This page was created to provide an easy-to-understand tutorial for getting started on the path to broadcasting on SHOUTcast servers. Input from experienced persons highly appreciated.
So you want to be a DJ? Well even the idea may seem a bit overwhelming, it's actually very possible. All it takes is a little initiative, time, and practice, and you too may someday entertain friends with a constant stream of groovy music...maybe even have your friends fawning over you like many listeners do at many of the awesome RKoL DJs...or maybe even become an RKoL DJ yourself someday!
There are a few things you should get out of the way before you even try to start broadcasting. Putting aside the many rules for applying to RKoL, there are still certain requirements that must be met, and things you need to do. You don't expect to just start playing music one day and it magically gets sent to hundreds of people, do you?
The first thing you need to do is get all of the stuff you need, minus the broadcasting software (that comes after this, in section 1.2).
This section is called "PC requirements" because all the programs used to broadcast are built for Windows. You can probably manage to get away with a few other things, but if you can't run or emulate Windows, you'll find that you may have quite a few problems connecting to the SHOUTcast server without a client that can connect to it as source. You'll need a computer to broadcast and it would be in your best interest to have one built in the last decade, or hopefully very recently. Here are the lastest version of Winamp's minimum requirements:
- 500MHz Pentium III or comparable
- 64MB RAM
- 15MB Hard Disk Space
- 16bit Sound Card
- Windows 98 SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003
- 1x speed or greater CD Burner (Required for Burning)
- 2x speed or greater CDROM (Required for Ripping)
Now, of course, you don't need the optical drives unless you plan to be able to add your collection of CDs to your music library, and if you're awesome enough to emulate Windows on Unix/Linux, you can get away without your operating system being Windows, but if you were really that nifty, you wouldn't be reading this article, you'd be editing it and making it better. Among hardware not listed in there is a microphone. You can probably get away with borrowing your friend/sibling's mic when you need to make an announcement if you don't plan on talking much, but most likely, you'll want to be able to say things on air (also quite necessary for sending in an aircheck to RKoL). If you don't have one quite yet, don't worry they are quite easy to aquire. Most DJs have reasonably priced microphones and mine was actually free. If you can't even afford a free microphone, a headset plugged into the mic in port on your soundcard will function as a very low quality microphone (talk into the earpieces).
Bytes In Your Bay
There are a few things that you need on your hard drive. First and foremost, music! If you don't a lot of music at the moment, don't worry. However, you will need to fill the time with something, as dead air is very bad. You won't need a large music library if you want to host a talk show, but a decent collection of tracks will come in handy. In fact, many people listen to the radio to just hear their favorite DJs. If you play a lot of requests during your show, you can get by with a smaller playlist and build on it throughout your show. For those of you that have a more FM-radio type show in mind, a large music collection should be at your right hand. If you don't have a lot of music, and just need some to start out with, check out creative commons music.
Getting The Software
Of course, you need special software to be able to broadcast...but you already knew that, right? Well, in case you didn't, or were just curious as to see what I'd have to say, keep reading and you'll soon be set to broadcast! The two most widely used programs to broadcast are Winamp (with the DSP plugin) and some form of Sam Broadcaster. Please note that Winamp (non-pro) as well as the DSP plugin are free and that SAM Broadcaster 3 is professional broadcasting software. SAM3 can do a lot more that Winamp, but whether you need all the extra features is up to you. For those of you that don't need fancy bells and whistles, or simply can't handle them, go onto the next section, Winamp and the DSP Plug-in. I suggest that everyone new to SHOUTcast should start with Winamp and the DSP plugin, and after you've mastered Winamp, if you still think you need more power, read #Sam Broadcaster. Note: Winamp and SAM are not the only programs you can use to broadcast! If you're an adventurous newbie, I suggest checking out the out the other products SpacialAudio has to offer, and SpacialAudio isn't even the only one making broadcasting software.
Winamp and the DSP Plug-in
Here's where the pictures start to show up more and more. Winamp and the DSP plugin give some people a great deal of difficulty, so don't worry if it isn't second nature to you as soon as you start with it. The first step is to go download Winamp if you haven't done so already. After you've installed Winamp, go ahead and import all of your music. After you've go all your music in, you should generate an HTML playlist. In your media library, select Local Media, select all, and queue that into your playlist. Open up your Playlist Editor, click the Misc button, go to Misc→Generate HTML Playlist or use the keyboard shortcut. After you have that generated, save the file, and upload it somewhere. After you're done with all that, you can move onto Winamp's SHOUTcast DSP Plug-in (which appears to have much more support for non-Windows operating systems! ...it used to only have a few guts of a linux plugin.) Once you've gotten your DSP plugin installed, open up Winamp and go to Preferences in the Options menu. Go down to Plug-ins and click on DSP/Effect. Double click on Nullsoft SHOUTcast Source DSP v1.9.[n] [dsp_sc.dll]. (Highlighting and clicking the Configure button works too.) You are greeted by the SHOUTcast source window. Once it's up, you can close the Precerences window. The Source window will stay up as long as Winamp is running. You can even close the Source window itself. It minimizes to your system tray. You will need access to a SHOUTcast server before you can configure your DSP plugin. If you don't have access to one yet, skip the next article and see #Installing Your Own Server.
DSP plugin configuration
Lets start with the Output tab. Click the Connection button if you aren't already in that group of settings. Set Address to the IP or domain of your SHOUTcast server (ie localhost or 220.127.116.11). Fill the port field with the port your server is accepting connections on. The default is 8000, but servers running more than one SHOUTcast service often have ports like 8794. Fill in the password field with your super secret radio admin password, and then you can move on to the Yellow Pages section of the Output tab. Every field in this section is completely optional, but why ever would you want to leave them blank? After you've filled in those fields, go to the next tab, Encoder. There are only three fields in this tab. You can save up to 5 encoders, and the first field lets you select which one you want to use. The second field specifies which format you want to broadcast in. (The default, MP3 is most likely what you'll want.) The last field specifies your bitrate. If you're streaming to your own server, any bitrate will do. If you're streaming to a paid server, you'll probably have to deal with a preset bitrate. When you're done making those difficult decisions, move onto Input. This is probably the most complicated part of the DSP plugin. When you're playing music, you'll probably want to select input from Winamp, but sometimes you might want to use your soundcard's mixer. This is up to you to decide. You may need to use different settings depending on what you want to do, such as playing music and talking. When you're completely done configuring your first encoder, go back to the Output tab and click connect. Start playing music. If it says you're connected, congratulations: you are now broadcasting.
Sam Broadcaster is by far a much better program to be broadcasting with. I like using it to play my music even when I'm not broadcasting. However, since SAM is such a fancier program, it's a bit harder to use. Getting used to SAM may seem even overwhelming, but trust me, It's very worth your troubles, after you've become familiar with SAM.
Getting your hands on SAM
From the Download page select the FireBird install. This is generally the favorite install, and in my opinion, the best for anyone that isn't in love with the MySQL server already running in their intranet, which most people do not have. Keep in mind that the free version of SAM 3 is only a demo and the license to upgrade to the full version costs $199 although the license can be extended to your friends. When you're ready to set up SAM, click on the grey Config tab in the top middle of your SAM 3 window.
SAM 3 Quick Configuration
- Member Details
- If you have a SpacialNet (previously known as AudioRealm) account, your user/pass goes here. This is completely optional, and doesn't really do much anyway. In fact, many people, myself included, use it so little, that they forget about it.
- Station Details
- This is where you put your SpacialNet/AudioRealm station details. If you don't have a SpacialNet account, just ignore it. If you do have a SpacialNet account, you can still ignore it. If you really want to use it, the fields are very similar to the SHOUTcast station details.
- Statistic relays
- This is where you add statistic relays, which gather server stats. The primary use of a statistic relay in SAM3 is to show you how many listeners are listening via the Statistic relays window in SAM3's Desktop B, but statistic relays have expanded functions in [#HTML output|SAM3's file generation feature]. To add a new relay, click the + button. Make sure you select Shoutcast statistic relay. Also note that the password given for the relay sometimes differs from the encoders. This is because of the optional AdminPassword directive in the the SHOUTcast configuration, which is different from the connect password, if supplied.
- Audio mixer pipeline
- This is where you configure where what sound goes where, and also the settings for each sound component. The only thing that you might want to change is the Voice FX destination. Personally, I have this set to go straight to the encoders. This way, I don't hear an echo of my voice when I talk. This is especially important if you don't wear headphones when you broadcast, so that your audience doesn't hear an echo.
- In my experience, crossfading has given me a lot of trouble and a lot of people have complained about it. You can see my crossfading settings here.
- Gap killer
- The usefulness of Gap killer depends on the quality of the music you play. If your music has lots of holes, then I suggest leaving it exactly how it is. My music is all high quality and Gap killer just ends up chopping parts out, so I have it disabled.
- Playlist rotation rules
- SAM3 users a playlist rotation logic module to make sure it doesn't automatically enqueue tracks too often. The rotation rules are very customizable, but the only change I suggest is in the first three playlist rules. You should use these rules to make sure that you don't play the same track too often, ideally playing most of the tracks before playing songs that have been played recently, playing favored songs more often than less liked tracks, etc. Keep in mind that if you set your playlist rules in such a way that no song can be enqueued when checked against the rules, AutoDJ will not work.
Another rule in this tab that you might want to change, that isn't really a rotation tule, is the Keep  songs in queue setting. I like keeping 10+ tracks in my queue, so that if I don't have a plan for exactly what I want to play, SAM3 will queue some tracks up for me. I tend to keep pressing the Del key to remove tracks from the queue until I find something I want to play.
Sam 3 Extended Configuration
To be added:
- Request policy
- HTML output
- HTMweb & PHPweb
- Using SAM's file generation for inventive purposes, such as status images and mIRC chatbots.
- PAL scripting
- HTMweb & PHPweb
Adding Your Music
Like Winamp, SAM3 gives you the option to add all your music the first time you run it, but you probably want to keep your music organized in different virtual folders. To do this, go to Desktop A and take a look at your Playlist window. If you right-click, you can import specific files, folders, URLs, and/or playlists. In addition these playlists there are special playlists, with star icons, that are automatically organized. Often I like making different folders that seperate what music I got from where. I change the default rotation weight before I import tracks so that stuff like one-time requests get lower weight than favorites imported previously, etc.
Configuring An Ecoder
The encoders are one of the last branches in the audio pipeline. They take whatever analog audio is coming out of the end of the pipeline, convert it to a digital format such as MP3 or AAC, and send it to the specified destination, whether that be a radio server or a file. The Encoders window is located in Desktop B by default. You add a new encoder the same way you add a relay, by clicking the + button. The first window that pops up asks you to "Select plugin". Make sure you click "MP3 and mp3PRO". After you've selected your CoDec, the main Encoder & Streamer configuration window appears with three tabs.
- The first tab, pertains to the quality of your content. Now I don't quite know why there is a setting called Quality which has no effect on bitrate, but I think it's generally a good idea to leave it alone or change it to High Quality. The Format field is one of the most important settings. There are two MPEG-;ayer-3 codecs to choose from: MP3 and mp3PRO. mp3PRO claims to pull off CD-quality at only 56kbps. I personally, highly doubt this, but still, mp3PRO is at least slightly better than the regular MP3 codec. The next thing to consider is your bitrate and whether you want mono or stereo. Before you decide to choose stereo, consider the following: all music used to be in mono; dual mono doesn't sound much different from stereo; a stereo stream is two mono streams side by side, each having a bitrate of half of the stereo bitrate, meaning that mono can potentially sound better than stereo. My rule of thumb: if your maximum bitrate is lower than 56kbps, I suggest using mono and if your maximum bitrate is 48kbps or above, I suggest using stereo. If you're reading this carefully, you will notice that there is some overlap. Really, whatever bitrate you should use is the decision of whoever runs the station, and should be influenced by the listeners. Personally, I usually only listen with one ear (it's a disk jockey habit of mine >.<) and I wouldn't mind a 64kbps mono stream :)
- Server Details
- Same configuration as the SHOUTcast DSP plug-in for Winamp, with the addition of the option to broadcast to different types of radio servers, or none at all. The option No server is used when you want to create an encoder that does nothing but create an archive of your show, especially helpful in creating podcasts. The "$combine$" value in the  Enable title streaming field means the same thing as "Artist - Song".
- Stream Archive
- As just stated, records your show to a file.
When you're done, click OK. To start your encoder, click the triangle button in the Encoders window. If it connects without errors, congratulations, A DJ Is You!
Errors You Might Encounter
- Sam has a nasty habit of leaving 'footprints'. What this means is that when you uninstall SAM3, not everything that was added during installation is removed. Some of this, like your settings kept in your %programfiles%/Spacial Audio/SAMBC directory, is stuff that you might want. Stuff like the irremovable registry value that says you have Firebird installed, is stuff that you don't want. In fact, this will keep you from re-installing SAM with the Firebird database if you happen to uninstall. But don't worry, there is a cure! All you need to do is download Firebird, install it, and uninstall it, correctly overwriting and purging the sticky registry value(s).
- In your playlist rotation rules if you set Do not play same song or title within  minutes to a value higher than the amount of music, or just high enough for the first 20 songs that SAM picks to all fail when checked against your rules, you will get an error that says something like Sam failed to queue a song after 20 tries. The same goes for the rest of the playlist rotation rules. This problem is fixed by making your playlist rotation rules less strict.
Until you've got some practice under your belt, you'll probably stay a shy untalented newbie, but once again, don't worry. Getting ahold of a SHOUTcast server to practice with is a lot easier than it sounds.
Using Someone Else's Server
One of the best places for aspiring DJs new to broadcasting is project freecast, which allows anyone to sign up for blocks of time in which the 50-slot server is under their control for the booked time. Freecast is capable of a max bitrate of 56kbps. Also, I'm happy to let friends use my server for limited & temporary periods of time, although I currently don't have quite as much bandwidth as I'd like and I can't promise that my server will be online 100% of the time.
Installing Your Own Server
If you can't get your hands on someone else's SHOUTcast server, you can easily install your own and broadcast to localhost. I highly recommend trying this option if you can handle the server configuration (explained in the config, readme, and easily googleable tutorials).
Tips & Tricks
- Move your bumps into SAM's sound FX folder so you can play them easily with one click without sending the MP3 metadata to the server and clogging up stats
- Play around with SAM3's HTML output tools to generate nifty status pages without doing too much work.
- Make requests very easy to send in.
- In SAM, you can change the play mode from Auto DJ to Manual to keep SAM from playing the next track when the current one finishes. This makes talking between songs a lot easier