Revenue
Cost
Getting started
How much does it cost to start an online radio station?

How much does it cost to start an online radio station?

December 23rd, 2023

It would be a bit of a cop out to start this by saying “it depends”. Well unfortunately it’s true, it does depend. It’s important for us to set some guard rails as the cost for an online radio station can effectively be unlimited.

You might think that internet radio stations can only get so big and will always be worth less and cost less to run than a traditional FM radio station. You would be wrong. Think of a station like NTS. Universal Music Group recently purchased a 25% stake in NTS for ~£5 million. That effectively values the whole of NTS at ~£20 million.

The purchase price of NTS is an indicator of NTS’ worth (obviously) but also its cost to run. While the value of a company isn’t a one-to-one indicator of how much it costs to run, it shows us something of the scale of running NTS from day-to-day.

NTS is a heavy hitter in the internet radio space. It would be unfair, and unrepresentative, to focus on stations the size of NTS. Instead let’s focus on how much it might cost to run a relatively new independent or community internet radio station.

We want to focus on the beginning as your maintenance costs will become clearer and more standard the longer you run. In fact, you have the least clarity on cost in the very beginning, so let’s start there.

You can refer to our guide on starting an internet radio station for some idea on how to get started. Many of the points covered in that article guide this piece.

Let’s say you’ve got your online radio station up and going (hopefully with Radio Cult!). How much does it really cost to own and run an internet radio station? Let’s break it down by category.

Hardware

Computer

You will need a computer with internet access to start an internet radio station. If you already own a computer then great, you can ignore this. If you don’t then don’t worry too much. Any basic computer with internet access will be enough to use a radio streaming provider, like Radio Cult. In fact, you can probably do everything with a tablet as well.

You can purchase a cheap Chromebook for around $150 USD.

Microphone (optional)

If you want to share your beautiful voice with the world then you will need a microphone to make sure your voice comes through clearly. Depending on the sort of station you want to create you can ignore this.

Microphones start relatively cheap but quickly skyrocket in price. If you want something basic then consider picking up a Behringer microphone for ~50USD.

Mixer / decks (optional)

If you want to do mixes then you may need a set of decks. I say may as modern mixing technology like Serato can be used without a controller. In fact, you can get going with Serato for free.

The cost here really depends on your preference and level of sophistication you want for your station. In fact, if you’re playing playlists you don’t even need decks as Radio Cult will automatically handle fading tracks in and out.

Purchasing a basic set up will probably set you back around ~300USD. The cost can grow far past this price point depending on quality.

Internet radio provider

An internet radio provider is a given if you want to do internet radio. We don’t recommend the headache of running your own setup. Going with an existing provider is going to get you going the quickest and most likely save you money in the long run when you consider the huge time investment needed to get a self-hosted solution off the ground.

Radio Cult is your best choice for streaming. Radio Cult is specifically designed for independent and community radio. It is the one stop shop for running a radio station and comes bundled with a range of features that will save you costs across the whole stack.

Check our our plans and get going today.

Internet access

You’ll need internet access to upload your media files to your internet radio provider and also to do your day-to-day management tasks like scheduling shows and interacting with listeners. Hopefully you already have access to an internet connection! Else, how would you be reading this?

We would recommend having an internet connection with a strong upload connection as this means you can upload files easier without failures.

Licensing & royalties

Licensing can get very expensive and depends on your locale. You have to factor in not only the initial licensing costs but the ongoing royalties you need to pay out.

We recommend you check your local radio regulations to see the associated costs.

If you focus on playing royalty-free content (i.e. self-produced music, talk-show content) then you most likely won’t need a licence to stream over the internet. This isn’t legal advice so check the specific regulations in your area.

Website

You won’t get too far in internet radio without having a website for your fans to listen in from. You can get going quickly with a Radio Cult popout. Our popout websites mean you can have a website from the very beginning, at no additional cost.

Eventually though, you will want your own website. The cost categories below cover the cost of creating and maintaining a website for your internet radio station.

Domain name

You will need a domain name for your website. There are many domain name providers out there — like GoDaddy or Google domains. The domain cost varies widely depending on the TLD (e.g. .com, .co.uk, .io) and how popular the domain name provider thinks the specific domain name is.

You can get a domain name for as cheap as ~10USD a year.

Hosting

You’ll need somewhere to host your site. You can go with an all-in-one service like Squarespace and Wix or build a custom site and deploy it to a hosting provider.

Squarespace plans start at $16 USD per month. Whereas, you might be looking at anywhere from $5 to $20 per month to host a custom site — depending on the traffic you receive.

Design and development

If you go with a site builder like Squarespace or Wix then you can build your website yourself. You’ll just need to pay the monthly fee for your site builder.

If you choose a custom site then the sky is really the limit. If you find a nice friend to build your site then you may be able to get it on the cheap. Else, be prepared to pay anywhere from $1,000–5,000 USD for a basic website. Additionally, any updates going forward will also cost you in the form of developer fees.

Mobile

You’ll most likely want somewhere mobile for your fans to lock in. If you’re on Radio Cult then the Radio Cult mobile app is bundled for free as part of every plan. As soon as you sign up for Radio Cult, your station will show up on the Radio Cult mobile app and your fans will be able to listen.

If you want a custom app then prepare to pay an arm and a leg. Custom mobile apps normally charge for a factor more than a website. You can expect to pay north of $10,000 for a very basic custom mobile app.

Software

There’s a range of software needed for the day to day running of a radio station. You’ll want everything from emails and socials to tools to organise and manage your station. The good thing is that most software you will need is either completely free or has very generous free tiers.

Socials

You’ll want social media accounts for your radio station — Facebook, Instagram, X / Twitter, TikTok and more. These are obviously all free which is great. You may be looking at ongoing costs if you wish to hire someone to manage your social media accounts.

Email

The use of email tools — like Gmail — is free. However, to get custom domains running on your website will most likely be an ongoing monthly cost.

You can get an email like radio-one@gmail.com for free but it looks more professional having an email like hello@radio-one.fm. You can see how one address is a generic Gmail email address and the other is tied to a custom domain.

It depends on how exactly you go about setting up your custom email addresses but it’ll most likely cost you in the range of $5 — $7 USD a month per custom email address.

Audio manipulation

You may want to perform some audio processing on your stream before pushing it to your internet radio provider. For example, maybe you want to apply some basic normalisation or merge together two audio sources. We recommend using a tool like Audio Hijack for this. Audio Hijack has a free tier but you can pay a one off fee for a full licence to unlock more features.

Collaboration & organisation

Most internet radio stations are a collaboration between many different individuals. In fact, a lot of online radio stations are started as intentional community spaces. It stands to reason that you’ll want some collaboration tools to work together with so many people.

The good news is that you should be safe on the free tier of many of these services for a long time. Whether you use Trello for managing tasks or Slack or Discord for communication, you should get very far at no cost.

Storage

While running your station you will create gigabytes of assets. That could be mixes, artwork and everything in between.

Luckily Radio Cult comes with far more cloud storage than other providers. We know that mixes get large so we don’t want you to run out of storage after uploading 10 mixes.

For other assets, like artwork, you might want to look into Google Drive or the like. This can start free but gets expensive depending on how much you want to store.

If you decide to use Google to manage your custom email addresses then you get Google Drive, and additional storage space, bundled for free which helps to save on costs.

In conclusion

You can see how the cost to run an internet radio station really varies depending on what you already own and how much you want to invest. It’s very possible to start out cheap and then invest in more tools and equipment the longer you run your station.

Hopefully this shows how running an internet radio station is cheaper than you may think! In fact, you’ll find that the most expensive part of running a radio station is the time investment needed. Even with all the tools and equipment outlined above, you’ll need to invest time every week to keep your station going.

How much your time is worth to you is a value call. Some people hire staff to run their station, others treat the station as a passion project and see the input as a net positive for their wider community.

We believe that your time is precious. That’s why Radio Cult is designed to make it easier to run a radio station. Not only that, we are designed to be cheaper to use. This can be seen in out powerful repeating rules that mean you spend less time scheduling and our extra cloud storage which saves you money.

Radio Cult is the streaming tool for independent and community radio. Use Radio Cult and have more time and money to focus on what really matters.

If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest way to get going then check out our guide on starting a radio station for free.

Create your own online radio station and start streaming today!

Click here to try Radio Cult for free - the streaming platform designed for independent and community radio.

Download the Radio Cult app on iOS and Android to listen to that original pirate material 24/7.

Find us on Instagram, Twitter and join our Discord to follow along with our journey and suggest features.

Create your online station and
start streaming today

Sign up