When comparing the two prevalent online radio streaming solutions I’d like to first emphasize the difference between the server and the source (client). With all radio streaming configurations we’ve got a source that connects to the server. The source could be an application on the DJ’s computer or it might be another process running on the server (typically called AutoDJ). When we’re comparing Icecast to SHOUTcast, this is entirely the server we’re referring to. In fact, the equivalent source software for each is normally compatible with either type of server! For example, the Icecast source software (ices) can stream to both an Icecast server and a SHOUTcast server.
With a SHOUTcast server, your station is listed on the Shoustcast.com radio listing as well as in any apps that shoutcast streams are found within. This means that you get automatic promotion simply by putting up your stream. While this might sound like a killer feature compared to Icecast, keep in mind that the directory is quite massive and it might be rather difficult for visitors to find your stream over the thousands of others on there.
The biggest downside to SHOUTcast is in managing Auto DJ. If you decide to use AutoDJ as your audio source, every time you wish to switch from AutoDJ to a live stream and back again, you will be required to manually login to CentovaCast to disconnect and reconnect the source.
Icecast has mountpoints! This means you can connect multiple sources to your one single Icecast server. It looks like this: http://[IP]:[port]/mountpoint.
Icecast also automatically transfers listeners from AutoDJ to the Live stream and back again without needing to manually turn anything on or off. Thus, when you connect for live streaming, all the listeners are transfered from the AutoDJ stream to the live stream and then back again when you disconnect.
You must manually list your station on 3rd party directories that generate much less interest than Shoutcast.com. On the plus side, there are also less stations, meaning you might have a better chance of being recognized.
Note: some comparisons might list the fact that Icecast servers do not allow admins to ban listeners by IP (while SHOUTcast does), however as of version 2.3.2 this is now possible!
Which should you use?
The rule of thumb is: If you plan on running an Auto DJ and doing live streams then the ability to auto-transfer listeners is very useful and worth selecting an Icecast server. If you only plan on live streaming with no Auto DJ then the extra listeners you may get from shoutcast.com mean you have nothing to lose in using a SHOUTcast server.
Still not sure which to choose? Don’t worry about it! You can try one out and switch to the other type later on. Unfortunately you will lose your playlists and rotation schedules in the switch, so try not to make them too complex during testing.