When you're listening to your favourite radio station, have you ever stopped to wonder what's happening at the other end? Are the presenters really in the studio, or is the show recorded in advance? Is the music being played "live", from CDs, or does the DJ just have a big MP3 player on his desk?
Software to automate the running of a radio station is in widespread use, across both traditional broadcast stations as well as internet-only ones. In effect, the software combines an MP3 player and a timer, along with the ability for the station's owner or presenters to upload MP3 files and schedule which ones get played when.
For example, you can create an entire show and upload it into the system as a single MP3 file which is then scheduled to be played out on specified dates and times. Or, if you have a collection of MP3 music tracks already loaded onto the system, you can create a show by scheduling a playlist of tracks. Again, the built-in diary lets you specify when, and how often, the show will be broadcast. So long as you keep uploading and scheduling files, you can keep your station on the air.
Commercial radio station software is expensive and a very specialist product. But Airtime, from Sourcefabric, is open-source and free. And is used by loads of stations, broadcasting both traditionally and on the internet, around the world.
To run Airtime you'll need a spare dedicated PC running Linux. You'll also need to invest some time in setting it all up correctly. Plus, if you'll be broadcasting from your own home or office, make sure your internet connection is fast enough and that you won't be running up additional bandwidth charges.
If you'd like to experiment with online radio, even for fun, head to https://www.sourcefabric.org/en/airtime/download/ in the first instance, where you can try the web-based demo for creating shows and playlists. You can also download the software from the same page.
If you have a decent collection of MP3 files but you don't want to create your own station, you could even use Airtime as a way to organise and play music just for yourself. Remember, though, that this is best run on a spare, dedicated PC running Linux. It won't work on Windows.
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