UPDATED: Houston's Best Internet Radio Stations
Much like newspapers, radio has been irrevocably changed by the rise of the Internet. With broadband broadly available, there are fewer and fewer reasons to flip on the dial, so even giants like Clear Channel have added Web-based platforms like IHeartRadio to replace lost terrestrial listeners, offer more variety, gobble up even more revenue, or most likely some combination of the three.
Last week Apple took it even further by introducing streaming radio to its latest iTunes upgrade, and a few days before that the somewhat awkwardly named Musicradio Bop '70s station signed on as the newest member of the Houston-based Bop Radio family. As an Internet station, though -- no air breaks, no local ads -- of course you might never know it was based in Houston.
That got us thinking that it might be a good time to see how many other Internet stations we have in our midst, so the past few days Rocks Off has been seeking out and sampling as many as we can find. (If we missed one or two, just let us know.) Good thing, because our recent experiment listening to KRBE all day long might have put us off radio for good.
One caveat: some of these sites can be pretty buggy at times; at least they wouldn't do what we assumed they were supposed to do right away. So depending on your computer's firewall/security settings -- especially if you're trying to listen at work, like us -- tuning in may prove to be a tricky business.
But we figured it out, and we are what a good friend likes to call "last caveman to the fire" around technology. Soon enough even we were happily streaming away on all these sites, so pop in those earbuds and enjoy.
AMPZ INTERNET RADIO
Platforms: WinAmp, Windows Media, iTunes, RealPlayer
No. of Channels: Five:
*** Ampz Adult ("Crank us up, feel the charge")
*** Ampz Country ("Charged-up country with an attitude")
*** Ampz Hits ("Playing a mix of today's best hits so intense it's shocking")
*** Ampz Classic Rock ("The best classic rock with maximum juice")
*** Ampz Edge ("New music and new artist [sic] on the edge of overload")
Extra Features: Online store if you feel the need for Ampz mouse pads or coffee mugs.
Specialty Programs? Not as such, but jocks seem to have at least some input into the playlist.
Sweepers/Ads?* Sweepers, but not that many
*Note: "Sweepers" is radio lingo for sound bites announcing a station's ID and a quick slogan.
Live DJs? Mostly. The jocks on Ampz Adult are especially entertaining.
In-Studio Concerts? Not that we heard
Mobile App? No
Local Accent: Only on the air breaks
Grade: B plus. Careful clicking on some links (like "Featured Bands"), but overall Ampz runs pretty smoothly. Within the individual channels, the rotation is much deeper than a comparable format on commerical radio would be, but just as up-to-date. We love Ampz Adult, which has much more variety than the others (and cuss words).
Platforms: On-site, iTunes, TuneIn.com
Sample Artists: LCD Soundsystem, New Pornographers, late-period Radiohead, Houston rapper Preemo
No. of Channels: One
Extra Features: blog with music videos, show recaps (Raekwon), album reviews, music news
Specialty Programs? Abundant. See schedule.
Ads/Bumpers? Not so much
Live DJs? Most of the time. Real students, too.
In-Studio Concerts? Yes
Mobile App? Coming soon, they say
Local Accent: Heavy, heavy, heavy. Coog Radio just celebrated its third birthday this past weekend. Salud!
Grade: B. Site is a little buggy, but the music is solid. Feels like an old-school college-radio station.
Platforms: iTunes, Windows Media, VLC
Format: Defiantly free-form, vaulting from local noise-rapper B L A C K I E to Indonesian popular music to Tame Impala to Cookie Monster -- yes, the Sesame Street character, not the dubstep madman. Also occasional Rice sporting events.
No. of Channels: One
Extra Features: Top 35 playlists; KTRU Instagram
Specialty Programs? A bundle
Sweepers/Ads? Are you kidding? On KTRU?
Live DJs? Oh yes.
In-Studio Concerts? Occasionally. "The Local Show" airs 8 p.m. Tuesdays.
Mobile App? Yes
Local Accent: KTRU seems to be doing fine, notwithstanding all that drama a few years back when U of H yanked it off the air after buying its FM frequency and signal tower; it continues on FM via KPFT's HD-2 channel as well. Instant karma's gonna get you.
Grade: A minus
LOCAL LIVE HOUSTON
Platforms: Winamp, Windows Media
Sample Artists: Robin Kirby, FLCON FCKER, Days N Daze, Peekaboo Theory, Devil Killing Moth
No. of Channels: One
Extra Features: Small archive of specialty shows and in-studio performances
Specialty Programs? A few
Live DJs? On specialty shows
In-Studio Concerts? Occasionally. We heard an in-studio by The Factory Party Monday.
Mobile App: Via TuneIn
Local Accent: That's all it is. If you are a local band or musician, Local Live Houston will play your music.
Grade: B plus. No frills, but none needed.
MUSICRADIO BOP '70s
Platforms: On-site (some byzantine plug-in required), Windows Media, WinAmp, iTunes,
Format: Pop/Rock, R&B
Sample Artists: Elton John, Chicago, John Denver, O'Jays, James Brown, CCR, Bobby Womack
No. of Channels: Musicradio Bop '70s is the sixth member of the Bop Radio family. Stations are organized by decade - thirties, forties, fifties and so forth.
Extra Features: Widget showing last few songs played
Specialty Programs? No
Sweepers/Ads? Limited ads; some sweepers announce the year the song was released.
Live DJs? No
In-Studio Concerts? No
Mobile App? No
Local Accent: Negligible
Grade: C minus. Decent range, but nothing too heavy or obscure. No country -- not even Willie and Waylon -- is a big mark against it.
List continues on the next page.