I hate to admit it but I’m a bit of a gadget guy; perhaps it was The Man From Uncle as a kid or of course James Bond.
I love things that seem to contradict themselves. I am sat in the sitting room of my home which was originally built we think in the late 1700’s. The house has a well inside it, which was obviously outside at one time, and when the house was added on to years and years ago I guess someone in their wisdom decided to build the extension, the living room, around the well. It is encased but you can see the clear water about twenty feet below.
My new gadget is an internet radio. You tune it into any online station, you don’t need a computer, just a wifi. I listen to a couple of online stations, LA’s KCRW, Nashville’s WSM, NBRN FM, and I find it slightly wonderful if that’s the right word, to be sitting here in this old room with its beams and old fireplace, listening to a radio station from six thousand miles away through a portable wifi radio.
I really believe that internet radio is the future, especially for music. The online stations are not restricted to tight playlists with a two hour rotation! It is impossible for a new artist to really get airplay on local commercial over the air stations, which are now nearly all owned by large companies and programmed from London or LA or New York. With only a few exceptions, the presenters have no say in what they play, they sit in front of a computer, and read from the monitor.
Personality or well known disc jockeys like Bob Harris are different of course but with everyone sending their latest release to him well unless the BBC give him his own twenty-four hour station, he could never get to play them all.
Small online stations are different though. They welcome new material, new artists. College radio in the States was always a great way to break a new act, and still can be. R.E.M. are just one band who broke through college radio.
As wifi becomes more and more available in major cities then I can see car manufacturers installing internet radio into the car – many already have Sirius of course. This means though that you can tune your car radio to your favourite online station and listen to it in the car. This could mean the end of ‘local’ commercial stations.
I have always wondered how American towns and cities can support so many local radio and television stations and yet in the UK it’s thought that in most areas, outside the bigger cities, one commercial station is sufficient? In Kent we have Heart, owned and run by Heart in London. There’s KMFM, (owned by the local newspaper group), which was supposed to be for small towns but have now joined together to make one big station, and finally there’s BBC Radio Kent. Have I missed one? I don’t think so.
I hope that online radio stations signify a resurgence in new music being heard, an outlet for new acts, like pirate radio did in the sixties.