How to find radio stations online

I listened to a lot of sad music during the pandemic, which taught Spotify’s algorithm that I like sad music. The result: a never-ending stream of depressing indie songs. I was stuck in an algorithmic rut. That changed when I started looking for online radio stations created by real humans.

Algorithms are smart but they’re also kinda dumb. They don’t know who you want to be, or who you could become, they only know who you were. They see your past behavior as indicative of your future preferences. Human DJs don’t do that. The good ones just play what they want, which exposes you to artists and songs that no automated system would even consider.

Don’t get me wrong, I love soulful indie songs. But there is more for me. I contain multitudes. That’s why I try to get out of my algorithmic bubble and listen to something new.

Why online radio is the answer to an algorithmic rut

Algorithmic playlists aren’t all bad – we’ve talked about finding the best Spotify playlists, for example, and the results can be great. But there’s something about a good radio station that even the best automated playlist can’t give you. A few things stand out:

  • Discovering musical algorithms will not show you. This is the key point for me. Radio stations play stuff I wouldn’t pick and Spotify wouldn’t pick for me. It is refreshing.
  • The little human attentions. Top DJs talk between segments, introduce an artist, and give you background information. They will also talk about… whatever. I work from home, alone, and it’s nice when a little spontaneous conversation breaks up a killer playlist.
  • A better connection to your local community. If you find a local radio station, you’ll discover up-and-coming artists in your area and you might hear them talk about their music. You will also be informed of upcoming concerts.
  • Learn more about other places. I’ve been on road trips abroad several times, and a little fun is scanning local radio stations. I have learned that The Great British Bake Off because rock DJs on three different stations were talking about cakes while I was driving from Liverpool to Glasgow – I was confused at the time, but wouldn’t trade that memory for anything in the world. Listening to radio stations from other places can bring that little part of the journey into your life, even when you’re sitting at home.

Once you’ve found a station, you can play it in your browser or, if you prefer, have your smart speaker play it for you. Some stations offer apps that you can install on your phone. I tend to prefer just using the browser.

How to find good stations online

By now you are probably wondering how to find radio stations online. There are all kinds of services for this, but I can recommend five that have worked for me.

  • TuneIn has a handy local station feature that lists a bunch of radio stations near you – try the ones that sound interesting. Be sure to scroll down to find online-only stations you might be missing. The TuneIn app (free for Android and iOS) is also a great way to listen to these stations on your phone.
  • The Public Radio Fan website is basically a massive database of public radio stations around the world, including community stations that play music. You can filter by location or type of music you want to listen to. The site provides links to the station’s website and, in most cases, direct stream links.
  • InternetRadio.com is another site that makes it easy to find radio stations online. Browse by genre or try a search.
  • NPR Music offers quick access to hundreds of local stations from across the United States – just scroll down to Listen live section.
  • Apple Music sets itself apart from Spotify and Pandora by offering a bunch of radio stations with real human DJs, including a few you can listen to without a subscription. It also offers a directory of local radio stations, if you’re a subscriber, which is an underrated reason to consider Apple Music over Spotify.

There are other sites you could use as starting points, but these are my favorites. While I’m here, however, there are a few specific stations I want to highlight:

  • Poolsuite.net is so weird and wonderful that I couldn’t not mention it. The website mimics the look and feel of a ’90s Mac, and the music is a steady stream of serotonin-inducing summer tunes (essentially the opposite of my sad indie Spotify situation).
  • Radio Paradise is an internet legend, it has been around since the early 2000s. Everyone should check it out once.
  • Soma.fm is another service that’s been around forever and offers dozens of commercial-free stations covering all sorts of genres, from pop punk to “secret agent.”

You are not here for my radio station recommendations, the point is to find your own. But hopefully the tips and resources I’ve provided have given you a solid starting point and that you find a few stations that will get you out of any algorithmic rut you might find yourself in.

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