Sunday, January 22, 2006

I STILL TALK ABOUT NON-AMERICAN IDOL ISSUES...honest, I do! There's just not a lot of stuff going on in the radio world right now. The radio business is in sort of a slump at this point anyway. And there's nothing particularly major going on in the music world today either. I'm caught up on my favorite shows and most of the movies I want to see. I'm off work for a day or two. I've read the latest issue of Infinite Crisis. So pretty much, I'm lounging around. Time for internet radio.

Why internet radio? Because I can always find something good to listen to. I've sung the praises of satellite radio, but let me tell you, if I could get internet radio in my car, I'd throw my XM receiver straight out the window.

There are the simulcasts of terrestrial radio stations, which aren't the best. However, if you're like me and grew up listening to certain radio stations that broadcast in areas you've now moved away from, it's nice to be able to tune them in once again and see how they sound and get news reports from your old hometown.

The real treasure, though, lies in internet radio that has no basis in terrestrial stations. There are virtually unlimited listening options just waiting to tickle your typanum. Any variety of music, no matter how bizarre, is being broadcast somewhere by some internet radio station. If you don't want music, there are talk stations, comedy channels, and any variety of programming. Finding content is simply a matter of doing a quick Google search.

For those new to internet radio, I do recommend Winamp. It's a multi-use program. Most people use it to play their mp3 collections or CDs that they might pop into their computer's CD drive. However, if you look in the Media Library window under "Online Media," you will find a veritable gold mine of internet-only radio and streaming content. "Winamp Music/Video" has a TON of content. Right now, I'm listening to a Kelly Clarkson interview (crap, there goes my non-Idol streak) and there appears to be a lot of exclusive content, the expansion of which is probably due to Winamp's recent merger with AOL. There are quite a few music video selections too.

Shoutcast is probably the best thing Winamp has going for it. The TV portion has broadcasts of popular TV shows like Futurama, Smallville, Star Trek, South Park, That 70's Show, Lost, 24, and many more. One unfortunate thing: the servers fill up quick, and sometimes it's hard to get in to access the video streams. Parents beware: Shoutcast TV has porn channels, but there is an option to disallow adult-rated programming. Shoutcast Radio is much better. There are plenty of great stations to be found, like Club 977, Sky FM, and Digitally Imported. You can find every format that is to your liking, along with a display of what song is playing currently.

Also on Winamp are the AOL Channels. AOL TV programming is somewhat lackluster, essentially consisting of movie trailers, commercials, and the like. However, if you're an NFL fan who didn't get to see the big game and don't want to wait for SportsCenter, AOL TV on Winamp is the ONLY place to catch game highlights. AOL Radio is not a bad choice, but it doesn't have the same diversity or uniqueness of Shoutcast. All it consists of are streams of selected XM channels. This isn't a bad thing, though, and persons trying to decide whether or not to invest in an XM receiver should definitely check this out before you subscribe (although I heavily recommend the service.) The channels you can receive through Winamp are XM 50's, XM 60's, XM 70's, XM 80's, XM Top 20, Audio Visions (New Age), Deep Tracks, Ethel (current alternative hits), Fred (older alternative hits), Highway 16 (current country hits), KISS (current pop), Laugh USA (clean comedy), The Mix (90's & today pop), Nashville (90's & today country), The Blend (70's through 2000's adult contemporary), The City (current hip-hop/r&b), The Heart (love songs), The Loft (eclectic), Top Tracks (60's, 70's, 80's supergroups), and Watercolors (smooth jazz).

The best news of all: you can get all this for free!

Of course, there is a premium version, which you can opt for if you feel the need. In the free version, you can only rip CD tracks to m4a format and burn CDs at 2x speed. In the pay version, you can rip to aacPlus, mp3, wma, and acc formats and burn CDs at 48x speed. I stress that those are the only two differences, and everything else works on the free version just as well as it does for the premium. If those two things don't matter to you, then go ahead with the free version, however, I've found it well worth the $19.95 price to have a good CD burning/ripping tool.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy hours of good (and often commercial-free!) radio programming online!


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