World Wide Radio on the Internet
“Radio” isn’t just on the radio anymore. In fact, there’s more audio content – “radio” – being streamed out over the Internet than there is being broadcast over there air. Talk, music, sports, news, drama, art, science. All the formats that you can imagine, from all over the world, 24 hours every day.
Of course, you must be connected to the internet to receive internet radio. On the other hand, with over-the-air (or “terrestrial”) radio you can only receive signals that are in range of your receiver, but once you’re connected on the ‘net, you can receive any internet radio station, in digital quality, from anywhere in the world.
Every radio format that can be found on terrestrial radio – oldies, top-40, talk, sports, news – can, naturally, also be found on internet radio. But internet radio has some brand new forms too, like “packaged radio” and “on-demand radio”.
Packages are subscription services like those provided by the satellite services Sirius and XM, both of which are also on the internet. Packagers charge a subscription fee for their streams to pay for the content that they stream. Most other internet radio is free, supported by ads or with optional subscriptions for special ad-free versions.
To play internet radio stations, all that you need is a computer with speakers, an internet connection (the faster the better), music player software. Music player software comes with Windows, Mac OS-X and Linux, but there are many, many more players available free for download on the internet.
You can also play internet radio through dedicated “internet radios” and hand-held devices, like iPads, pocket computers and smartphones, that have WiFi or wireless broadband internet connections like “3G”, “4G”, or “Wimax”.
To find internet radio stations, you can start with your music player. Most players have a feature or section aptly called “Radio”. In there you can find lists of stations by genre or by country or by station name or call letters.
The internet search engines are also good places to find radio. Search for the words “radio internet” plus any words that characterize what you want to listen to, like “sports”, “jazz”, “talk”, “Albany”, or “Albania”.
Most every terrestrial radio station also has an internet stream too, so you can also search for the call letters of stations you know. WWOZ, WQXR, WMHT; you get the idea.
Internet-only formats. There are new radio formats on the internet that couldn’t have been imagined for over-the-air broadcast. On the internet, you can find great, huge lists of radio stations gathered by format, or genre, or by country of origin. You can also find “on-demand” radio where you, the listener, can decide what genres you want to listen to or even pick and chose the actual content.
Internet Radio Links. These lists are mainly independent websites that gather together links to radio sources and then arrange them for you in different ways, such as by genre or by country. This is similar to what you find in the “radio” section of your music player software, but these lists will often specialize in some useful or interesting way; by country or by genre or format.
Radio On-Demand lets you customize what is played for you. You sign up for a free account and then create custom streams, or “stations”, for yourself. You can save your stations to come back to anytime, and you can share your stations with friends.
Three of the most popular radio on-demand sources are Pandora, Last.FM, and Blip.FM, and each has a slightly different way to let you choose what you hear.
At Pandora (www.pandora.com), you supply a “seed” in the form of the name of any artist, composer, or a genre. Pandora then begins to stream music to you that is selected by the Pandora system based on some relationship to the seed that you gave it.
You can refine the seed for your station with more keywords, but you can also grade each selection that plays for you. If you like a selection, then you may click the “thumbs up” icon and Pandora will put more things like it in your stream.
If you don’t care for Pandora’s selection, then you can give it a “thumbs down” and even skip to the end of it. In this case Pandora will note that you don’t like it and will try to steer away from things like it in this stream.
Last.FM (www.last.fm) works similarly to Pandora, but on Last.FM you can actually select particular artists and/or songs to play, and then these are used to actually kick off your station. After the starting songs, Last.FM will make more selections based, again, on some relationships to your starting point. And, again, you can score the selections to help Last.FM refine the station for you.
Blip.FM (www.blip.fm) actually lets you be the DJ. You can select from almost any songs ever recorded and assemble them into your own custom radio show playlist. You can then share your playlist/show with anyone else on the internet or even make it public by posting it on Twitter or Facebook or wherever you like. As with Pandora and Last.FM, you can save your Blip.FM playlists and play them or edit them whenever you like, from wherever you are connected to the internet.
LINKS to RADIO On The Internet:
A brief history and overview of internet radio can be found on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_radio
These are a few popular “player” programs. There are many, many more, but these are reliable and will play all standard audio forms. In general you should only need one or two of these, so be careful if a website tries to push you to a new player. Ask for recommendations from friends before downloading a new one.
Winamp (www.winamp.com): One of the oldest and most popular players on the internet. Now a subsidiary of AOL but maintained independently, Winamp includes a giant list of streaming content stations. (Windows, Mac, Linux)
iTunes (www.itunes.com): This is Apple’s player product. It comes with Mac computers, but also works on Windows and Linux. It has a tight tie-in to the iTunes online music store you can use this player without signing up for the store. (Windows, Mac, Linux)
RealPlayer (www.real.com/realplayer): The first general media player is still available for free. There is a paid service that is marketed with it but not necessary. A very few stations still only broadcast in the Real Media format, but otherwise this player is not required. (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Windows Media Player (www.microsoft.com/mediaplayer): This player comes built in to Windows and will play most audio formats. Also has a large internet radio listing. If it’s not on your desktop, look in the “All Programs” list on your Start menu. (Windows and Windows Mobile only)
Radio links lists:
These gather up links to internet radio stations and list them on a web site, often with some particular focus.
Live-Radio.net (www.live-radio.net): Arranged by country. Very large world-wide listing; the official reference for BBC staff.
Live365 (www.live365.com): Huge genre- or location- oriented general lists of radio stations, mostly in North America.
Radio-Locator (www.radio-locator.com): North America only; listed by-city or by-format.
Radio Free World (www.radiofreeworld.com/internetradio): World wide lists arranged by area-of-interest and/or show. Here you can find links to shows like A Prairie Home Companion, or particular interests like “All Comedy Radio”, or audio networks like AIROS Native American network. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of sources in this fascinating list.
There are many, many more of these station listing sites. The internet is rich with all sorts of radio offerings with more appearing every day. Search around; enjoy. Maybe we’ll find PPR out there one day!
Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy. Pawling, NY.