Much of today’s entertainment media attention is focused on portable digital music players like Apple’s iPod. However, using a portable music player requires that you build a digital music collection by purchasing and downloading song tracks from an Internet music store, such as Apple’s iTunes or by purchasing music CDs from which you copy or “rip” individual songs.
There is another, less expensive approach to enjoying music using your computer -- through an Internet radio station. Internet radio operates much like a traditional radio station: you “tune-in” and listen to whatever song the station is currently playing. The beauty of Internet radio is that, unlike a car radio that can only bring in local stations, you can listen to stations from all over the world.
The power of the Internet turns your home computer into a shortwave radio with world-wide reach. As I write this article, I’m listening to a song broadcast over the Internet from the United Kingdom’s famous BBC radio station (www.bbc.co.uk). Many of the world’s most popular radio stations broadcast in “real-time” over the Internet.
Of course, it isn’t just about music, you can also tune in to stations like National Public Radio (www.npr.org) for news, weather, and talk shows. Many of the stations also archive their broadcasts so you can tune in later and listen to a show you missed. In addition to traditional radio stations that broadcast over the Internet, you can enjoy the thousands of Internet-only stations that have cropped up in recent years.
Getting started is easy. Start your Internet browser program and check out the Web site of your favorite radio station to see if it is broadcast over the Internet. A simple click on the station’s “listen now” link will start the music flowing.
You will need music-playing software installed on your computer. Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, already installed on most newer PCs and available as a free download from www.microsoft.com, will handle the job for most stations. However, some Internet radio stations broadcast in other music formats such as Real or QuickTime. You can download and install the players for those formats as needed.
To travel around the world, both geographically and musically, check out these Web sites: radio.msn.com and www.live365.com. These sites let you can search through hundreds of stations offering a wide variety of music styles, including Country, Folk, Celtic, New Age, Latin, Christian, Jazz, Rock, Indie, Rap and Hip-Hop.
Many college radio stations broadcast over the Internet, also. I’m switching my computer radio tuner right now to www.pct.edu/wptc, where I’ll listen to some great music broadcast from the student-operated radio station at Pennsylvania College of Technology.