Radio has a storied history. Back when it began to evolve into mass media entertainment, the medium was devoted to a range of genres, including: comedy, drama, and news programs; sports reporting; and, of course, music. By the early 1950s, however, television programming eroded radio listenership, particularly with regard to radio comedy, drama, and variety shows. By the late 1950s, radio broadcasting took on the format that pretty much exists today, with music, talk, news, and sports dominating the AM/FM bands.
Today, despite the evolution of satellite and digital technology, radio is still a vital source of news and information for a great many listeners. However, the Internet has provided new sources of radio-like entertainment. Sites like Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and iTunes radio have allowed users the means to listen to music online. Podcasts have evolved to become the 21st century versions of the radio talk show. Moreover, new technologies and apps like Samsung’s Milk Music have turned smartphones with unlimited data plans into veritable radio devices.
Now, as the new platforms continue to grow at lightning speed, music is everywhere, and listening to music online is fast becoming the preferred radio format. Let’s take a look at some of the technologies that continue to enhance the radio experience.
Since 2000, Pandora has been a staple of Internet radio. Pandora lets a user request an artist or genre of music and the site will then build a radio station that features the artist and that particular genre of music. Pandora continues to see an increase in users and doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
Spotify is similar to Pandora in that you request songs by artist or title. You can also create playlists from the results of your selections. Spotify Radio gives you the power to choose and create stations based on your selection results or listen to pre-selected stations based on genre. You can also discover new music to add to your favorites.
Again, select and artist or song title to create a station based on your results. Also, search for live radio stations to add to your queue and enjoy on your computer, smartphone, or other mobile the device the best of what traditional radio has to offer.
iTunes Radio provides the user with access to more than 250 genre-focused stations. iTunes Radio also creates stations around the artists, songs, or genres you choose. As with the other sites mentioned so far, the stations evolve with the music the user plays or downloads. iTunes Radio is was mainly introduced to push more users to download music on iTunes, but, so far, iTunes is seeing a slight decrease in sales.
Samsung’s Milk Music is another application that lets you choose the music you want to listen to. Create a station based on an artist or song and Milk Music will play music similar to your choices. Or choose pre-selected genres to populate your station dial.
A key feature of many of the applications that stream music to your smartphone, computer, or mobile device is the ability to approve or disapprove of the selections being played by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down, as in the case of Spotify and iHeartRadio. In the end, many of these applications are very similar in function and offer an artificial intelligence gleaned from the user’s preferences.
It is likely that the ability to listen to music online will continue to evolve as new technologies are introduced. iTunes Radio already gives you the option to purchase the selections played on its radio stations. Perhaps this is a feature that will spill over onto other applications.
It all started with the AM/FM bands. Will we see the traditional commercial radio format discarded? Probably not for some time. After all, old habits die hard.