Last month I laid out a way for your church to get on the internet for a mere $13.00 per month. My purpose at that time was to get your attention. Now, I want to talk about the possibilities of creating a presence on the internet 24/7… the internet radio station. Our purpose isn’t to be a commercial success. The proposition I want to present is that this entire endeavor is an experiment. We want to explore the possibilities for expanding your ministry, so that no matter how the radio station begins, it grows to reflect your ministry.
Many of you are aware that there are thousands of broadcast radio stations that are also broadcasting to the internet. In fact, in less than a minute I can connect to Radio Nyanduti in Asuncion, Paraguay. When I lived there in the early 1960s, it was my favorite radio station.
Now, these radio stations, and even many TV stations and television networks also on the internet, have a real advantage over most churches. They already have a broadcasting operation, complete with equipment, personnel and most of all, experience. To duplicate that kind of investment just to broadcast on the internet would be foolhardy, especially if what you are really looking for is a way to start up and then experiment with what is effective outreach.
If you were in the radio station business now, what format would you want to broadcast? The most common format, and also the most popular with listeners, is the music format. It comes in many flavors, such as Country and Western, Christian, Classical, Rock and Roll, and even Reggae (use your imagination). Other formats like all-news, talk and even weather are also abundant. The easiest and least expensive format is music, so that would be the best place to start. Your $13.00 per month stream is fairly low quality, and only gets you 20 listeners, even though it is all month. Since you want to get in the radio station business, go for it!! Get the 100 concurrent listeners at 128k CD quality for $250 per month.
The above sounds simple, and of course, it is not. Now is where the complications arise. Since we are planning a 24/7 radio station, we need to have the ability to program the station that way. Most 24/7 radio stations DO NOT have personnel working around the clock keeping the CDs spinning. They are to some extent computer automated. I would guess that the majority of these stations in the US, and most developed countries are now fully automated. Production personnel produce the elements of the program, load in the play lists, and bill sponsors, but the actual on the air station is being played by a computerized automation system.
It is possible to buy a fairly decent radio automation program for under $500 that will run on the computer on your desktop… in fact, I have one set up on this laptop. Again, however, it isn’t that simple.
First, of course, you need the CDs… many hundreds or even thousands of them. Typical stations have between 8,000 and 12,000 titles in their library. You would need a fairly large budget to purchase these. Commercial stations and networks are given free copies by the CD producers to promote their music, but getting on those lists requires the trappings of a serious broadcast operation, and can take many months. Once you have the music, you still have to have a license from the auditing bureaus, BMI, SESAC and ASCAP, and pay the licensing fees. This works just like the music your choir or praise band uses.
Of course, there are many other elements to the broadcast, like Public Service Announcements (PSAs), promos and even commercials if you were to go that way. You would also want what are called liners… those are short pieces that break up the music, and usually promote the station or your church. This is what gives life to your station, and gives people a reason to keep listening. No one tunes in the Muzak channel.
I have probably already talked you out of the idea of getting into the radio biz.
Let’s go back to why you want to be in the internet radio station business. It begins with the very purpose of your church. You are in the worship and outreach business. God has ordained that you serve Him with worship and that you reach out to others with the Gospel. Of course, there are other ministries that are a part of who you are, and all of them, in some way, go beyond the walls of your building.
We began with the proposition that this is an experiment, to discover just what you can do with internet radio. The whole music format thing is a way to get in, and keep a 24/7 presence, but the experiment is in what else might be possible. Of course, the music broadcast is, in itself, a ministry, so it will be your decision as to how much departure you will make, and how fast. In the end, you want to reflect the ministry God has laid on your church’s heart.
One available means of getting a 24/7 radio station, at 128k CD quality, with plenty of experimental possibilities, but without all the above investment of time and money, is, Next Wave Radio. Visit http://www.nwrnetwork.com/clients.html to hear the stations that are already on the internet.
Internet broadcasting, radio now, TV in the future, is a part of the great democratic experiment. Thomas Jefferson would be here with us if he could.