How Is It Useful?
I’m answering this question first this week because the answer is simple: internet radio takes all the ease of listening of broadcast radio and brings it to any device you have. Most of the time, you just visit a website and click Play; sometimes, you need to create an account first.
Whether you’re in an office, at home, or working in a shop, internet radio provides an easy way to play music or listen to talk radio in the background during your day. Having it on a computer or portable device makes it easy to interact with, change stations, and get additional information about what you’re listening to.
Finally, what makes internet radio more useful than listening to audio you own is finding new things to listen to. Just like traditional radio, internet radio stations help you discover different bands, singers or ideas. Unlike traditional radio, there are millions of songs and stations out there to find out there.
What Is It?
Internet radio is precisely that: a radio station playing over an internet connection. You use a web browser or mobile app to get to the station or service and just start listening.
By 2011, most traditional radio stations (such as NPR, WFNX and Magic 106.7) are also broadcasting online. Try to find your favorite station online, or see the Help & Resources section below for ways to find stations across the US and around the world. International internet radio helps people visiting or living in other countries keep up with news back home.
Radio Paradise is one of the giants of internet-only radio, providing commercial-free, listener-supported alternative music radio over the web. While you’re listening, you can browse through a playlist of current and prior tracks, chat in discussion forums and read additional information about featured artists.
Magnatune provides access to the music of independent artists around the world. You can listen on a song-by-song basis, but the genre mixes let you discover new music in styles you enjoy. Here’s the World Music, Classical and Hip Hop mixes to try.
LastFM works in several different ways. From the Music tab, you can browse popular hits, listen to genres of music, or search for a specific artist or song. The Radio tab creates a station for you based on an artist you request, which you can change and update however you want. From the Community tab, you contribute to the service by “scrobbling” the music you like. You don’t need to register with last.fm just to listen, but you do for the other features.
Pandora is a free online service powered by The Music Genome Project. First, you create an account and ‘seed’ a radio station with music you like. As your station plays, Pandora adds other music related to what you chose. You can give each song a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, move it to a more appropriate station, or find out why Pandora suggested the song. Over time, you fine-tune your own stations and discover tons of new music.
Recently released in the United States, Spotify combines internet radio – continuous streams of music, easy search, quick links to more information, recommendations based on what you’ve listened to, easy sharing – with the ability to listen to all of the music in your personal mp3 library as well. Truly a 21st century radio service.
Note: Since Spotify is still new in the US, you need to sign up to get an invitation. But don’t worry – they’re making good on those invites. Update: No more invitations needed, just sign up!
Try It Out
Try one of the services above, or use a search engine listed below to find a radio station that interests you. Or, if you already listen to a station, go to that station’s website and find their online version.