Highest Earning Radio Stations 2020

You want your station to be successful, but churning out quality content isn’t enough when you’re haemorrhaging money. Discover marketing magic employed by the highest earning radio stations and skyrocket your profits.

Jamie Ashbrook
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Success doesn’t come overnight. It takes hard work and determination to make your dreams become a reality. But you’ve heard all that. What you may have also heard is that you need to be smart with your money and have a head for marketing. You could run the greatest station in the world, but if you don’t know how to market yourself then you’ll be dead in the water before you know it.

There are many different ways to make money as a radio station, and the highest earning radio stations know how to effectively maximise their profits year after year. If you’re interested in growing as a creator and developing your station into a successful brand, you should check out our Internet Radio Cash Course, where you can learn how to target your audience with pinpoint accuracy and widen your profit margins!

How to Make Your Station Profitable

Making money is an art-form. If it was easy, we'd all be Scrooge McDuck rich. Best to look at other people's successes to guide you on the right path to turn a profit. But which are the highest earning radio stations? And how do they make their fortune?

Quite frankly, there are a number of methods used by ‘traditional’ broadcasters to generate revenue. Many of these work well in an FM, AM, or even DAB radio setting, but may not work as well for online-only stations. That being said, it's best to know what strategies can work for you.

  • Ads: Sell airtime. More listeners means better reach for sponsors, larger turnover for you.
  • Events: Offer your services for exclusive (and lucrative) deals.
  • Syndication: Sell popular shows across multiple stations.
  • Newscasts: Turn your news reports into paid relayed content.
  • Crowdfunding: Earn recurring revenue from your community with platforms like Patreon.

Highest Earning Radio Stations (in 2020)

Believe it or not, most highest earning radio stations are from the US. With capitalist models aimed at turning big profits, it's not difficult to see why. For this reason, the following list is focused on US only stations.

Please note, findings presented are accurate to 2018 and liable to change. Commercial stations don't have to publicly declare earnings, so the latest figures were unavailable.

1. WTOP - Washington DC, $69m

The most well known 24/7 news station in the US, hosting shows like CBS News On The Hour. In 2018, WTOP were top of the highest earning radio stations by earning a tidy $69 million. Started in 1926, the hit station has a long legacy behind them and hosts many major events, such as National Memorial Day.

2. KIIS - LA, $61m

The flagship station for On Air with Ryan Seacrest, a nationally syndicated show heard across the US. KIIS focuses on celebrity news and plays the usual assortment of 'Top 40' hits to attract the widest audience possible.

3. KBIG - LA, $46m

Similar to KIIS (and owned by the same company, iHeartRadio), KBIG specialises in playing ‘hot adult contemporary’ music, primarily from the 90s onward. In a recent Nielsen report, adult contemporary music was declared one of the most popular in the US and consistently appeared as one of the top 3 stations listeners tuned into.

4. WLTW - New York, $44m

Founded in 1961, WLTW started off for just classical and jazz enthusiasts, but quickly catered to modern tastes by playing contemporary American music. But what the station is most infamous for is switching to Christmas music the week before Thanksgiving. Capitalising on seasonal trends paid off, increasing WLTW's listening figures by a 10.5 share.

5. WHTZ - New York, $42m

Yet another station owned by iHeartRadio. The conglomerate freely cross-promotes, broadcasting shows like On Air with Ryan Seacrest as part of the brand's syndication. But WHTZ is best known for their flagship show Elvis Duran and the Morning Show - not to mention regularly holding events at the prestigious Madison Square Garden.

6. WFAN - New York, $41m

WFAN is most-notable for being the world’s first 24/7 sports station. Broadcasting nothing but the latest news and commentary from live games like football, baseball, and basketball. Hoards of sports fans who aren’t able to catch the game on TV tune into WFAN, making it one of the biggest sports stations worldwide.

7. WINS - New York, $40.5m

Another century old station. WINS was established in 1924 and is renowned as the longest continuously running 24/7 news show in the US since making the format switch from 1965. Taking the "if it ain't broke" approach, the station retains old, but distinctive teletype sound effects. Most of which were dropped by stations in the 80s.

8. WCBS - New York, $40m

WCBS is the flagship radio station for the New York Mets baseball team, giving them exclusive rights to broadcast training, game commentary, and post-game coverage. The major partnership undoubtedly helped them win advertising slots and become one of the highest earning radio stations in the US.

9. WBBM - Chicago, $39m

Established in 1924, the Chicago based station primarily focuses on news coverage. Operating on a 24/7 news cycle, just like WINS and WCBS, which are all owned by the same parent corporation, Entercom. WBBM is the flagship station for the Chicago Bears football team, granting the same privileges as WCBS have with the Mets.

10. KFI - LA, $35m

One of the oldest stations on this list, KFI first got onto the airwaves in 1922. Operating in Los Angeles, the station is another company owned by iHeartRadio. KFI focuses on talk radio and is the flagship station for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Top-Earning Patreon Radio Stations

The highest earning radio stations are undoubtedly all big commercial businesses, but what about smaller independent broadcasters?

With better tools to earn revenue and crowdfund, stations have found a new home online. Specifically, Pateron. The membership-based platform encourages people to support broadcasters financially. Take a page from the top-earning Patreon stations to see how it can work for you.

Please be aware, some creators don't provide monthly earnings, but show total patrons. Just because someone has more patrons doesn’t mean they’re earning more. Figures are accurate as of June 2020 and are subject to change.

1. Radio War Nerd Podcast (Gary Breecher) - 4,127 Patrons

A station focusing on the intricacies of warfare and the significant battles that have taken place over the years. Unlike many creators on Patreon, Radio War Nerd do not take their patrons money per month, but instead per show, with a maximum of two shows per month. Radio War Nerd offers 3 tiers for their patrons; $5 p/s, $10 p/s, and $100 p/s, with a variety of benefits, including a newsletter, access to show notes, and even a shoutout on the highest-tier.

2. The Stephanie Miller Show - N/A

The Stephanie Miller Show is a progressive talk show focusing on left-wing politics and current events. Unfortunately, The Stephanie Miller Show does not display how many patrons they have, or their monthly earnings. However, she is a well known public figure with 130K followers on Twitter, and her Patreon tiers at $50 p/m and $75 p/m are entirely sold out, indicating that she has the following to generate massive revenue. Her patron rewards include exclusive content, answering your questions on air, and playing your voicemails to her on the show.

3. The Best Show - 2,824 Patrons, $18,825/m

The Best Show is an American comedy radio show focusing on music and the lives and interests of its hosts. Their patron tiers range from $1 p/m, which gets the patron a simple thank you, to $50 p/m, which bags you exclusive audio, stickers, a pen, and four items from The Best Show archives. Offering incentives to dedicated and long-term fans can motivate them to spend a little more for extra benefits.

4. Street Fight Radio - 3,068 Patrons, $13,391/m

A left-wing political and comedy show run by self-proclaimed ‘anarchists’ Brett Payne and Bryan Quinby. They have six patron tiers, ranging from $1 p/m to $12 p/m. Rewards for entry into these tiers include access to a self-published fan zine, bonus episodes and access to their Discord server. Discord is a chatting service where users can meet in chat rooms hosted by their favourite creators to hold discussions with like-minded people and occasionally, the creators themselves. Opportunities like this gives a feeling of inclusivity to listeners, allowing them into the ‘inner sanctum’.

5. Gott Snack - 2,100 Patrons, $10,536/m

Swedish talk show hosted by Fredrik Söderholm, where he discusses any topic he wants and plays music by unsigned bands he feels deserve wider recognition. In his words, “no topic is too controversial” for his show. Patron tiers go from $5 p/m to $100 p/m and offer rewards from access to the shows private Facebook group, merchandise signed by notable guests and even the opportunity to visit the Gott Snack studio and suggest topics for future shows.

6. The Thrilling Adventure Hour - 1,416 Patrons

Paying tribute to the radio adventure serials of old, Thrilling Adventure Hour bills itself as ‘A stage show and podcast, in the style of old time radio’. Unlike some other shows featured in this list, Thrilling Adventure Hour boasts well known comedians and performers such as Paul F. Tompkins, Marc Evan Jackson and Paget Brewster, giving it some serious star power. Instead of multiple Patreon tiers, TAH has one $5 p/m tier that grants access to their entire back catalogue and new episodes, as well as free extra material on occasion. In this sense, TAH has used Patreon more as a means to subscribe to their content, rather than a non-essential way to support the show.

7. StarTalk Radio - 1,381 Patrons

Produced and hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson himself, StarTalk is where he mixes all things scientific, comedic and pop culture related to bring his love of space to a commercial audience. His tiers range from $3 p/m to a whopping $500(!) p/m. To justify such exorbitant donations, Tyson has flexed his star power and rewards include meet and greets with him and 10-minute segments on the show where a top patron can phone in remotely or visit the studio in person for a short Q&A session. Despite not declaring their monthly earnings, having tiers that go to $500 could make StarTalk one of the highest earning radio stations on this list.

8. Sarah Westall - 1,332 Patrons

Sarah Westall runs Business Game Changers, a show in which she looks at important books, videos, radio and podcasts and brings them to the public eye. She features guests and experts who shed light on each topic as she explores them. Her tiers range from $5 p/m to $50 p/m, but she allows people to place a custom tier if they cannot afford the base cost of $5. She also sends free copies of her ebook to those who can’t afford her physical books.

9. Revolutionary Left Radio - 1,168 Patrons

A self proclaimed communist radio station, who discuss communist philosophies, proletarian history and revolutionary politics, especially relevant in this day and age. Tiers range from $1 p/m to $100 p/m, with rewards including access to a monthly bonus episode, to being given the personal email address of the hosts, so you can contact them whenever you feel like it. Due to their politics, most of the episodes are publicly available to anyone through their Patreon, even if they’ve not donated.

10. La Sotana - 1,242 Patrons, $5,882/m

A Spanish-Catalonian sports show focusing on football. Patron tiers range from $4 p/m to $60 p/m and rewards include access to their private YouTube streams, as well as the chance to attend a private dinner with them.

Making Money From Your Radio Station

The highest earning radio stations are profitable for a reason: smart business strategies and great marketing. But they all started somewhere. Get the best insider tips and actionable strategies with the Internet Radio Cash Course. Designed to kickstart your revenue in the right direction, discover ways you can turn a profit.

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