How To... Without Really Trying Start A Radio Station

Evoke digital radio Ever re-tuned your radio? Noticed that every radio station sounds the same? And they're all rolling in money you know...

It doesn't take much to run your own radio station. You can do it with just a little of our help.

So lets begin with the most important thing...

The Concept

Every station needs a concept - an idea of what it's going to do on air. Well it also needs a license to broadcast but they're not that hard to get hold of these days. Just say that you're going to do something original and innovative, and when you launch, do the complete opposite, claiming financial difficulties. What's the Radio Authority going to do? Not a lot more than likely.

So what could you do with your station? Here is some ideas...

Top 40 Station

Called a Top 40 station because it plays 'modern music', ie all the crap currently found in the charts. Nothing special, just the latest hits from S Club 7 and any other crappy teen acts, as well as all the other rubbish you find in the charts. All you need is around 20 of the favourite records, which you can loop every two hours, all day, every day. Boshin'! This station really needs an FM license, cos all the other stations are on FM, so you'd better be too if you want to compete. Your audience is a guaranteed set of teenagers, twenty year olds who really like cheese music and bored people working in factories.

Gold Station

All the worst from the 1960s and 1970s, complete with the crappest boy and girl bands from now doing their 'mellow' songs. Aimed at the 35-60 year old woman, it's easy going with nothing brash and loud. And hey, it's cheap too cos it only needs to be on medium wave. Medium wave means cheap transmitters and crappy audio quality. Not that crappy audio means anything cos if you're on medium wave, no one will notice that you're playing dodgy CDs and warped vinyl picked up at car boot sales. Get in lots of bearded middle-aged presenters with experience of talking down to housewives and you're sorted. Pass the iron then...

Adult Contemporary

Sort of like the average gold station, but aimed at men. The male influence naturally means that you need to put in some of that classic rock stuff and lay off the boy bands. Girl bands are okay though as long as they know how to play a guitar every now and then. Your presenters will all need to have beer bellies and long scraggly hair, who were once in a band. Rock on!

Dance Music

Let's get this straight right away. Dance stations have nothing to do with dance music. They're just Top 40 stations without the rock and indie. As such you can kiss the factory audience goodbye, but who needs them anyway? You will need your credibility though, so don't forget to have a hard core dance show on at night. 1am-4am on Sundays should do it. Sorted!

Indie/Alternative Music

By daytime, it's a similar concept to the dance station. Take your average Top 40 station and just remove the crappy dance music and boy bands. Unlike the dance station though, your evening programming does need a tad more credibility, so hire some rock chicks and metal fanatics and put them on after 8pm when everyone is watching TV. Bangin'


There is one simple thing to note: it's too expensive. Don't bother, just play the records. After all, if you play records, sometimes you can even get away with not having a presenter, but on speech radio, you need someone there all the time and that gets expensive. So don't bother cos after all, no one else does.

The Name

Once you have the concept (and the license) it's time to think of the name. At one time names that meant something were all the range. For example, people in Portsmouth used to listen to Radio Victory, where the old ship Victory is moored. Lancashire had Red Rose Radio, with Lancs being the county of the red rose.

Those days are over and your name needs to have 'edge' and 'atmosphere'. Trouble is all the punchy names are gone. The Wolf? Can't have that mate. Nor Big, Magic or Imagine.

If you can get away with letters or numbers (a letter followed by your frequency perhaps) go for that as it gives instant cred. Q103 anyone? (Hint: F is not a punchy letter.)

If not, what about one of these punchy names: Tank FM, What? 97.4, The Grid, Wow!, or perhaps iMuse? Note how much more attitude names with a non-letter character have.

Keeping the Listeners

Once you're on air and you're playing your music, all you need to do is keep your listeners. To do this, you need some gimmicks and policies:

  1. play the same records over and over again. To make sure that you're playing what people want to hear, do plenty of phone in votes where listeners pick their favourite songs. This will automatically mean that the most popular music is chosen; music which conveniently is the same as your playlist. The benefit of votes is that when people claim that all you do is play the same tunes over and over again, you can say that you're playing what the listeners want. Make sure you rig the votes though to make sure that the winners always correspond to your playlist!
  2. have windup phone calls on the breakfast show. Everyone loves them. Preferably do two new ones a day.
  3. give away lots and lots of money in quizzes and competitions. Make sure you spend double the amount of money that you're giving away, telling everyone that you're giving it away! Ensure that the winner is always the husband of the travel presenter to ensure that you're never out of pocket.
  4. tell everyone how much music you play and how good it is. You'll need some slogans like "more music than anyone else - and that's a fact." Don't worry if its a complete lie - no one ever checks.

Keep It Going

And with that lot, you're away. One radio station guaranteed to bring in the money. And if it doesn't, don't worry. If things get a bit desperate, there are lots of students after jobs in the media and to get experience, most will work for free. Okay they may be crap at it, but hey, they don't cost owt.

And if it gets really bad, no problem as one of the big radio groups will just come along, buy you up with a huge amount of money, sack all your staff and simulcast their gold service on your station. In fact they'll probably do this anyway. Sorted.

Background Information

Oh for a tenner for every person who has emailed me asking how they set up their own radio station.

I mean, if I did, I'd have plenty of money to set up my new 'Setting Up A New Radio Station' consultancy service. Only £10,000 a day. Bargain.

Like, well, everything, in the How To series, it's a complete set of clichés, stereotypes and so on that point out the absurdities and laziness of those in power in commercial radio. Or something like that anyway.

This was the most recent and so far, final, How To. It was first published on 6 January 2002.


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