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What is SHOUTcast Hosting?

Today, Internet radio broadcasting is more popular than ever. Hugely famous sites like Radio Paradise, Pandora Internet Radio, and Last.fm serve to illustrate that fact. They allow users to discover new artists, explore a variety of genres, or just listen to old favorites.

Shoutcast radio has all that and more. What makes it stand out from the crowd is its focus on users and its high level of accessibility. Unlike stations on most Internet radio sites, almost all Shoutcast stations and programs are streamed live, instead of being queued up for broadcasting ahead of time by either a person or a computer.

Most importantly, anyone and everyone can create their own online radio station simply by downloading Shoutcast software and broadcasting tools. Those are just the bare bones of what it takes to create a smoothly-running station, though.

Shoutcast hosting options

Hosting providers such as VosCast, ShoutCheap and Server Room provide comprehensive hosting plans which use a great deal of additional features and services to enhance your Shoutcast-based station.

Valuable statistics, pre-written codes and scripts, the ability to stream to a variety of devices, and 24/7 support are just a few examples of the kinds of benefits you’ll get if you choose a hosting plan from a Shoutcast hosting provider.

To start broadcasting with Shoutcast today, with the added bonus of helpful features provided by the host, simply purchase a Shoutcast plan from a hosting provider.

Of course, in many situations it is also possible to run Shoutcast on your existing hosting plan. Manny hobbyists choose this approach, either by reusing a plan they already have, or by building DIY servers for small Shoutcast stations.

This approach makes sense for small ventures or individuals. It involves a bit of tinkering, but then again it allows users to repurpose old hardware or use idle server capacity.

Shoutcast hardware and software requirements

In terms of hardware, Shoutcast doesn't place a lot of load on the server. It is a very scalable audio streaming solution and you don't need pricey high-end processors or very fast storage. However, bandwidth is important and more often than not, it is the limiting factor for small operators.

The Shoutcast DNAS Server and Transcoder are available on a range of operating systems, including 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7 and beyond. Linux is also supported in 32- and 64-bit flavours. BSD 8.x and Mac OS X support is also on board. The default port number for the Shoutcast server is port 8000.

Shoutcast V1 and Shoutcast V2 are both still in use, but the different versions have very similar requirements. The biggest difference is the use of a new Stream ID and new Ultravox 2.1 protocol in Shoutcast V2.

There is no big mystery - Shoutcast is free and so are most plugins and modules you may need.

Bandwidth and scalability

So if the requirements are so low, why bother with hosting plans designed specifically for Shoutcast?

The short answer is bandwidth.

The cheapest plans, usually priced south of $10 a month, can support a limited number of listeners. The exact number depends on the bitrate, but you are usually looking at a few dozen listeners. The average $25 plan supports up to a hundred listeners.

In case you want an unlimited number of listeners, you could get away with a $50 plan, but on a low bitrate - it's more likely you will end up in triple digit territory if you go for a high-bandwidth plan with more than 1TB of traffic.

Custom plans and dedicated Shoutcast servers

A number of hosts have started offering custom Shoutcast plans, allowing the customer to choose a number of different parameters and create a tailored hosting package.

This approach makes sense depending on the niche you are interested in, as hardware and bandwidth requirements can be drastically different depending on what sort of broadcast you plan to host (different bitrate, regional peaks or global reach, talk radio or 24/7 music etc.)

Dedicated plans are the best choice for ambitious users. They usually start with limited traffic and basic hardware, but users can customise them and cherry pick the upgrades they are likely to need.

Unmetered plans usually start at about $100 a month and get you a dedicated 100Mbps connection. These plans also tend to feature RAID or SSD storage, along with quad-core Xeons and 8GB of RAM.

However, bear in mind that many hosts will also require you to purchase control panels and licenses, pay for proper server management and so on. Comparing list prices is not enough - you will have to dig a bit deeper to in order to accurately compare dedicated plans, as these costs can quickly add up.

SHOUTcast Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is SHOUTcast?

    SHOUTcast is a software program for creating streaming audio broadcasts over the internet.

  • How does SHOUTcast work?

    SHOUTcast sits on a server and receives music information from a source on that computer. The source could be any number of audio sources, such as live sound from an analog-to-digital converter or an mp3 player. SHOUTcast converts the audio data coming from the source into a streaming audio format consumable by anyone connected to the internet.

  • What mp3 players can be used as an audio source for SHOUTcast?

    In theory, almost any mp3 player could be used. However, SHOUTcast documentation specifies the Winamp player as the preferred audio source.

  • What type of software is needed to listen to SHOUTcast audio streams?

    Most mp3 players and services can play SHOUTcast audio streams, including Winamp, iTunes, and Windows Media Player. The one major player is not fully compatible is the VLC Player, which removed support for certain portions of the SHOUTcast protocol because of issues over open licensing.

  • Is SHOUTcast Open Source?

    No. SHOUTcast is proprietary software and uses some proprietary data formats. This was the nature of the dispute with VLC, which only supports open formats.

  • Can I use SHOUTcast for free?

    Yes. SHOUTcast server technology is available in several versions, including a free edition. The free version of SHOUTcast does not include monetization features, analytics, or support. Premium editions of the software provide some or all of these features and also allow for the use of Content Delivery Networks. There is also a SaaS subscription service that allows users to host their streaming content with SHOUTcast.

  • What operating systems can I use for hosting SHOUTcast server?

    SHOUTcast is compatible with Windows Server hosting and Linux hosting. It can also be run on Mac OSX.

  • Can I use SHOUTcast for streaming video?

    Yes. SHOUTcast supports the streaming of video, although some additional plugins are required. (As of this writing, documentation on video streaming via SHOUTcast is spotty, and we cannot recommend it for this purpose.)

  • Does the audio source have to be on the same computer that is running the SHOUTcast server? Can I operate the stream from my home computer?

    Yes. You can set up a SHOUTcast streaming server on a remote server and connect to it from the SHOUTcast app on your own computer. You simply provide the host server’s details to the local app it takes care of it.

  • Can I stream SHOUTcast audio directly to the internet from my home computer?

    In theory, yes. But this is probably a bad idea. Providing an audio stream requires a lot of bandwidth. If you are connected to the internet using a typical commercial line available to consumers, you will probably hit your upload bandwidth limits pretty quickly. Additionally, unless you are very knowledgeable about running a public server, you may open your computer up to security risks.

  • How much bandwidth do I need to stream SHOUTcast audio?

    Your bandwidth usage is a function of the quality (bitrate) of your audio stream and the number of people listening to it at any given time. If you want to provide CD-quality audio, you need to broadcast at or near 128 kbps (kilobits per second). This throughput rate is used by each person listening to your stream, which means that a 10MB upload speed will max out at around 80 users (and that is assuming you aren’t doing anything else with your internet connection at the same time). This is why streaming from home is probably not a good idea.

  • Can I use SHOUTcast with a shared hosting plan?

    Usually not. Even when the software itself is supported, you will likely run into bandwidth problems. Often, streaming audio is specifically disallowed by the Terms of Service agreements used by shared hosting plans.

  • Can I use SHOUTcast on a VPS hosting plan?

    Yes. As mentioned above, streaming media uses a lot of bandwidth. When comparing VPS plans for a SHOUTcast project, you’ll want to be especially mindful of how bandwidth is priced and be sure that you understand what the bandwidth limitations are, and if there are any fees for exceeding them. Cheap bandwidth might be the most important thing to consider when looking at streaming media hosting.

  • Are there other options for hosting SHOUTcast?

    There are hosting companies that either specialize in media hosting or otherwise provide specific support for streaming media content. You can see our list of hosts that specifically support streaming media here.

  • Can I use SHOUTcast to run a station in iTunes Radio?

    Yes. iTunes Radio is really just a directory of streaming audio “stations,” which are run independently. You can submit your SHOUTcast-based internet radio station to iTunes, and it may be included if it conforms to their requirements and quality standards.

  • How do I submit my SHOUTcast audio stream to iTunes Radio?

    Contact iTunes directly at [email protected] The submission process is done via email. They will provide a complete list of requirements and submission details.

  • What are some alternatives to SHOUTcast?

    If you want to broadcast from your own hosting account or server (instead of using a SaaS model), the most fully-featured Open Source alternative to SHOUTcast is Icecast. If you don’t want to run the streaming server yourself, you can use a subscription service like Mixlr or Awdio.

  • What are some alternatives to setting up a streaming audio internet radio station?

    Running an internet radio station is not the only way to provide audio content to your users. You use a service like SoundCloud to provide access to individual tracks (rather than a continuous stream), or add video (even static titling) and upload your content to YouTube.

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