Setting up an online radiostation

Recently, I was set an interesting challenge: set up an Internet radio station. I knew very little about this but was relieved to find out it was easier than expected.

Having reviewed the different option, the best one seemed to be icecast2, which is actually the backing for a lot of commercial services. Getting the basics up and running was relatively straighforward, with a couple of gotchas.

Virtual Server

I used a digital ocean server to host the radio station. These are reasonably-priced servers, with 1TB of transfer on the basic level. The physical hypervisors have about 1GBps. In a 4-year-old forum post, it was suggested that “You should expect and plan on 300Mbps of available bandwidth (up and down) in order to plan your deployment and get the most out of your services.”

This covers a decent number of users, and hitting this limit would be a nice problem to have. Potential solutions in this case would finding a way to peer the radio through a more powerful icecast server. As far as bandwidth use went, looking at someone else’s calculations suggested that this would not be a problem in my case. So, I set up a basic digital ocean server to see how that would cope.

The server I went for was a little beefier than the basic model, with 2 CPUs and 3TB of transfer – far more than was needed. Within a few minutes I had a server set up.


Installing icecast is easy on ubuntu using the standard repositories. During testing we had a number of issues that seemed to be caused by not using HTTPS. In the end, it turned out that these were actually caused by using Ogg rather than MP3 for the streams. This was a good thing to discover, as getting HTTPS support working was quite a chore.

I found a good guide to setting up Icecast and Liquidsoap on the Linux Journal site: Creating an Internet Radio Station with Icecast and Liquidsoap, and it’s worth following this closely.

However, these versions of Icecast do not include SSL support. Doing this requires building icecast from source, using the SSL option. However, installing from source doesn’t do a great job of setting up the software locations and services.

I ended up settling on a slightly weird way of installing icecast, by using apt-get to do the config, then compiling and installing the binary from source.

I was fortunate to find some helpful documentation for compiling icecast with SSL. However, this needed a little tinkering, mainly due to dependencies and the commands I needed were:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt install git gcc build-essential libcurl4-openssl-dev libxslt1-dev libxml2-dev libogg-dev libvorbis-dev libflac-dev libtheora-dev libssl-dev autoconf libtool pkgconf
mkdir src
cd src/
git clone --recursive
cd icecast-server; ./
./configure --with-curl --with-openssl
make install
mkdir /etc/icecast2
mkdir /var/log/icecast2

I then copied the pre-prepared icecast config file into /etc/icecast2, along with the pre-prepared SSH certificate file. Then there were some last bits of set-up. I had to explicitly enable the icecast daemon in /etc/default/icecast2 to declare I had changed the passwords (done via copying across the config)

chown icecast2:icecast /etc/icecast2/icecast.*
systemctl enable icecast2
systemctl start icecast2

At this point, the icecast server would be visible on port 8000. I had to do a little work to ensure that the correct XSL files were being pointed to, but it was fairly obvious (from a 500 error) that this needed changing.


While icecast handles the streaming, a second application is needed to generate those streams, and this is the role of liquidsoap. Again, the basics of this were provided by some helpful documentation online, this time from the linuxjournal.

adduser liq
gpasswd -a liq sudo
apt-get install opam
su - liq
opam init
# say yes to changing profile
eval opam config env
opam install depext
opam depext taglib mad lame vorbis cry ssl samplerate magic opus liquidsoap
opam install taglib mad lame vorbis cry ssl samplerate magic opus liquidsoap
sudo mkdir /var/log/liquidsoap
sudo chown liq:liq /var/log/liquidsoap/
mkdir /home/liq/archive
mkdir /home/liq/playlist

I then copied across the liquidsoap config file, and tested it – liquidsoap complained about a fallible source, as there was not yet a fallback file in place. The script I’m using has a test.mp3 file defined in the configuration that can be used when all other sources fail.

Other tasks

I needed to copy some other people’s SSH keys to the server to allow them to work on it. Then I needed to set up apache, and configure the firewall. Digital ocean provide instructions for this, which are comprehensive and include firewall management. Once basic apache was set up, I created the new vhost for the station and transferred the pre-prepared configuration files. Then test that this configuration was successful.

Pointing the DNS to the new server is simple enough, but there are also SSL certificates needed for both Apache and icecast. The simplest way to do this is via certbot

sudo add-apt-repository universe
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install certbot python-certbot-apache
certbot --apache

There is also a certificate needed for icecast, as some players are unhappy with unencrypted streams.

cat /etc/letsencrypt/live/ /etc/letsencrypt/live/ > icecast.pem

Other things

I used uptime robot to set up a basic monitoring service for the site. Compiling the appropriate liquidsoap script took some work, but the main site had some great examples.

We needed a website to send people, with links to the streams and audio players. This was easy enough to do, with the icecast admin screen providing example HTML for linking to the streams and embedded audio players.

I could write another whole post about scheduling and organising content, but that is for another day.The above is a rundown of some of the issues I faced. Every set-up is going to run into it’s own problems. I’m happy to try answering any questions left in the comments though.

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