Just a little word in your ear about online radio

Chris Maume
Sunday 20 December 2009 01:00

Just as satellites and cables have increased only the quantity of television – never mind the quality, feel the bandwidth – it feels the same with radio. I often think that if all I could listen to for the rest of my life was on the BBC, I'd cope. But there is a bewildering number of stations out there, and the people at the new start-up,, have set out to draw as many as possible into their gravity well.

They see themselves as a cross between Spotify and Google, and the project's been described as "the first real-time search engine for internet radio". As you'd imagine, there's a staggering variety of music, though probably less than you'd think from scanning 20,000 stations. I doubt many have much reach; Slay Radio, filed under Art Rock, proudly logs its record audience: 511, on 21 January 2009.

There's not a Talk category as such, but there is "Non-music", which is split into Comedy (801 stations), Religious (269), Sermon (30), Spoken Word (1,017) and Technical (17). But it's a whopping misnomer. The "Technical" slot, for example, suggests geek heaven, but it's just an assortment of 17 music stations. "Religious" is all music, with ranked first, playing gruesome Polish Christian pop.

One little treasure nestling at the top of the Sermon rankings is Venerable Radio, playing scratchy old delta blues records and early jazz. Allied to a bit of googling for background, it made for a satisfying musical journey round the Deep South. But "Non-music"? Non.

As for Spoken Word, I think a visit from the trades-description chaps is in order. Radicalradio comes top, and it's serious stuff – an interview with the former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter, a lonely voice in the run-up to the Iraq war, denying in vain Saddam's capacity for wreaking global havoc.

At No 2 is some community station in Seattle – and that's it. Two stations out of 1,017. I didn't go right to the end, but a sample of pages seemed to confirm that the rest of it is music – "spoken word" only in the sense that there's talking between the records. Still, if, like the podcast-heavy Mixcloud, it promises more than it delivers in the Talk department, for curious musoes it'll be a digital delight.

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