What happened to Internet radio?

I don't hear about "Internet radio" that often, and that surprises me.

Perhaps I'm odd in that I don't subscribe to any music streaming services (Spotify etc), but I listen to hours and hours of Internet radio (via Shortwave).

I listen mostly when I am working, but I've got into the habit of streaming Internet radio when I drive, rather than listening to locally-stored music. After all, if there's a track or artist I particularly enjoy and want to here more regularly / when I want to, I can still buy their music and store it locally.

A bit like it's offline counterpart, there are a few stations / channels I like. My most-listened channels are Jazz Radio Blues and rm.fm's TRANCE, and some metal streams.

I'll also sometimes browse the catalogue of stations in the application and just pick something I fancy - it's a great tool for music discovery. (Would I have thought I'd like dance/trance without Internet radio? I very much doubt it.)

Of course, unlike streaming services, I don't get to pick songs by particular artists, unless there is a stream dedicated to them, and I can't listen to a friend's playlist (but I can't see I'd ever do this).

Wonderfully, if you already have an Internet connection, there's zero (or marginal) barrier to entry:

  • no subscription fee (typically), sometimes at the price of the occasional advert. I tend to avoid streams where the adverts are too disruptive; there's plenty of choice. If a stream stops working, just switch to another.
  • no registration requirement (typically). You just connect to the stream, and listen.
  • no need for a particular, or proprietary, software client. You can usually listen to it in your browser if you don't want to download specific software. If you do want specific software, there are lots of choices, and you are not beholden to the stream-provider's choice.
  • you are not limited to the tracks available on one paid-provider's service / don't need multiple paid subscriptions. You can jump between thousands of streams easily. (I don't know if this is as big an issue for music streaming services as it is for video streaming services, but the increasing fragmentation of video streaming services coupled with content silos is bad for consumers, in my view. And will probably lead to an increase in avoidable copyright infringement.
  • the likelihood of someone monetising your listening choices is low. You are consumer, and, while you are the product for advertisers, adverts are not personalised / targeted (and may not be in a language you understand).
  • it's pretty low bandwidth (less than 1Mbit, and that's with all the other background chatter of my machines on the line too).

Or perhaps people use it but just don't talk about it?


Author: neil

I'm Neil. By day, I run a law firm, decoded.legal, giving advice on Internet, telecoms, and tech law. This is my personal blog, so will be mostly about tech stuff, cycling, and other hobbies.