packets in order like trains routing through a tunnel into, delivering the real-time streaming broadcast.
In the dial-up era, this technology was extremely important, as traditional copper phone lines didn’t handle Internet data traffic very well. You could listen to decent quality Internet streaming media programming with minimal “buffering” or delay. Today, those formats continue to remain relevant, however, the explosion of cable and DSL broadband connections to the Internet, which handle data traffic at speeds upwards of 1.5 Mbps (megabytes per second) make downloading MP3 files extremely fast. Now you can bypass streaming altogether and distribute your MP3 mixes using podcasting techniques, although DJs must get the right to distribute copyrightable works by the rights organizations who represent record labels and artists such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange.
Recently, I started playing around with the open-source embedded flash mp3 player, XSPF Web Music Player, which uses Macromedia’s Flash technology to feature MP3 in a playlist and enable playback. Although it got the job done, I quickly realized it didn’t offer the ability to play live sets from your computer over the web, and formatting or scheduling the playlists was a chore. You’d need basic XML skills if you want to hack the .xspf file you’ll need to create. Using the general format will give you one playlist, but if you want to switch playlists or schedule them, you’ll have to know a bit of code to build the functionality to do so.
You’ll also need to be able to access your hosting account for your website at your web provider since you’ll need to upload the MP3 files directly yourself, the code to your HTML page, and the associated XML file. (.xspf extension)
Remember, as I stated above, if you’re playing commercial music, you must be licensed under the rules of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which sets the rules for webcasters and sets the fees performance rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange and Harry Fox Agency (links in the sidebar) can charge for Internet performance. That being said, the player is best suited for artists, musicians and bands who own the copyright to their music and want a cool little app for their web sites.
Prior to picking up on the XSPF player, I tried out the K-Amp Media Player. This is another embedded music player for your site. It’s also great for artists who are looking for an app, but unlike the XSPF player, this one is not Open Source. The company charges a fee to download the player and offers an online tool where you can upload and track your music files, add links to buy the titles, and perform general administration functions. Although I downloaded the player and began to use the web site, I didn’t get as deep into the service as I would have liked, mainly because I was looking for something that I could use for live broadcasting.
After scouring the web, I came across an ingenious tool by Rogue Amoeba called NiceCast, which allows you to broadcast right from your desktop, LIVE, to the world. You can assign inputs, perform voice-overs, add effects, and all kinds of other fun stuff. The application is Mac only and uses your computer’s webserver (Macs generally have Apache installed) and IP (internet protocol) address. It generates a link for you based on your system’s address and connection to the Internet, which you can copy and embed into a web page. As long as your computer is on and you are in broadcast mode, anyone can click on the link you’ve emailed them or embedded in your web page to listen to your home-brewed broadcast.
I personally love NiceCast, it’s such a great tool. You can set up your playlists in any music library application. I ran my broadcast using iTunes. Or you can assign TraktorDJ as your main input and mix your sets live on the air.
My only problem with NiceCast is the documentation. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to increase the number of streams I’m capable of sending out at one time. The app lets you know how many users can connect over the Internet, directly to your machine. I’m running a G4-iMac and I’m getting 8 streams at a time. For the uninitiated, web servers will open one stream directly to each users to deliver the audio content, made up of millions of little packets, directly to your computer. I haven’t tested NiceCast thoroughly but didn’t have enough traffic to test the 8 streams going at once, so you’ll have to see for yourself what happens after you’ve reached the maximum.
I tried the bulletin boards, but couldn’t find anything on the subject either. If anyone has any ideas, I would appreciate getting some feedback in the comments section below.
The application costs $40, but for small webcasters who own Mac computers, it’s one of the coolest and best investments you’ll ever make. It’s great for sports talk radio and other types of talk broadcasts and you don’t need a web host, just your connection to the web. Of course, for the third time, playing music without a license will get you in trouble nowadays, which is why I finally decided to go with Live365.
In August, I approached Live365.com to discuss their pro broadcasting solution. Basically, Live365 broadcasts its own content and content from other Internet webcasters, white-labeling, and reselling their suite of services to Internet broadcasters who need the power of 24-hour live webcasting at a budget price.
The key factors here are delivery byte rates and storage. Live365 offers tiers of service by the number of streams and listening hours per month. We chose the 92kbps package with approximately 400 MBytes of storage. After signing a few documents, the companies business development rep enabled the service within an hour and I was on my way to make Internet radio history!
Live365 offers a track repository where you store all your tracks and then a Playlist feature, which allows you to create playlists of those stored tracks and schedule them as “programs” between certain hours of the day. The scheduling system is key. Although a little difficult at first, I quickly got the hang of programming my playlists and scheduling them in the system.
One noticeable downside is the inability to schedule a show with the same name at many different times in the scheduling system. The system produces an error and asks you to change the name. In essence, if you wanted to schedule “Music Show” for 12 pm to 1 pm four days a week, and “Talk Show” on the remaining days, you will have to schedule each show on it’s given day with a different name as no two shows can have the same name. Does this make sense to you? I didn’t to me either, but when I started naming shows “Music Show 1” and then “Music Show 2”, I was then able to schedule them alongside each other for three or four days a week. A little bug in the system? I don’t know, but it’s definitely frustrating because then you have to schedule one show on various days and you can’t use the automated process to do it for you.
I’ll be back with more on Webcasting in a few days. Trying to catch up on some school work and mix a new show for my Netmix slot. Stay tuned!
Any questions or comments, feel free to post below.