Online radio first began broadcasting in 1993 when Carl Malmud created an online talk show. At the start of Internet radio, there wasn’t as much capability or need to have streaming music content, so news and political/social commentary provided the bulk of online radio content. The first actual music concert to be broadcast over Internet radio, and when the industry subsequently knew there would be a need for online radio jobs, was a Rolling Stones concert. Later, in 1994, a traditional radio station (89.3 WXYC) actually began a simultaneous broadcast online as well as over traditional radio waves. Over the following year, music grew to be the primary focus of the new medium, until 1995, when streaming ads were played over online radio. This is one example of something that those who work in online radio jobs might have to do — compiling a list of appropriate advertisements and what times to play them, as well as integrating them with already-playing content. NetRadio, launched in 1995, was the first online-only station, and it ran until 2001, when it ceased operations due to a lack of profitability.
One of the biggest concerns of online radio is intellectual property theft, as well as proper payment of royalty rates. Online radio jobs require a bit of knowledge about network security — otherwise a clever hacker could download your site’s song files. Granted, this isn’t too different from recording a song on a cassette tape back in the old days, but in today’s intellectual property society, it’s dangerous to leave files unprotected. In fact, there was something known as the Day of Silence, when many online radio stations stopped broadcasting for a whole day because of a royalty increase — because the overall cost was cheaper, the record companies and artists felt that they weren’t receiving a high enough financial return, so increased their royalties. There was absolute radio silence online on June 26, 2007. This was partially due to the backlash of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as well, when it became a concern that music files could be downloaded extremely easily, despite preventive measures.
Internet radio is both similar to and different from traditional radio. If you aspire to be an online DJ, you have to have a clear and charismatic personality that holds the attention of listeners, and allows then to get into the flow of the music. It’s likely a requirement for most online radio jobs to have some form of degree in sound engineering, and experience working with sound systems. Also, because it’s online, the DJ should possess a fair amount of computer knowledge. In case the network goes down, you won’t have to wait for IT fix it; you’ll just do it yourself.
Other online radio jobs include the broadcast administrator, who determines what and when things will be broadcast; the sound technician, who manages and operated the audio equipment; and a person to manage the website itself — a web designer. The web designer not only ensures the streaming sound capabilities are up to par, he or she also makes the website look appealing and professional. Also, it might be necessary to have someone research the station’s target demographic to know how to create and market the station appropriately.
On the subject of technology, it’s important for anyone looking for an online radio job to know how to keep up with the latest technology. Regarding the Internet, technology changes almost daily, and if you don’t keep ahead of the pack, another station will steal listeners from you. Online radio jobs also require plenty of experience in dealing with a younger generation than do those jobs in traditional radio. Many of the people who listen to online radio tend to be of a younger generation.
There are many different online radio sites, like AOL Radio, Imeem (which is more a user-created database of playlists more than anything), and Napster. Many traditional stations have created a website corresponding with their broadcast so people can listen online without worrying about the signal strength. It’s projected that online radio jobs are going to quickly replace traditional radio jobs over the next few decades, simply due to the massive shift in technology.
Online radio promises to be a challenging but rewarding career path. It ranges in scope from simply playing music over the Internet, to sending out political commentary, and helping to maintain the sound systems and website by keeping up with sound technology, music, and security measures. Online radio jobs will combine both mass media communication with computer and networking science to form a hybrid of the two fields. If you go into an online radio job, you have to be dynamic, personable, and you have to have a good knowledge of computers as well as music or current issues (especially if you’re on a talk show). Nothing captures an audience’s attention more than an attentive and responsive talk show host.