Lots of thought should go into starting a local low power or internet radio station. Before the station goes on the air, you should have a basic format in mind. While with both internet and Low Power FM stations, there are a lot of technical issues to consider. It would be great if you work with someone who will take care of the technical issues. Studio, FCC, equipment etc. As far as programming is concerned, I would strongly recommend buying a good, reliable automation program. I use Nextkast. It is inexpensive, and does everything I need it to do. There are many others to consider that are inexpensive. You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars anymore for a radio automation system.
Load the software, music, PSA’s imaging jingles and liners and music content before you go on the air. Test it and make sure that it’s working properly. This requires a lot of preparation and thought. Make sure you have a balanced music rotation. Include lots of imaging to identify your station. Give the station a local feel. Include events in the area. invite listeners to promote a local event. Always identify the station frequently and tell the audience what they are hearing. This can be done with the proper imaging. For instance “memory radio at the beaches” You must decide on a format before the station goes on the air. If you live in a community, where there are many retirees, you should program music that would suit their tastes. Develop a basic format. For example if you’re doing oldies, start with all oldies. You can specialize later. By specialize I mean use oldies as a core but you can feature, a sixties show, do wop and even standards, or one hit wonders etc. after the basic programming elements are in place.
PROGRAM FOR THE LOCAL AUDIENCE. – With Low Power FM stations always remember that you are not playing to the masses. If you live in a resort community, you can promote your station on the internet but basically you are NEVER going to acquire a CORE audience of TOURISTS!!! They are here and gone! If you live in an area where Summer is only three months, then keep in mind that the locals are key.
Give the community the opportunity to talk about special events going on in the area. Interview authors, local musicians, attend town meetings, special events etc. As soon as someone turns on your station, make it THEIR station. Let them know who you are and what you’re doing!
Unless you are operating a talk only station, you can go on the air with a consistent music format as described above. Plan blocks of time for interviews or talk shows even if you don’t have them available at the time you go on the air. For instance, lets say that 10:00 – 11:00am you will air a talk show, if the content is not available, just continue with the music format during that time. My point it to develop the format and keep it consistent. Don’t just throw on an interview anytime you want to. You will lose your audience!!
Promote special guests the week before they are on the air. This is key ----no promotion, no audience!!
DO NOT PLAY FOR YOUR FRIENDS! Remember who your audience is, it’s great to have friends listen but keep in mind that your are not sitting in a room playing records for your friends!!
Finally if you’re the owner of the stations, you should be making all of the major decisions as far as programming goes. Unfortunately, if you’re incorporated, you have the hurdle of dealing with a number of individuals when making decisions.. Hold your ground and stick to your plan!!
It really disappoints me when I hear internet or LPFM stations not doing anything but playing a bunch of music some of which makes no sense at all and not identifying themselves, no imaging, no programming –nothing! If you want to tease an audience about a new station or format, do that for a month, not a year! It proves that you really have absolutely nothing to offer!
Good luck, plan ahead, have a basic play, always tell the audience what you’re doing you can always tweak as you go. Draw your audience in and not leave them running away in droves!