Internet radio has been a primary source of music for me for almost a decade now. I've very much enjoyed the opportunity to discover independent music not available through mainstream media. Along with many years of enjoyment I've also learned that internet radio stations are not always permanent. That's been my experience with two very good stations, Whole Wheat Radio and Last FM.
Whole Wheat Radio
featured only independent singer-songwriters. I discovered Danny Schmidt, Girlyman, Emily Kurn, Antje Duvekot, Sloan Wainwright and many others there. WWR was completely supported by listeners who could rate the music and participate in a chat room. The site would often recognize logged in members and program a set of their favorite music. It was all the better because I knew founder Jim Kloss and his partner Esther Golton from my 2003 trip to Alaska and visited the small studio attached to their 12x12 plywood home in Talkeetna. Shortly after my visit they built a larger space for live performances which WWR webcast to the world. It was all great and it all came to an end in October 2010.
Before WWR's demise, I recalled Jim talking about the various music services. He mentioned Last FM
as being similar to WWR so I gave it a try. Last FM allowed me to create radio stations based on artists I identified. I typed in many of my WWR favorites and found many. From those selections Last FM would search out and find similar artists and add them to my radio stations. I could play the stations individually or randomly from all. The service was free but came with interruptions. For $3 a month, it was a good deal. And like WWR, Last FM ended.
Last FM is still out there but I don't listen anymore. Now for $3 a month, I could get YouTube videos and ads. The stations for my less commercial artists don't play at all. If I understand, Last FM was part of CBS which didn't think the format was sufficiently profitable and decided to make the change. And lose their entire listener base, to judge from the comments in the listener forum.
Fortunately, a glitch with Last FM a while back forced me to look elsewhere on the internet for music and I found Folk Alley
, which appeals to one of my primary musical tastes. Folk Alley has a pretty broad definition of folk music so the playlist is not too limited. I get a wide range of music that is much to my liking. It sounds a bit like public radio because they are always asking for support although that doesn't get in the way of the music. What Folk Alley doesn't have is the broad range of music that I got from Last FM. It does fill the otherwise empty airwaves quite nicely.
I tried Spotify
which functions somewhat like Last FM. The sound was muddy and it seemed that a playlist based on an artist played that artist heavily in favor of other artists. I didn't stay long. A better choice is Radio Paradise
which has a very diverse playlist. I've heard music from every decade from the 60's on, although the my impression is that the more recent decades' music gets more play.. Artists heard and remembered include Cowboy Junkies, Decemberists, Miles Davis, Los Lobos, Sam Cooke, Peter Gabriel and Muddy Waters. I don't get to program here but what I hear is good.
One problem no internet radio station can cure is my diminished hearing. No matter how good the broadcast, I have difficulty understanding lyrics if I don't already know them. My computer has exceptionally good Harmon Kardon speakers. It's just that my ears don't pick up the finer points of a song. Also, too, if I am deeply engaged in something else, the music is just so much background. For that purpose a station's overall sound is important. Folk Alley and Radio Paradise (so far) fit that bill nicely.
Of the two Folk Alley seems to be more of an enterprise and is affiliated with public radio station WKSU in Kent Ohio. I suspect they will be around for a while. Radio Paradise seems to be more in the Whole Wheat Radio mold--a couple of dedicated volunteers on their own. I hope they make it.
Ephemerality is hardly unique to internet radio. Or even new. In the past any number of favorite radio stations have changed formats for the worse. The quirky daylight only AM station WGOE
in Richmond anchored my taste for obscure and independent music throughout the 70's before it became a classic rock station in 1980. KSTM gave my taste home for the first five years I was in Phoenix before it became something else.
Besides internet, I have acess to traditional radio through KAOS
radio broadcasting from The Evergreen State University here in Olympia. KAOS programming is very diverse, with a couple of good shows on Saturday morning and early afternoon and another on Monday evenings. KAOS celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. It has some permanence.
If any of you know of a good internet music service that caters to progressive and independent music takes, leave a link in the comments. You can be sure I will check it out.
Labels: internet, music