Internet Radio MP3s and Bandwidth

You want to start your own radio station - but your hosting company only gives you 20 Gig/month of bandwidth. Just how many songs will you be able to play?

Let's assume that you have ripped all of your CDs at 128 kb/second rate, which is the same quality as FM radio. This isn't CD quality music, but it's worthy of broadcast. That works out to be around 1mb of disk space (and therefore of transfer file size) per minute of song.

There are 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 30 days (about) in a month. 60 x 24 x 30 = 43,200mb of physical file you are pushing from your server to your visitor's server, if that one person listens to a non-stop stream of songs from you. That's 43.2 gig of bandwith used up by the one person. If you have two people listening non-stop, that's 86 gig of bandwidth. The more people you have listening, the faster your bandwidth is going to be eaten up, and the faster that your visitors will hit the "cannot connect - bandwidth exceeded" message from your server. Your hosting firm might even hit you for a huge overage charge for exceeding your bandwidth limits.

Of course, most people don't listen 24 hours a day. But if you have a successful radio station, you might easily have 10 or 20 people listening during peak hours, and 4 or 5 listening during non peak hours. Even if it's not the same person, the large files moving from your server to your visitors' servers will count against your bandwidth. How do you handle this?

First, make sure you fully understand your hosting site's contract. What will happen when you get close to your bandwidth limits? Will they tell you and warn you? Will they cut you off when you hit them? Will they just keep counting and then charge you huge additional costs? This can easily reach into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars if you're not careful, so it pays to look into this.

Next, look closely at the files you're serving. Compression software made today is FAR better than software made even a year or two ago. Don't just use old MP3s that are lying around. Take your source CDs, research new software, and rip new audio files. Consider dropping to AM quality, and read up on the differences that bitrate and frequencing sampling rates make. Do some experiments and decide just what audio quality you're willing to accept in return for the bandwidth gains.

Also, if your server supports it, look into alternates to MP3 file formats. WMA can provide up to double the file space gain depending on the quality of the file you're making. Ogg Vorbis format is a second generation file format which is high quality audio in very small file sizes.

Internet Radio Tips and Help
Music / MP3 Tips and Information