As I'm writing these lines (March 30, 2020) we've been in a full lockdown situation in the UK for more than a week (due to the Coronavirus pandemic, if you're reading this post in 2055) and I've been confined at home since March 15th. Under these circumstances, I've decided to apply my know-how in live streaming by launching an informal discussion series with other people also confined at home, all over the world. You can watch the recorded sessions on Streamtea.net.
It's almost impossible to DJ on Facebook & Youtube
I had also started to DJ from my office on a brand new Facebook group but I quickly noticed two major issues. Firstly the stream wasn't very stable, often cut after 30/40 minutes, which became pretty annoying. I also received multiple copyright strike notifications from Sony, Warner, Universal... probably for the most popular songs spun during the live sessions, with warnings from Facebook telling me that part of the stream would be muted. After reading further info about this phenomenon, I learned that I could even have my whole Facebook account shut down if I kept on DJing like that. Youtube proved even more ruthless, removing my replay after each attempted set. Apparently Twitch tends to be more tolerant for amateur DJs but there's no real point asking Facebook users to switch platform for a DJ live stream, except if you're David Guetta. If I wanted to share my love for music on a regular basis with other people in confinement, I had to find an alternative solution...
Just as I bought a circus tent a few years ago to secure the organization of a two-day festival after some issues with grumpy neighbours when operating a grassroots live music venue, I told myself that this could be the right time to fulfill, even momentarily, one my dearest dreams: launching my own radio. When I first had that idea, in the early 1990s, you could only launch a traditional over-the-air radio station, which required a lot of equipment (FM transmitter, antenna,...) red tape and the payment of a hefty license fee. It wasn't possible to kickstart operations in a few days.
Online radio licenses in the UK, what you need to know
Fast forward to late March 2020: via an article I read on Radio.co's blog I learned that I needed two separate licenses to operate a small web radio: one from PRS For Music, which collects and distributes money for the composition (music, lyrics, melody) on behalf of songwriters, composers and publishers. And another one from PPL collecting and distributing money for the use of the sound recording on behalf of record companies and performers.
The basic webcasting PRS license (Limited Online Music License) covers the equivalent of 150,000 streams per year (one stream = one person listening to one song) whereas the basic Small Webcaster PPL license covers the equivalent of 270,000 streams.
The overall cost for these blanket licenses is £231 + £142 ( £373 excl. VAT) per year. My plan is to stay within the limits of the 150,000 streams (e.g. 300 people listening to 500 songs) during the confinement period. I won't probably have more than 10 listeners on average per broadcast hour, so it should be enough for a few weeks, even months. If I was the only one listening to my own station for 24 hours a day with 15 tracks per hour, I could do this for a whole year :-) I hope I'll have at least a couple of fellow listeners after investing so much love in the project.
Online radio management platform: Radio.co
Besides the licensing fees, I signed up on Radio.co, a dedicated platform to manage the broadcasts. It's an amazing tool used, among others, by the iconic Soho Radio. Since I wanted to be able to edit cue times for each track and to upload live show recordings straight from the dashboard to Mixcloud, I opted for the Bronze Plan at £40 per month, which will provide enough features for my temporary use case.
I designed a quick WordPress web site and created a nice radio logo in Photoshop (you'll notice the subtle hint to the 1980s).
and I ordered a few male & female voiceovers on Fiverr to create my own DJ drops using FL Studio. Here's one of them.
I've curated tracks from musician friends and I've invited other artists to submit their own songs. Along with live streams, that's my way to support musicians in times of hardship.
Since I have 9 other DJ accounts available in the Radio.co Bronze plan, I also plan to give the opportunity to other passionate DJs to join the party (don't hesitate to contact me). I will also probably launch a series of talk shows, about music, theatre, literature... I might also read poems and short stories. We'll see where it brings this side project. It's definitely a work in progress. All suggestions are welcome.
BEYOND THE LOCKDOWN?
If I decide to keep on operating CMF Radio after this lockdown, I'll have to evaluate the cost and find ways to offset it (advertising, donations,...). I might choose to only publish pre-recorded shows via MixCloud, which covers royalties at their end (and take a premium subscription to get detailed stats + become a MixCloud select creator).
I'll keep you posted if I need your support ;-)
In the meantime, tune in to cmfradio.com. Broadcast times will vary. More info on the home page.