Last week, we published an article about how algorithms change the way you discover music and perpetuate large labels and corporations as the decision makers on what music you listen to and why. But after reading it, you might have been left wanting for a way to find new music without the dreaded algorithm, without the recommendation engines of Apple, Spotify, and Pandora. Here’s one recommendation: live-stream internet radio curated by DJs around the world.
There are a few live-stream internet radio “stations” and they all provide music mixed by people everywhere. These live-stream radio broadcasts are not controlled commercially or by large corporations (which, ultimately, get compensation for what music you listen to). This is free-form, authentic music mixed by humans like you and me – and these humans somehow introduce you music you’ve never heard, but love, better than the machines. Go figure.
In the opinion of music critic Ben Ratliff, these broadcasts are “the most effective counterforce I know to the onslaught of streaming-service algorithms and managed listener passivity.” Listener passivity occurs when individuals do not actively seek out new music – they’d rather just put on any pre-determined playlist based on their previous listenings.
In contrast, these internet radio broadcasts are not catered to a mood radio, or have any interest in catering to their listeners’ interests and desires. They’re raw, real, and flippantly play what they want. Screw the algorithms. Let’s take a closer look at a few:
Red Light Radio – Amsterdam (Listen Here)
Red Light Radio started in Amsterdam in 2010 in a space that was formerly a brothel and played mostly Dutch local music. They have since expanded their broadcast, playing “the obscurest afro to the coldest wave, the blackest metal, the newest electronica, and everything in between.” The eclectic musical range reflects the station’s main policy: being open to anything new.
Red Light Radio was awarded Mixcloud’s 2015 Best Online Radio Station in the World Award.
Dublab – Los Angeles (Listen Here)
Dublab is one of the oldest online radio streams, starting over 17 years ago. Originally, Dublab started broadcasting on dial-up modems, and eventually began to broadcast over FM, but the FCC shut down the FM portion in 2008.
After that, Dublab chose to return to its roots and reorganized as a nonprofit. The “lab” currently resides above a nightclub and plays hourly mixes. After all, there is “something nice about clicking on the radio and having something that’s familiar, but within that, having the unexpected arise.”
Dublab’s “programming has expanded to include production of art exhibits, films, events and record releases as well as affiliate stations in Germany (dublab.de), Japan (dublab.jp), and Spain (dublab.es).” They also curate events.
NTS – London (Listen Here)
NTS, one of the youngest streams of online radio, is based out of a studio in Hackey, London, next to a Somali social club and a barbershop. Their slogan ‘Don’t Assume’ is a summation of their avant-garde stylings and anti-radio programming. All of their content and broadcasts are available for download on their website as well for offline listening.
NTS won the 2014 Best Online Radio Station in the World Award from Mixcloud.
The Lot – Brooklyn (Listen Here)
The Lot was founded by Belgian Francois Vaxelaire as a response to his enthusiasm for NTS in London and Red Light Radio in Amsterdam. The Lot Radio is less than three years old and is based out of a repurposed shipping container on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The Lot also runs a coffee kiosk out of teh container to help fund the station’s colorful radio presence without brand sponsorship.
The station switches DJs every two hours with a live video stream to watch and an active chatroom to interact with the taste-makers.
Most music is available online now, which is great and very democratic. However, overwhelming choice often drives us to find safe havens where we know we’ll find something we like, even if we are seeking to find the new. Don’t let robot algorithms be that safe haven. Trust the humans. Trust internet radio.