Lesson 03

The key to successful radio programming and content

Whether you choose a talk radio station or a generalist radio station, programming and content are undoubtedly the most important elements to take into account once your concept has been defined. Thanks to that, your listeners will stay tuned to your online radio station.

By the end of this course, you’ll know everything there is to know about:

Define the format and content for a successful Internet radio station

Radio programming can quickly become a puzzle when you are a novice: What to broadcast? When? Don’t panic, in the first part of this course we’ll lay the bases to help you create a quality programming adapted to your listeners.

What type of format should I choose for my online radio?

To offer the most relevant radio programming to your listeners, start by asking yourself what format you want to adopt. The format is a set of elements that will determine the structure of a successful Internet radio station.

Generally speaking, 6 types of radio formats are used.

  • Generalist: where all topics are covered. A generalist radio station will broadcast music as well as information, debates, radio plays, etc.
  • Musical: which means that the programming is primarily dedicated to the distribution of musical titles. On this type of radio, you can also find musical programs such as tops or a ranking.
  • Thematic: which targets a particular subject such as sports, cinema or politics. The aim here is to focus on a given theme and to focus the programming on it. (Do you dream of launching a radio station that talks about flowers? So, create a playlist with songs that talk about this theme and interviews with florists for example.)
  • Local: this type of radio station focuses on current events in a specific and limited area. A local radio station is mainly aimed at the inhabitants of the regions in question. Even though it can choose to only broadcast music, listeners expect to hear news about their area, programs on the history of the region, events, etc.
  • Community: here, the aim is to address people of the same religion, ethnicity, origin, sexual orientation, etc. Community radio stations generally offer debates, news and music around the theme that brings its listeners together. For example, a community radio station for expatriates will mainly broadcast music from the country of origin.
  • Information: news radio stations reserve most of their air time for news, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (for the Médiamétrie survey institute, this format can also be used in the Thematic format.)

Depending on the format you choose, your radio programming will vary. There is no need to download millions of pieces of music if you want to start a generalist online radio for example, a contrario if your project is to offer an electro music radio you will have to fill your media library accordingly. The format can also depend on your means and resources: it is difficult to start creating a 100% Info radio station if you are alone and don’t have enough time.

Ask yourself what type of content you want to broadcast and how often? All these elements will guide you towards a particular format. Are you starting to see which format best suits your project? Perfect.

Where to find content for your online radio?

Now that you have defined what your listeners will hear on your online radio station, it is time to build your media library. The media library is where we will find all the content that could be broadcast on your radio station such as music, jingles or your radio shows.


While there are examples of radios that never play music, most successful online radio stations have a more or less extensive music library (everything will depend, if you remember correctly, on the… format). But where can you find the tracks that will play on your radio? Again, this will depend on what you want to broadcast. You may already have all the tracks you need on your computer, but you may well decide to scan all your vinyl or CDs if they fit into your concept. You can also choose to distribute your own creations. For the rest, there are several websites specialized in downloading and selling music online. Some are very generalist and offer a very eclectic catalogue where you can find both new and older titles, such as on iTunes where you can download a single title or to buy an entire CD. If you want to offer beautiful discoveries to your listeners, bandcamp can be a good alternative.

If your budget is limited, you can turn to royalty-free music. Royalty-free music means that you are free to use it without having to pay a royalty. If your only radio station broadcasts only royalty-free music, you will not have to pay any fees to BMI, ASCAP or SoundExchange. Be careful, royalty-free music does not necessarily mean that it will be completely free. Some websites such as Jamedo or fyrfly offer subscriptions to download royalty-free music. Other sites such as Dogmazic or Archive offer completely free music.

Purchasing track does not exempt you from copyright regulations. You must also check the license of the royalty-free title before broadcasting it, some authors do not allow their music to be used for commercial use. You can also contact the labels in order to be able to distribute the new music they offer, some artists will be more than happy to be broadcast on a successful online radio station!

Radio imaging

Radio imaging reflects the identity of your station and sets the pace of your radio programming. It can take several forms: jingles, hourly announcements, liners.

This is a real added value in your radio programming, but beware of the tone used, it will vary depending on your format. Some types of radio imaging are more popular from one format to another, medleys for example are very present on generalist radios, while hourly announcements (telling your listeners what the time is) will be the central point of any news radio. To enrich your media library with radio imaging worthy of the name, there are several options:

  • Have your radio imaging designed by a professional: there are many websites specialized in the design of radio sound packages, from sung jingles to medleys made up of songs of your choice. The prices for this type of service may vary, but you can count between $15 – $20 for a jingle.
  • Royalty-free: In the same way as for music you can find royalty-free jingles and hourly announcements on dig.ccmixter, however this solution will not offer you the possibility of customization.
  • Create it yourself: with a recording software and a little imagination, you have the possibility of making completely free and personalized radio imaging. To record and edit your jingles and radio shows, we recommence SoundTrap!

Creating successful radio programming

What is good radio programming?

Now that you know what you want to broadcast and have built your media library, you must now classify it to offer your listeners relevant programming. As simple as it may seem, good radio programming avoids repetition. What could be more frustrating than hearing the same songs over and over again? Diversity is therefore at the heart of good programming. There is no single recipe for successful radio programming, but there are two simple steps that will help you define it.

Categorize your titles: By this we mean putting your tracks in playlists. Again, there is no ready-made recipe for making good playlists, it will all depend on your concept and format. However, some radio stations create playlists based on the popularity of the tracks in their media library, creating several playlists of this kind:

  • New songs: To classify the most recent tracks. This is a playlist that will be updated frequently.
  • Recurring songs: Tracks that we still hear a lot even if they have not just been released. This is where we place the “New songs” after a while.
  • Regular songs: These are the tracks that make up the majority of your radio programming. This is the most extensive playlist.
  • Gold songs: Tracks that, despite the years, are never out of date. They are there to reassure listeners. (All ABBA titles are perfect Gold!)

You can also choose to create thematic playlists according to the genres: Pop, Electro or Rap.

Define your rotation rules: once you have ranked your tracks correctly, ask yourself what rotation rules you want to apply. The rotation of a title is the frequency with which it will be broadcast. Do you feel like you always hear the same songs? This is because they are broadcast with a high rotation. In general, we can apply a strong rotation to the “New songs” playlist, which will be broadcast more often, but updated more regularly, this will prevent your listeners from deserting your radio after hearing Beyoncé’s latest hit for the 600th time.

Now that your tracks are classified and you have decided which rotation rules to apply, it is time to take out a pen and paper and develop your broadcasting schedule with our advice.


Hourly announcement


News Jingle




Top Hits Jingle


Top Hits Playlist




Regular Playlist 


New Tracks Playlist

Radio programming examples

You can define your programming by making what we call a clock in the radio world. The clock is the skeleton of what will be broadcast for 60 minutes. It can be designed like the example on the left.

The aim is to be as accurate as possible and of course, to make a clock for each hour. You may not experience the same thing at 8AM as at 11PM. The advantage of programming this way is that you have a very precise idea of how your days will unfold, this will allow you to alternate playlists. But this programming model does not work for all types of formats, and takes time. You can then develop a program over a week, which is less precise, but allows you to be more thematic.

Let’s take the example of a rather generalist online radio station that wants to broadcast a different style of music every evening during the week. Its radio programming will therefore be different every evening, but also different during the week and at weekends.

Top Tip: You can simply prepare your program grid with your team using Google Sheet (or an Excel table). Once it is ready, add it to your Radio Manager.

When should you renew your radio programming? There are no rules for this! It’s completely up to you to define when you want to add tracks. Above all, it is important to remember that good programming is constantly evolving and up-to-date.

How to manage music licensing for a successful online radio station?

If you have decided to play music on your radio, there is a good chance that it will be subject to copyright. It may seem overwhelming at first, let’s take a look together.

What is a music license?

A music license is an agreement between a music user and the owner of that music, stating that they give their permission for their music to be used. The fee of this music license then allows these songwriters/ composers to continue creating music.

This authorization will allow you to stream music on your radio. However, you will not be able to offer a podcast that includes music that is not royalty-free on your radio’s website.

Getting a music license in the USA

In some countries such as the USA, non-interactive webcasting or Internet radios qualify for a statutory license. A statutory license with BMI will cost you at least $358 per year whilst with Sound Exchange, you’d be looking at $500. Prices obviously vary for a number of reasons such as royalty rates, so do you research to find out which license suits your station best.

Bear in mind that licences also concern royalty free music. However, a royalty-free license is significantly cheaper as you’ll only need to make a one off payment which will give you lifetime rights to use the music. If you’re looking at simply broadcasting talk radio, you won’t necessarily need a license.

When it comes to copyright and licensing, the best option is to get in contact with the relevant music licensing body in your country. They’ll be able to provide you all the necessary legal information.

To sum up


Define the format of your radio & adapt your programming to it.

Radio programming

Good programming is above all a lively programming.


Be sure to respect the various copyrights of the artists you broadcast.

We’ve reached the end of this third lesson, thanks for reading!

We hope you enjoyed this lesson and that it provided you with answers to your questions before starting your Internet radio station. You can now move on to the next lesson… So go ahead!

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