Internet radio is one of my vices, though "vice" perhaps isn't the word, as there is little that can be considered unseemly about it; nevertheless it is something without which I cannot get through a workday. You kids today with your "ipods" and your "mp3 playlists" may not know the simple joy of being exposed to music you aren't familiar with, but is in a genre you enjoy -- which is in and of itself a feature you can't get with conventional radio.
Net radio is usually broadcast at a much lower bitrate than the songs you're used to, giving the music a decidedly smoky, low-fidelity texture, but I appreciate that quality of it, as it lets me run it in the background of whatever I'm doing without being too distracted, and you'll quickly get over it. It can be interspersed with commercials, or run commercial-free, depending on the broadcaster.
If you're looking for something different, give it a try. Here's a list of some of the stations and sites I frequent, and remember, if you don't like it, you can find another station quickly.
live365.com is my mainstay -- a portal that aggregates thousands of broadcasters under a common banner. Bitrate varies from station to station but is usually 56k or 64k, which is Good Enough and doesn't hammer your bandwidth or get you in trouble at work for putting into the internet tubes enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material. You can search for stations by genre, by artists or songs they tend to play, and a variety of other criteria. You can listen to most stations for free, with commercials interjected every half hour or so, but these are fairly inobtrusive. I eventually wearied of them enough that I bought a subscription for five bucks a month, which means I never hear commercials and I have access to VIP stations. Some of my favorite stations from here include:
- Darkwave Radio, the companion broadcast from the famous Slimelight club in London. Darkwave, synthpop, ebm.
- The Angel Theory, smoky ambient and gothic music.
- Art of Darkness, run by DJ Cyn Surreal out of Florida. An ecclectic mix of gothic, new wave, new age, and synthpop, all of which somehow Just Works.
- Lavalounge, for all your 80s needs.
This Is Corrosion, thankfully back after a brief hiatus, is a nice site that caters to the gothic community with updates on music, tous, videos, erotic and BDSM artwork, and has a broadcast at 64k focussing on synthpop, ebm, futurepop, and industrial genres.
Similarly, Rant Radio streams an industrial station, which incorporates an awful lot of dancey synth and ebm as well, all at a respectable 128k. For you punk rockers, there's a sister broadcast here of punk music.
I zone to trance music quite a bit as well. I know, I know. But it's good background music, nice and easy on those hungover brain cells, and for some reason I find it incredibly soothing for sleeping as well. afterhoursdjs.org has a pretty good trance stream at 192k, but the DJs seem to vary in quality. Still, a nice departure.
Perhaps better still would be digitally imported. Usually streams at 96k, and is supplied with a huge variety of cheery electronic music. I've been cranking the "vocal trance" stream for a while now but their euro dance stream is goofy fun and their chillout stream is excellent for those lazy do-nothing days. di.fm has a companion site, sky.fm, which offers a wider selection of stations; everything from classical, urban, jazz, reggae, oldies, 80s, and plenty of others.
Finally, Dan Foley over at sleepbot runs what he terms an ambient stream, but it's not the electronic ambient techno most people think of. Rather it is a quiet-shh-sleepytime mix, in nice lo-fi tones, of mostly coma-inducing sounds and music blended together into some kind of harmony. As the name suggests it is excellent for sleeping and he takes great care to equalize the volume on all the tracks so as not to have randomly loud bits.
There are hundreds of other stations out there; if you look you'll find one you enjoy.