Most of us grew up with radio – and not just music or talk radio. We had everything from radio plays to radio workouts.
Fast forward to now, and streaming Internet radio stations are filling the gap, taking over from conventional radio by offering us millions of songs, along with customized stations, niche topics and more.
Here’s our quick guide to today’s online radio.
Talk, Drama and More
The Internet offers no end of “talk radio” in the form of podcasts and streaming radio. Here are our top choices.
Rich on Tech Live
“Tech guru” Rich DeMuro answers listeners’ questions about the newest app, best cell phone or that pesky printer issue. Tune in to listen or ask a question. Last week he also discussed the new Amazon Fire TV. This show is one of hundreds on the almost unnavigable site BlogTalkRadio; like other BlogTalkRadio shows, you can listen live or access an archive – and you’ll have to listen to pre-show ads. Listen to Rich On Tech
The radio station of NYC’s Clocktower Gallery, ArtonAir produces it own arts-focused shows. You can live stream their continuous feed of the week’s programs, listen to archived shows on demand or subscribe to specific podcasts. New on ArtonAir this week: Artist Charlie Ahearn talks to graffiti writer Lee Quinones, one of the great subway painters of the ’70s, about his work in the train yards and the graffiti show currently at the Museum of the City of New York, “City As Canvas.” Check the archives for music, poetry and art. Listen to ArtonAir
This is an independent talk radio station hosted by New York-based Michael David McGuire, veteran media expert and author. McGuire offers controversial commentary and interviews for your entertainment from financial liars and government spying to Obamacare – and if you stay up for the live show, you can call in and tell him what you think. Look for the small “Click here to listen” link to launch the radio player in your browser. Listen to NightTalker
This station claims to be the “radio magazine for the experienced listener.” Focusing on “Boomers and beyond,” the site offers a podcast a week focused mostly on writers, actors, and musicians. Next up on ExperienceTalks, 80-year-old senior fitness specialist Bob Fitzgerald; or check the archives. Listen to Experience Talks
Slate’s Political Gabfest
From Slate.com. this irreverent political talkshow features the site’s Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson and David Plotz, along with special guests (most famously, Stephen Colbert). The gang hangs out on air and breezes about the latest Washington goings-on. You can follow Gabfest on Facebook to help keep the discussion going. Listen to Political Gabfest
BackStory with the American History Guys
Get historical perspective on today’s events. Listen online, through podcasts or on your everyday radio. New shows are added weekly, and you can pitch ideas for future topics as well as helping to shape upcoming shows by adding you comments; BackStory is currently inviting comments on the relationship between the US and Russia for “Stars and Tsars”; how has your view of Russia changed over your lifetime? The most recent show: “Responsibility to Protect: a History of Humanitarian Intervention.” Listen toBackstory
Suspense, crime, science fiction… this is old-time radio brought to you via broadband. Step back in time, complete with sound-effect machines and old-style radio ads, by tuning in to the Great Detectives, or check out Abbott and Costello. Listen to Drama Radio
Internet Radio Networks
Many of the sites that let you search from among dozens or hundreds of shows are hard to navigate and patchy at best. Here are a couple that are worth exploring:
- TuneIn.com – lets you listen to live radio from anywhere in the world on all your devices.
- Voice America Wellness, business, sports and more, all neatly organized
Internet music radio works in one of two ways: Either you create multiple playlists based on your own taste or mood; or when you access the site, you choose a “station” based on an artist or genre and are fed a continuous, ever-changing stream of music. By up-voting or down-voting songs that the station plays you, as well as by hitting “skip” for songs you don’t like, you help to customize your stream – one of the biggest benefits of Internet music radio along with getting tastes of music you never heard before without having to pay per song.
What are the benefits of playlist versus station? A playlist gives you exactly what you want because you design it yourself, which means work for you. A station feeds you music and lets you gradually teach it what you like – more or less.
A word of caution: Musicians claim that most music radio sites don’t pay or underpay artists for the songs they play, and with fewer people buying hard copies of the music on CD, it’s bad news for those creating what you listen to – which could end up being bad for listeners.
Pure Jazz Radio
This nonprofit station streams live every type of jazz from many corners of the globe all day, every day. The site was created and is run by Rich Keith, who’s been involved in jazz radio in NYC since the 1970s.
Cost Free, donations appreciated
Apps This is web-only.
See Pure Jazz Radio
This ubiquitous online radio site leads the pack. Playing through your web browser, Pandora mimics radio: Create your own “station” based on artist or genre (jazz, hip-hop, country and dozens of sub-genres we’ve never heard of but that are worth exploring), and the station will play songs that it considers relevant for your musical taste. It’s a great way to discover new artists and songs. Pandora is currently available in 9 of the 10 best selling automobiles, as well as on your humble computer. Samsung refrigerators are set to be the first Pandora-enabled appliances – as soon as they figure out how to add speakers.
Cost Free, or upgrade for $4.99 a month. Upgrade includes no ads, more song skips (the free plan limits you to a certain number) and a desktop app for easy listening.
Apps available for phones, tablets, eReaders
See Pandora; read Senior Planet on how to use Pandora.
Like Pandora, Jango lets you create stations. The website is simpler and more user-friendly for newbies than Pandora’s, but you can’t remove ads with an upgrade, as there is none.
Apps Available for phones only.
Spotify is playlist focused and social – you design your own playlists or search for playlists created by other users, and you can follow other users. When you download the app to a mobile device, Spotify loads music from your device’s song library so you can make playlists with music you own as well as with Spotify’s.
Cost Free, or upgrade for $9.99/month. Upgrade includes ad-free, listen offline (doesn’t use your data plan), and sync across more devices.
Apps Available for mobile devices, tablets, computer.
See Spotify; click here for a good Spotify how-to.
Do you have any favorite online radio stations? Please share them in the comments below.
This post was minimally updated in February, 2017 to reflect new subscription rates and remove services that have shut down.