World Wide Radio
Awhite reggae band in the Netherlands, rockabilly in the Ukraine, the Carpenters in Japan, and bad-ass surf music, not just from the ice fields of Finland and Canada, but the streets of Croatia! What kind of crazy surrealistic world is this? I felt like Alice in Wonderland falling down the black hole and chasing after the White Rabbit: Punk rock bands in South Africa seemed normal, but not a Cajun/zydeco band in stuffy old England, until I found that one of the most popular Netherlands bands plays TexMex and polka. Where is all this insanity taking place? In the wonderland of the Internet, of course.'You must be mad,' said the Cheshire Cat to Alice, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'My mission was to find the best music sites on the Web. Not just typing in sony.com and being seduced into buying something from the latest top 40. No mission is complete without a Holy Grail, and I had mine -- I wanted to find another as-yet-unknown Tricky. Next year I want to say, "Oh yeah (insert the name of next year's overnight sensation here). I used to listen to them on the Internet." Hey, it's worth a try.Where to start? I've been cruisin' the Net long enough to know that going to WebCrawler and searching on "music" would give me enough links to keep me going until the millennium -- the one about a thousand years away. I took the sane path and headed to Yahoo (www.yahoo.com/Entertainment/Music/Artists/By_Genre/) with its nice, organized categories.As I clicked my way through Entertainment/Music/, the Radio link caught my eye. My pulse quickened, "Maybe I can find a radio station right now; finish my quest before I'm even started. Go for the gusto!"I clicked on the Radio link, and with a flurry of keystrokes, entered "pirate radio."Too bad the list that popped up had no gusto. The only thing pirate in Yahoo dealt with screwing the FCC. Not the stuff Internet radio is made of. I swore to myself. "Where's the good stuff?"Humbled, I went back to my music search, knowing I was going to find the ultimate Internet radio station the hard way, plowing through endless sites until, late one night, I'd follow some link somewhere that would take me somewhere else and somewhere else and, unexpectedly, I would see the magic words "smash this record."My hopes rose again after clicking on "Artist," then "Genre." Paydirt! 16,000 possibilities, all neatly categorized, summarized, and clickable. Pearls in the electronic mud waiting for the click of my mouse.Who needs radio when you've got 16,000 music sites beckoning?'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.'I don't much care where,' said Alice.'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.The first rule to successful Internet surfing is knowing what you're going after and not falling prey to the seductive links filled with promises of brave new worlds.The second rule to successful Internet surfing is follow those seductive links, because "dere's gold in dem dar hills." These are contradictory rules, I know. But this is the Internet. Follow the rules and you'll end up at "Music Boulevard" every time. Break the rules and you'll end up at "Jeff's Home Page," which will only take you back to where you were three hours ago, "Bill's kewl links."Before clicking on all 16,000 possibilities, I solemnly swore to not click on any list of "top 40" anything, to not look at anything promising "today's music hits," and definitely not go near anything mentioning "adult contemporary"; all that stuff flooding the airwaves already. I also decided to stay away from "latest band news," "tour dates," "discography," and "pics.""I want music!" was my mantra.Yahoo has managed to fit the world's music into 25 categories. Oddly enough, there wasn't an "alternative" category, so I went ahead and clicked on rock 'n' roll. "Uh oh, more categories." I loved the music in Pulp Fiction, so I skipped classic rock and headed over to the surf bands. Eureka! The surfers had a lot of clips and fast download times. Success right off is always nice.I was amazed at how international surf music is. I especially liked Tyrsky Kitarat (www.hut.fi/-teerikai/tyrsky.html) from Finland. They have a surf style that has emotion. (Roy Orbison playing surf?) Then there is Plank (www.oz.Net/-plank/) -- "Power surf/garage rock for the above average schmoe." They're not lying. (Eclectic surf?) After an hour of thumping, blood-pumping, 30-second clips (and all that caffeine) it was time to move on to something calmer.(You'll note I said 30 second clips. Most web sites aren't radio stations and don't play full songs. For one thing, copyright laws protect such "broadcasts," unless the proper permissions and royalties are arranged for. Other concerns are that bands don't want you ripping off their songs, the clips take up a lot of hard-drive space, and large clips tie up the server.)I moved on to reggae, which seemed like a calming choice. Too bad my expectations were set really high by the surfers. I was disappointed with links that didn't link, stale sites with 1996 tour dates, and few clips. "I want music, mahn, not liner notes." The Dutch reggae sites, New Born Creation (http://www1.tip.nl/-t028089/) and Roots Encounter (http://home.pi.net/-jaapsk/roots.html), were interesting, as was Third Eye (http://thirdeye.lansplus.com/), but not interesting enough to keep me around.Back to rock 'n' roll and the rockabilly category. I must confess that there isn't actually a rock 'n' roll category in Yahoo -- it's "rock and pop," but I can't bring myself to use the p*p word in the same sentence as rock.Now that I have that off my chest -- I thrilled at rockabilly from the Ukraine, Mad Heads (http://members.aol.com/pmadheads/index.html), skipped the sites dedicated to that great rockabillier, Elvis, and was frustrated I couldn't find any other good clips.In the soul and R&B category is Eight to the Bar (www.moonsite.com/eighttothebar/), with a great swing sound you don't want to miss. By breaking rule no. 1 (or is that following rule no. 2?), I ended up at Soul Nation (http://www.cyberphoto.se/soulnation), a listing of soul, R&B and hip hop sites around the world.Next, in Yahoo, I went to rap and hip hop. I'll let the Players United (http://home4.swipnet.se/-w-40901/playaz.htm) intro do the talking -- "Wassup all ya playaz! Thanx for stoppin' by at Players United's homepage. We're a phat live rap & hip-hop band from Hudiksvall, Sweden. The Players United clique consists of 10 Soldiez Fo' Da Funk, who all come from different musical backgrounds. We listen to everything, from jazz & funk, via rap, soul & reggae, to heavy metal." Da soldiez got some sound clips worth a listen, but I won't be wingin' to Sweden to chill wit da clique. I wish I could point you to the site of some up-and-coming rapper you don't want to miss. But I can't; those sites seem mostly to be still "Under Construction" and barely offer pictures and promises. (I did find a site completely in German, though -- http://members.aol.com/intanezzo/pw/index.htm.)I decided to move on. I skipped lounge and New Age, and headed to Blues. Blue Monday (http://www.insites.ca/bluemonday/) was the first site with music clips. The clips are only 10 seconds long, but worth a listen. My favorite find was Crazy Moon and the Sun Worshippers (www.swcp.com/-kwilson/crzymoon.html). I liked their music so much, I even sent e-mail asking for ordering info (no recordings, unfortunately). Then there's Rolf Wikstrom out of Sweden (http://www.canit.se/percent7eperbratt/Roffe/rolf.htm). He's got a Leonard Cohen voice with a rockabilly style that I liked. The music and site are in Swedish. To hear the clips, be adventurous with your clicking and try the "Roffe i ljud och bild" button.Dawn was only a few hours away, and I was growing tired. I had checked out at least 100 sites. It wasn't until I was almost asleep that I realized how much of an ugly American I'd been. My worldwide romping had occurred in English; the German and Swedish sites were novelties. I'd been like Captain Kirk, able to cruise a universe where everyone spoke American.The next day I found Internet Underground Music Archive (www.iuma.com/). Cool. Not really an archive, but a place to hear samples and entire songs from independent bands, and to buy CDs. They have a wide variety of music from a cappella to world, and even the spoken word. The best part is, every link leads to music. The site is well-designed, and you are given the option of flashy graphics or quick-loading screens. Some bands even have video.I also found Matador Records (www.matador.recs.com/), one of the best indie record labels in the USA. The site offers information on all its bands and offers some tracks available for listening. The site is easy to navigate, and it's not hard to figure out where in the heck the music is.Both IUMA and Matador are good sites to check out if you're looking for music that's outside of standard radio play. And you get the feeling that the music is the thing, not the hype and glitz.Also check out UBL, the Ultimate Band List (www.ubl.com/). This really is the ultimate. UBL has a much more comprehensive listing than Yahoo and is better organized. When you type in the band name "Care Don't Cure," you don't have to wade through the hospital and psychiatrist listings. One cautionary note, the list is for "music related" sites; not all the sites include clips.WebRing (www.webring.Net/) is another valuable way to find music sites. Instead of categorizing the Internet, WebRing links related sites. (You'll also get fewer "Site not found" errors via this route.) Visit WebRing and you'll find over 15,000 categories, as well as an offer to create a ring of your own if you can't find what you want.Listening to snippets and individual tracks wasn't what I wanted anymore. The thrill was gone. Like a junkie I wanted more -- not just more, but MORE! It was now time to search out the radio stations.Yahoo's Entertainment/Radio link looked promising. A few clicks later, I was delighted to see hundreds of radio stations scrolling across my screen. My logic was simple -- they're online, the bandwidth must be humming with every type of music imaginable, just waiting for me to pick it off the wires. After an hour of "here's our logo, jingle, DJ pics, links to local bands and 'check out our latest contest,' I began to notice my logic wasn't simple, it was naive. Radio stations were definitely into last year's cyber-fad. The few stations that actually fulfilled their promise of online on-air programming were uninspiring. Through the miracle of national programming and conglomerate radio networks, they sounded just like the stations here at home. Listening to KCHZ out of Kansas was cool for about 90 seconds. It's less painful to flip on the stereo, and the music sounds better -- it's in stereo and doesn't have to share processing power with my word processor.I headed across the Atlantic to listen to the Europeans; they've always been slightly ahead of us Yanks when it comes to using technology. Guess what I found: logos and jingles and more Web pages done in English.Reluctantly, I headed to the RealAudio site (www.realaudio.com/). I've never liked the site because it's slow and clunky. What's important though is that it took me to LiveConcerts (skip RealAudio and go directly to www.liveconcerts.com/).Live Concerts took forever to download, but was worth the wait (OK, the wait is only two or three minutes, but it seemed like forever, especially since it was ads I was waiting for). I skipped the concerts and cybercasts (video) and zeroed in on KCRW (www.liveconcerts.com/listening/kcrw/), a public radio station out of California. Their "Morning Becomes Eclectic" show is something we definitely don't get here at home. Over 300 interviews and performances, ranging from Zap Mama to The Cranberries, are available online. They also list recent additions and the top 5 requests. My pulse quickened when I found Leonard Cohen in the top five (you'll now find him in the complete listing). Two clicks later, I was listening to Cohen singing "Hallelujah" and talking about his musical influences. The journey was worth it; I was hooked on Internet radio. One of those infernal ads took me to Live Online (www.live-online.com/), where the "left of the dial" link beckoned. My palms got sweaty as I clicked. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the "Internet-Only Stations" header. I pumped my fist and let out a primal yell. Internet radio is alive! Twelve Internet radio sites are listed, and all are worth checking out. By the way, Brainwash (www.monsterbit.com/brainwash/) is a site you should check out about five in the morning before you've had your first cup of coffee. They do immoral things with color that should be outlawed. Assembled by King Coffey of the Butthole Surfers, Brainwash is a veritable cornucopia of "interesting" music.To call the sites AudioNet and Net Radio "radio networks" on the Internet is to do them an injustice. They are more like 500-channel cable TV on the Internet (except they do "radio"). AudioNet (www.AudioNet.com/) has available just about any kind of radio programming you can think of. (A special note to sports fanatics -- if your favorite team or sport doesn't get broadcast in Hawaii, then check this site out; you will be happy.) AudioNet is geared more towards providing Internet feeds of existing broadcast stations than providing original content. Getting to the music sites is a little tedious, but that's because AudioNet has so much to offer. Overall, AudioNet has done an excellent job of making their content accessible.Net Radio (www.netradio.net/): Let me first say that I love Net Radio. Just the other day I heard a surf version of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons." You can't get music like that on the FM dial. Now I'll bitch: You have to be Sherlock Holmes to get around. To find music, you must first find the "NetShow Studio" link hidden on the right hand side of the page. The site isn't as well laid out as AudioNet, or as cleanly labeled and categorized: ska, techno and '80s/new wave are listed as Modern Rock. (Modern rock is under Modern Rock, but only if you click on the big X. Reggae is under Vintage Rock, as is Surf. You'll find Punk under Dance/Urban.) It's better to look at a complete list of the 100 channels. (To do this, first get into one of the music pages, then click on the "Music" button that appears at the top of the screen.) Net Radio doesn't have as extensive an offering as AudioNet; it is focused more on original music and entertainment content than broadcast feeds (this is a compliment). The programs are obviously put together by people who know and love music.iMusic (http://imusic.com/radio/): When I first hit the iMusic site I saw the magic words, "If you think a song sucks, then TRASH IT!" Finally, here I found interactive radio. iMusic isn't really pirate, but it is the music listeners want. Within a category -- for example, "Classic Modern Rock," or "Current Alternative Rock" -- listeners submit titles of songs they want placed in rotation, or that they want trashed. The votes are tallied, and the resultant changes reflected in the playlist. No commercials, either. iMusic doesn't have as many channels as Net Radio, or as tightly defined categories as AudioNet, but it does offer playlists and interesting -- sometimes kooky -- programming, driven by the listeners. iMusic is forward about wanting to sell you a CD, but the CDs are worth buying. Check out the Indie category to hear new bands.BURBS, British Unsigned Rock Bands Station (http://users.powernet.co.uk/cool/index2.html -- click on the "Radio" button, then the "Listen To BURBS Radio NOW" button), is a 25-minute show showcasing, you guessed it, unsigned rock bands. The show changes once a month, and if you like it, you can download it for posterity. A new dj, Rik Rok, just came on board -- he's a wicked throwback to the worst of the '70s DJs. Even so, the music is great; listening is highly recommended.I found SPIN College Radio (http://www.premrad.com/music/spin/) earlier this year, when I first dabbled at finding radio on the Internet. It's not really a radio station, but archives of a syndicated radio show, put out by Premier Radio Network. When I first listened to the shows, SPIN was so hip and cool that it was sponsored by Certs. Now hip and cool means sponsorship by "the Dew." I bring this up is because almost everything about the show is a joke. The Ken and Barbie hosts (not their real names, but these will do) are clueless. But often, the music and band talking segments are good, anyway.HitFm Sweden (http://www.hitfm.se/): I hate to state the obvious, but -- this is a Swedish radio station that plays today's top hits on the Internet. I list this site because it's trippy: English subtitles; the song hits come in both Swedish and English; the only time I've heard Elton John's tribute to Princess Diana was at HitFM; and finally, this is the first Swedish link that has actually gotten me to real live Swedish radio. At your next party, impress your friends and tune in the Swedes.zer01 art radio (http://zero1art.simplenet.com/): "Art worth hearing" says it all. Think Andy Warhol plugged in.The Ultimate Band List people have an Ultimate Radio List (www.ubl.com/radio/) which really is ultimate, with links from Romania to Korea and a lot of points in between on both sides of the Atlantic. For more sites than I could ever cover, check out UBL's URL.Wouldn't it be great if somebody who really knew the Internet and loved (insert your favorite musical interest here) would give you a guided tour of the Net? The Mining Company (http://home.miningco.com/arts/music/mbody.htm) makes it happen. For free.Quick shots: A Prairie Home Companion (http://phc.mpr.org/): The show is broadcast live every Saturday, and has extensive archives and other info of interest to diehard PHC fans.SDF Community NetRadio (http://sdf-radio.colossus.net/): I mention this site because it's "Internet radio DJ'd by you the listeners, focusing on unconventional music formats not usually heard on the government-regulated FM/AM airwaves." I hoped this site would be the fulfillment of my Holy Grail, but I couldn't get the links to work. Maybe you can.MTV (www.mtv.com): Geared mostly toward promoting MTV, but a good place to get video clips.UnfURLed (www.unfurled.com/) lists live concerts and cybercasts you won't necessarily find on LiveConcerts. It also has some interesting links -- like Benny (http://hotwired.com/webmonkey/demo/97/30/benny.html). Check him out, especially if you really want to piss off the one person in your office who's always a pain in the ass. Benny is a techno-dancing demon that you control. He is guaranteed to get on the nerves of any pain in the ass you might know. Tranzfusion (http://tranzfusion.sprint.com.au/): Underground music from Down Under. Sponsored by Sprint Australia, it is dedicated to Australian underground bands. Only go there if you like dance and techno. It is a good example of how corporate types can support the little guy.Kaleidoscope (http://www.kspace.com/): a grassroots site dedicated to giving musicians and artists worldwide exposure. Unfortunately, it only has clips. While you're there, check out the other areas, such as "artists."Virtual Radio (www.microserve.net/vradio/): In spite of the hype, it's virtually useless. VR offers a limited number of CD tracks that are a chore to get to actually play. The promised jukebox is a joke.After searching the world for music worth listening to, I found true happiness in my own backyard -- Internet Radio Hawaii (http://www.hotspots.hawaii.com/irhmusic.html). Rabbett has done a world-class job offering up his once-a-week, one-hour show of Hawaiian music, news, and events. Whatever kind of music you like, you won't find a show better than IRH. There was a big scare a couple of months ago that the site might disappear because of lack of funding, but listeners responded with cash and server space. Take a listen and send in your 10 bucks (I did). By the way, don't miss the "Talkin' Story wit Bruddah Iz" show. Scroll down to get to the link.You know what? When I started this assignment, I didn't think music on the Web was worth finding: too time consuming, too obvious, too mainstream, I thought. I was wrong. Despite the time and effort required, finding music on the Web is a rewarding, even rockin' experience. This might be the rock I live on, but there's a big beautiful musical world out there that I can click on.