A History of Internet Radio

I spend a fair amount of time listening to radio over the Internet, be it a local terrestrial broadcast (like The Edge) or one of my favourite talk stations in the world (KFI/Los Angeles; It’s not available in Canada unless you’re, um. resourceful).

I also tune in 6 Music from the BBC, Third Rock Radio (an Internet-only station that mixes indie rock and space news, OneFM from Singapore (I’m hoping to do some work with them) and Radio St. Barth, one of the outlets on my favourite Caribbean island. Then there’s Apple’s Beats 1, of course I’m still trying to figure out if I like it.

Listening to radio over the Internet totally mainstream now, thanks to apps like the wonderful TuneIn Radio. Streams connect well, dropouts are few and fidelity is generally excellent  But it wasn’t always this way. The site 4pt5 takes a look back at the history of Internet radio.

Geeks and the Rolling Stones

In 1993 technologist Carl Malmud founded the Internet Multicasting Service. At the same time he became the founder of the first internet radio station – Internet Talk Radio. Each week the show interviewed a new computer expert.

Later the same year the first Internet concert was broadcast featuring a band called Severe Tire Damage. The next year a slightly more recognisable act, the Rolling Stones, were the first to send a concert out into cyberspace, calling it “the first major cyberspace multicast concert.” According to wikipedia Mick Jagger opened the concert by saying “I want to say a special welcome to everyone that’s, uh, climbed into the Internet tonight and, uh, has got into the M-bone. And I hope it doesn’t all collapse.” Internet radio was clearly here to stay.

The same year US radio station WXYC became the first to start broadcasting on the internet. They belonged to small groups of early adopters who often had to build their own tools and software for the broadcast.

Better and faster

In 1995 slightly more mainstream audio players started becoming available, some developed by companies like Nullsoft and Microsoft. More and more web based radio stations started appearing online.

In 1996 Edward Lyman created Sonicwave.com, the first US internet radio station legally licensed by both ASCAP and BMI to broadcast live, 24 hours a day on the internet. And in March 1996, Virgin Radio – London, became the first European radio station to broadcast its full program live on the internet. It broadcast its FM signal, live from the source, simultaneously on the Internet 24 hours a day.

RealAudio also made streaming more accessible to a number of radio shows and internet radio started attracting both media and investor attention. In 1998 Broadcast.com had it’s initial public stock offering and became the Facebook of its day. It set a record at the time for the largest jump in price in stock offerings in the United States. The offering price was $18 and the company’s shares opened at $68 on the first day of trading. What the investors didn’t know was that the company was losing money at the time. Yahoo! purchased Broadcast.com in 1999 for $5.7 billion.

Continue on!

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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