Well, traditional radio stinks -- so here's our guide to the best websites that play cool music
Listen up! The best online radio stations
Now that Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Endelman has explained the problems with traditional radio, it’s time to consider the alternatives — and there are plenty. As Internet radio wins over the kiddies, how do you find the right station for you? Here are a handful that we think are worth a visit.
Yahoo Music?s LaunchCast
ACCESS Free proprietary streams (Yahoo ID required)
WHAT’S HOT Made-to-order playlists
On Yahoo’s LaunchCast, you’re the DJ. As you rate the music you hear on your personal station, LaunchCast becomes “smarter” about your musical tastes, continuously reconfiguring a playlist based on your input.
ACCESS Free proprietary streams
WHAT’S HOT Beginner’s guide to podcasting
AOL Music has more than 200 radio stations, covering nearly as many musical genres. In addition to encyclopedic song, video, and album offerings, AOL Music has included a podcasting 101 primer to help the uninitiated learn about the new technology.
INTERNET-ONLY GENRE STATIONS
ACCESS Free live streaming (Windows Media, MP3 formats)
WHAT’S HOT Unsigned, a weekly podcast of undiscovered bands
This Ohio station — one of modern rock’s first champions — went Web-only in 2004. Though WOXY specializes in up-and-coming bands with funny names like Wake the Bear and the Gingerbread Patriots, you’ll still find some Death Cab for Cutie and Afghan Whigs in the mix. A simple interface shows you what’s coming up next.
ACCESS Monthly memberships start at $8.95
WHAT’S HOT Hardcore dance 24/7
This is one-stop shopping for the club set. Digitally Imported’s volunteer DJs mix traditional dance music (trance, chillout, electronica) with new genres like goa-psychedelic and drum ‘n’ bass on more than a dozen channels.
ACCESS Free streaming (MP3, RealAudio)
WHAT’S HOT DJ Rossstar’s Punk Rock Show
Okay, the site’s unofficial motto — “music that doesn’t suck” — is a bit overused. But the sounds are fresh. Along with music from punk favorites old (Rancid) and new (Relient K), there are hundreds of archived artist interviews, including many from Rossstar’s show, an hour-long program broadcast from his basement. Idobi encourages donations, which help fund technology investments like its just-introduced cell phone broadcasting.
ACCESS Free for 10 hours, then $10 annually
WHAT’S HOT The Music Genome Project
Type in a favorite artist or song, and Pandora’s Music Genome Project creates a playlist to match your tastes. It not only streams recommended selections, it tells you why you’ll love them, connecting artists and songs via their common rhythmic and melodic qualities. For example, if you like U2, you’ll also like The Gentleman because of the ”syncopated rhythms” they share. And you didn’t even know you were into syncopation, did you?
ACCESS Free streaming (MP3, RealAudio)
WHAT’S HOT A collective of DJs have created scratching beats and martini-sipping music on this free site’s party-ready stream. Some of the psychedelic sessions might freak your more strait-laced guests, but those that stick around will be begging to become a “labrat.”
KBCO.com (Boulder, Colo.)
ACCESS Free streaming (Windows)
WHAT’S HOT The Studio C Channel
KBCO calls itself adult alternative, but for all the Matchbox 20 and John Mayer it plays, it also sneaks in some old-timey Springsteen and Stones. Studio C is the station’s archive of in-studio performances by such artists as Elvis Costello and Buddy Guy.
KCRW.com (Santa Monica, Calif.)
ACCESS Free live streaming (MP3, RealAudio)
WHAT’S HOT Morning Becomes Eclectic
This National Public Radio affiliate offers recurring programs with jazzy names (Metropolis, Nocturna), but its crown jewel is the daily 9 a.m.-to-noon show called Morning Becomes Eclectic, which welcomes authors, filmmakers, and bands like Nada Surf into the studio for live sessions. The best thing? All the sessions are archived, so if you missed that Supergrass show, KCRW will hook you up at your convenience.
KEXP.org (Tacoma, Wash.)
ACCESS Free live streaming (MP3, RealAudio, and Windows)
WHAT’S HOT The surprising mix of styles
KEXP.org is the online home of Seattle’s most eclectic grassroots station — it plays rock, hip hop, country, electronica, blues, and more. Because it’s a nonprofit corporation (established with the University of Washington’s School of Music to bring the sounds of the Pacific Northwest to everyone), contributions are encouraged.
KOOP.org (Austin, Texas)
ACCESS Free live streaming (RealAudio)
WHAT’S HOT Community involvement
KOOP is community-owned and -operated — and it shows. Many of the station’s programs (Radical Mothers’ Voice, the Elk Mating Ritual Hour) were created by listeners. KOOP is new to streaming (it’s only available during the day), but all their regular programs have webpages, many with archived audio playlists.
WFMU.org (Jersey City, N.J.)
ACCESS Free live and archived streams (MP3, Windows, RealAudio, OGG)
WHAT’S HOT Random-play podcasts
Formerly a New Jersey college station, WFMU is a “freeform” station, which means that the DJs pick the music without any programming oversight. Its programs are all over the map (folk-rock, dirty disco, and avant-retard are some of the colorful designators). Plus, the station’s free podcast archive includes archival-quality history-of-music feeds dating back to 1896.
Hi, My Name is Mark
ACCESS iTunes, AOL Radio
WHAT’S HOT The band interviews
Ex-blink-182 bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus hosts this bi-weekly podcast, where he chats up bands like Taking Back Sunday, plays some of his favorite tracks, and talks about whatever else he does now that he has all that free time.
ACCESS Free stream
WHAT’S HOT The mashups
Hosted by Tim, a gracious English fellow, this podcast is a weekly collision of DJ-sanctioned mashups of artists you’ve heard (Britney Spears, New Order) and those you might not have realized you’ve heard (Aphex Twin, Galaxie 500). The results are sometimes wonderful and often strange, but always interesting. Tim also occasionally interviews artists, though the music is the main attraction.