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Internet Radio and Music Services

On of the less flashy pleasures brought by our connectivity to the Web is Internet Radio and music services -- that can deliver our favorite music anytime and anywhere, to a PC, portable player, or cell phone.

Internet Radio stations are often existing radio broadcasters that also stream their signal over the Web (see Wikipedia article - and list of stations).

Services like Live365 provide convenient listings to explore the thousands of available stations, searching by genre and location.

Instead of listening to a specific radio station, other services like Last.fm are more focused on helping you customize your own listening experience.

With Last.fm, you develop a profile of your interests which connects you with other people with similar interests. You can start with specific stations, genres, or artists, as well as preview individual tracks. Then explore your individual interests, personal recommendations and similar artists from Last.fm, as well as shared music from other users and groups.

Or connect to Slacker Personal Radio, choose your genre and style, and listen for free (albeit with ads).

Even better, you can explore new music and then customize your own stations to enjoy just your favorite styles and artists (and ban those you don't like). It's still like listening to a radio playlist, except you can really customize the type of music, and see the playlist so you can skip ahead over individual songs.

Slacker offers more than 100 expert-programmed stations, plus over 10,000 artist stations. And this is the full range of music -- Slacker has licensing agreements with all the major record labels, as well as thousands of independent labels. But these licenses require a radio-like experience -- you can't skip backwards to replay a specific song, although you can pause playback.

Slacker also has recently introduced the Slacker G2 portable player that automatically refreshes your favorite stations over USB or Wi-Fi so you can listen on the go. It's $199 for 4 GB / 25 stations / 2500 songs, $249 for 8 GB / 40 stations / 4000 songs -- plus space for personal storage.

You also can sign up for the Slacker Premium Radio service to avoid the ads ($7.50 to $9.99 a month), request specific songs (like calling in a request to the DJ), and save favorite songs to listen to later on the computer or the Slacker player.

Also try Pandora Radio, which creates personalized radio stations that play music related to your favorite artist, song, or composer -- choosing music with similar music styles based on the Music Genome Project. Be sure to check out the explanation of why each song was selected, to see the musical details that match your original selection.

You can register for free to save your stations, and share stations with other listeners. Pandora also is available on cell phones from Sprint and AT&T, including the iPhone. and on home players including the Sonos and Logitech Squeezebox. Pandora also is ad-supported, or subscribe for ad-free listening ($36 a year).

Maybe it's time to rediscover the joy of music, and find some new favorites.

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