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Online Music Streams

If you ever get tired of listening to the same 50 songs over and over - between commercials - on any of the few radio stations worth listening to in your area, you might be in for a very pleasant surprise: There are thousands of online "radio" stations streaming music 24/7. Odds are that no matter what your taste in music, there are at least two or three outstanding high-quality streaming music services that you will want to know about. Multiply those two or three by all the kinds of music you like, and a whole world of sound opens up.

First, get a good player


If you are satisfied with the one came with your computer, maybe you have not tried VLC, the Video Lan Client. It plays audio and video, including formats that many other players don't. VLC can save anything it can play, converts audio and video files from one format to another, and it even works as a media server if you turn those features on and configure them. VLC is free software, available for all major operating systems: www.videolan.org

Then, find something to listen to

It may take some time to find streams you will want to listen to on a regular basis. That is, ones that are always online, deliver good sound quality, and have the stuff you like. The list of music streams below illustrates the very wide range of available sources - I picked out some of the most "unusual" ones from my own main playlist. To start any of these streams playing in VLC, copy the "live stream" address given, and paste it into VLC at Media > Open Network. Hit "Play" and in a few seconds something good should happen.

Some streaming "radio" services last, and some don't. The list here is under revision even as we speak, but the M3U file you can download here has over 30 "stations" and it is current as of January 11, 2012.

Something old...

Radio Dismuke "Discover the exciting music from one of the most vibrant decades in popular culture and entertainment. From the boom times of the "Roaring '20s" to the hard times of the Great Depression... from frantic Charlestons danced to by a generation of flappers to sentimental ballads performed by the early crooners...from the hot jazz bands of the top Harlem nightclubs to the popular dance bands of the formative years of the swing and big band eras..." The live stream:

Radio Normandy, named after a broadcast service started in 1931 "as a rival to the BBC" with a transmitter in France, features music from the 1920s through 1940s. During World War II Radio Normandy's namesake was captured by the Germans and used to broadcast propaganda until the British bombed the transmitter. The live stream: OH NOES, Radio Normandy is down!

The 1920s Radio Network is "a broadcast service dedicated to playing big band, nostalgia, and Old Time Radio 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to a worldwide audience. We are here as a service to radio stations but anyone with a computer can listen. We broadcast to the world from our studio facilities deep in the woods of Chesapeake Virginia". The live stream:

Something new (wave)...

Underground 80s from Soma FM plays "Early 80s UK Synthpop and a bit of New Wave." Their library is way more comprehensive than that - in fact this is fast becoming my favorite source online synthpop, new romantics, and new wave music. Live stream: http://somafm.com/u80s192.pls

Andy's 80s says, "You have found the RAREST 80s New Wave music on the net!" A lot of people missed this music because it just wasn't promoted through the usual payola channels, at least not in the U.S. Highly recommended! Live stream:

Big R Radio - The Wave Big R Radio is a streaming "radio network", that is, they have a lot of different streams available, with no associated websites or even web pages for the individual channels. What do they play on The Wave? Their selections lean way more toward "top 40 pop" than, for instance, the Andy's 80s stream. Worth a listen! Live stream: mmsh://livestream2.bigrradio.com/thewave

Lounge & exotica...

Secret Agent provides "The soundtrack for your stylish, mysterious, dangerous life." This is a channel in the Soma system, which provides numerous "radio" streams. This one features up-tempo Lounge and Exotica, with brief clips of James Bond dialog for bumpers. If you dig space age pop music, you will groove to these beats. Live stream: http://somafm.com/secretagent.pls

Illinois Street Lounge "Classic bachelor pad, playful exotica and vintage music of tomorrow." Another offering from Soma, covering a wider range of styles and moods than Secret Agent but still very much in the "space age pop" genre. Dare to expose your virgin ears to something completely different. Live stream: http://somafm.com/illstreet.pls

Radio Imago streams some seriously swinging lounge music from Italy to the four corners of the Earth. One usually thinks of this genre as 20th century music but the sound of Radio Imago is happening right now. Live stream: OH NOES, Radio Imago is down!

Ambient and atmospheric sounds...

Sofaspace Ambient Radio "Take some relaxing ambient music, mix it with easy chill and sexy lounge music and then throw in a bit of pumping dub and psychedelic tunes et voilĂ , you got Sofaspace. The only thing you'll ever need to make your sofa happy." Based in Switzerland, one of my long time favorites. Live stream: http://s1.sofaspace.net/stream.ogg

Sky FM World Music "combines traditional world music with elements of new age, classical, pop, guitar, and electronic music, transforming it into a channel that is truly world beat..." Sky FM is another streaming service with multiple channels. Their "World" is a large cut above the average New Age genre fare. Live stream: mms://wstream5b.di.fm/world

Radio Schizoid says that "Radio Schizoid is an independent online radio station run by two retards. We are non-commercial (no crappy ads, no jackass RJ's, but simply the best psychedelic music) and our sole intention is to spread good music." They certainly do that, from a Debian Linux box delivering four live streams:

  • Chillout Ambient: http://schizoid.in/schizoid-chill.pls
  • Psychedelic Trance: http://schizoid.in/schizoid-psy.pls
  • Progressive Psychedelic Trance: http://schizoid.in/schizoid-prog.pls
  • EDM (Electronic Dance Music): http://schizoid.in/schizoid-edm.pls

Download all the links in one file

The easy way to check out these streaming stations is to download them all (and many more) in one m3u playlist file, pilobilus.net.m3u.zip - updated January 2012. I zipped the m3u file because some browsers may want to send it straight to a media player instead of letting you download the thing and put it where you want for later use. Just unzip the file, drag and drop pilobilus.net.m3u into VLC or any other media player's playlist window. The playlist offered here has over 30 "stations" to choose from.

Helpful household hint: Open the m3u file you downloaded here in a text editor (Notepad, gedit, or etc.) and add the addresses of your own own favorites. You will see at once how to do this; adding or removing entries in an m3u file is very simple, it's really just a list of station titles and their network addresses. Save your changes and you will be on your way to building your own personal "Internet tuner dial" loaded with stations you actually want to listen to.

If the streaming audio link on a real radio station's website can't be copied, try looking the station up with the search utility at the World Radio website. Right click the "Tune" button in the listing for your station and select "copy link location". You can paste this link into VLC as described above to play the stream, and it it's worth saving, add it to your online music m3u file using a text editor.