Even as a techie by trade, my mind is blown by some of the things you can do with just a laptop these days. In this Radio.co review, I look at a platform that allows you to set up and run a fully fledged radio station.
Now I appreciate that this is perhaps slightly niche for my usual readership. However, a certain level of serendipity was involved in me deciding to write a Radio.co review. Specifically:
- I already use Podcast.co, Radio.co’s sister product, to run my own podcast – and am very happy with it, as I explained in my earlier review.
- During lockdown, I had time to indulge my passion for music, and hosted a weekly radio show (here’s a past episode – if you like a bit of soul and disco, why not have a listen while you read this?)
- While I was hosting my radio show, Radio.co was the platform I used.
With all that in mind, I feel in a good position to give my opinion on the product.
First, I’d like to address a key question you may be itching to ask:
Why Get Into Radio?
Beside the fact that many of us have dreamed of taking to the airwaves since we recorded the charts onto cassette tapes, the radio industry is booming. During 2020, there was a significant increase in new stations, and daily listener increases of up to 75%.
Inevitably, some of this was due to the pandemic, but a full return to normal is still some way off for many at the time of writing. Furthermore, plenty of people seem set to continue with plenty of the habits they developed in lockdown.
There are numerous reasons why you might want to start a radio station – from sharing a passion for music, to building a local community station or something related to your business sector. While some do this for the love of it, there’s also always the potential for monetisation via sponsorship and advertising.
Starting a radio station is a big endeavour with plenty to organise – but the technology side is surprisingly simple, as you will see in this review.
Let’s start with the basics:
What is Radio.co?
Radio.co is a fully-fledged software platform for managing and operating an online radio station. It also has the ability to integrate with an existing presence on AM / FM or DAB.
The Radio.co platform is a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, and includes a host of advanced features, such as podcast integration, listener analytics and scheduling facilities for multiple live DJs and prerecorded shows.
Radio.co Pricing: How Much Does it Cost?
Like most SaaS products, Radio.co has a range of tiered pricing options, with different features, capabilities and capacities, based on how much you pay each month.
Also in common with products of this nature, you get a discount if you pay annually up front, instead of monthly. In this case, you get two free months each year.
If you’re just starting out, you may be interested in Radio.co’s “Lite” tier. It costs just $29 per month and comes with certain limitations: It only has support for two DJs and 500 concurrent listeners, 1TB per month of bandwidth, and 2GB of storage space.
In actual fact, many novices may find this perfectly sufficient for getting a new station off the ground. However, do note that you don’t get one-on-one support and consultancy with this plan.
The remaining tiers are called “Bronze,” “Silver,” “Gold” and “Pro,” and cost from $49 to $179 per month (with that two month discount if you pay annually).
Pleasingly, most of the differences between the price plans are related to listener numbers, bandwidth and number of DJs. There’s some functionality that only comes with the higher tiers, but the feature set on “Bronze” is still rich and full. Furthermore, you can opt to add things like Alexa skills and mobile apps to the lower tiers.
This means that you can broadly pay more as your station grows, without feeling forced into unnecessary upgrades. One thing to note, however, is that telephone support is only available on the “Gold” and “Pro” plans.
Radio.co Free Trial
All Radio.co plans are available on a seven day free trial. You do need to provide payment details for this, so be sure to remember to cancel if you don’t wish to continue.
Radio.co Review: The Experience
The most striking thing about using Radio.co is that it’s really quite simple to use.
And that’s quite a feat on the part of the developers. Obviously there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, but the user experience is not intimidating. I feel the same way about Podcast.co too.
As you can see from the screenshot below, the dashboard is clean and simple. I can tell you from experience that you will spend a lot of time looking at this screen when you’re broadcasting, as it shows you how many people are tuned in, where from, and for how long.
I’ve been very impressed with the accuracy of this information – for example when getting a Facebook message from a friend saying they’ve tuned in – it updates very quickly.
But we’re jumping ahead a bit here. How do you actually start broadcasting?
Broadcasting on Radio.co
Broadly speaking, you have two ways to broadcast on Radio.co:
- Broadcast live.
- Upload tracks or prerecorded shows, and broadcast based on a schedule.
You can, of course, mix things up, and have live shows interspersed with pre-recordings – which is how almost all radio stations work.
Broadcasting live is surprisingly simple, and you have a choice of ways to do it. There’s a dedicated Radio.co broadcaster app for Windows, and Radio.co is also compatible with a wide range of third-party broadcasting tools, from the open-source BUTT (Broadcast Using This Tool) and PocketStreamer for iOS devices.
All you essentially need to go live is some basic details – a server name, port and password, which is prominently displayed on the dashboard. By default, only the “owner” of the station can go live at any time – and it’s wise to stick with this to avoid embarrassing errors! Other DJs have their own accounts on the platform, and their live slots can be scheduled in.
I personally use PocketStreamer when going live, and it integrates fantastically well with Radio.co. The only issue I had was neglecting to press the big “Go Live” button on my first attempt – but that’s very much on me!
Events and Scheduling
Almost all radio stations have a regular weekly schedule, and Radio.co gives you the ability to build yours up in the app, with both one-off and recurring “events,” which can be live streams, “playlists,” and live relays from other stations.
The playlists can consist of individual tracks, if you wish, and you can set a crossfade length as well as rudimentary cue points. In many cases, a “track” will actually be a pre-recorded show, recorded to fit into its assigned slot.
The scheduling functionality is a good example of where Radio.co makes something that could be quite complex simple to understand and configure. However, if you’re new to radio, don’t underestimate how much work is involved in laying out the schedule, collecting the files from all the DJs, and uploading them ready for broadcast.
When you schedule a live stream, you can configure Radio.co to record the broadcast so that you can use it again – ideal for repeats elsewhere in the schedule.
Ways to Listen
The more ways you give people to access your radio station, the more potential listeners you have.
The first thing you’ll likely want to do is provide a radio player on your station’s own website. For this, there’s a customisable player with a range of different display options. You simply copy and paste a small piece of code wherever you want the player to live. If you don’t already have a site for your station, this is covered too. For an extra $12 per month, you can build and host a simple site with Radio.co. I didn’t put this to the test as part of my Radio.co review.
You can also link your station feed to third-party apps and directories, such as TuneIn and Streamer.
Apps and Add-Ons
If you want to take things further and get apps of your own, you can do that from Radio.co too. There’s even the option of an Alexa “skill,” so that listeners can say “Play HomeWorkingClub radio” (for example) to listen.
The apps and Alexa support are all included with the “Pro” version of Radio.co. “Gold” has everything but the iOS app (I suspect a reflection of the fact that adding apps to Apple’s store is more arduous than the others). In all other cases, you can choose to have the apps as add-ons, charged at $10 or $15 per month.
Statistics and Reporting
You’ll no doubt want to know who’s listening to your radio station. What exactly you can see depends on how you’re logged on to your station.
When you set up individual DJs with their own login, you have a choice of “roles” to assign them, from “Guest DJ” to “StationManager.” DJs can see a basic breakdown of where people are listening from (complete with a zoomable map), how long they’ve been listening, IP addresses and so on.
As the owner of the station, you can see MUCH more: Average listening time, peak listener numbers etc. You can also download reports for sharing.
Quality and Reliability
I’m glad to say I’ve had no issues with the quality and reliability of Radio.co – and I say that not just as a DJ but as somebody who spends quite a lot of time listening to these stations.
The actual level of audio quality depends on your subscription. The “Bronze,” “Silver” and “Gold” tiers support up to 192Kbps, and “Pro” adds a studio option with streams at 320Kbps. In my experience 192Kbps is perfectly adequate, and only real audiophiles would notice much difference – especially as many people tend to listen on laptops, phones and smart speakers these days. 320Kbps also means working with bigger audio files.
While on the subject of quality, I should mention something very important. It’s not really part of my Radio.co review, but vital nonetheless: When it comes to quality and consistency, a LOT depends on the files that DJs provide. Unless there’s consistency in the volume levels and mastering, online stations often struggle to keep things sounding the same quality and the same volume. You cannot expect Radio.co (or any other platform) to fix this for you, so it’s wise to work out your own processes for quality control.
The support you get from Radio.co depends on what you pay for. Most significantly, only subscribers paying for “Gold” and “Pro” get telephone support, and “Lite” users get “self service” support.
However, Radio.co is strong on live chat – a support method that I – for one – prefer to use. There are also LOTS of self-service resources, ranging from how to videos to FAQs and detailed guides with lots of screenshots.
You may have noticed that I’ve barely criticised anything in my Radio.co review. My Podcast.co review was the same.
There’s a distinct breed of Software-as-a-Service firms that get seem to get everything on point these days. The company behind Radio.co and Podcast.co is one of them, and this is reflected when you check out customer feedback on aggregate sites like TrustPilot.
I am a technical person, so – in the interests of balance – I should probably point out that I don’t tend to struggle to get things like this up and running. But it’s clear from all of the on-boarding materials and how-to guides that Radio.co are ready and willing to help people who are new to this stuff too.
There are plenty of extra bells and whistles in Radio.co that I’ve not covered in detail here – from user requests to support for Track IDs – even without them, I’d conclude with a “highly recommended” – and anyone who reads my posts regularly will know that’s not something I say often!
Radio.co: A great online radio platform
Ease of Use
A rich feature set in an easy to use package. Radio.co is a great choice for aspiring radio station bosses.
- Easy to use.
- Fair pricing tiers.
- Apps and Alexa support available.
- Great training resources.
- Only self-service support on cheapest tier.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.