Internet radio’s radical renaissance

Francesca Gavin tunes in to the hottest stations on the planet

Image: Getty Images

In the iconic 1988 Mike Nichols film Working Girl, Melanie Griffith’s character Tess McGill makes her name in business by spotting that radio, rather than TV, is the new frontier for mergers and acquisitions. Looking with hindsight, it appears McGill was onto something. We are in the era of audio. The podcast explosion of recent years was the first push. Shows that were stalwarts on NPR or the BBC gained loyal international audiences in app form. During lockdown, online and app radio stations exploded in popularity, becoming aural and cultural lifelines. Here are four international stations and audio aggregators that are available as Apple or Android apps, as well as accessible through websites. Their soaring popularity is yet another sign that we’re all radio gaga.

Ruark R2 Mk3 with DAB+, FM, internet and Spotify, £419.99, ruarkaudio.com
Ruark R2 Mk3 with DAB+, FM, internet and Spotify, £419.99, ruarkaudio.com

NTS Radio

Founded in London’s Dalston in 2011 by Femi Adeyemi, NTS Radio has become a huge enterprise, with studios in Los Angeles, Shanghai and Manchester. Part of its success is due to the quality and underground nature of its DJ and live performances. Since lockdown began, the station has been running remotely, with a litany of hosts broadcasting and recording from their homes, including live sets from Kelsey Lu and Four Tet and a meditation broadcast by Erykah Badu. “We’ve had a huge increase in listenership, rising from about 1.6 million unique monthly listeners in January to 2.5 million in April,” says NTS’ creative director Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura. The station is also rapidly developing new ways to generate sustainable revenue, including extending its listener support subscription. Its loyal fans, however, come first, as Thorlu-Bangura notes. “We want to give listeners unique radio moments, to hopefully lift spirits and connect communities in a weird and difficult time.” nts.live

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Monocle 24

Tyler Brûlé’s business, culture and design magazine Monocle has not only grown the audience of its radio station, but added shows and attracted sponsors such as Allianz during the pandemic. The station, which was established in 2011, has recently been running a full schedule with a skeleton crew in its studios in London and Zurich. Its newsroom has become a huge draw. “We’re getting a deluge of correspondence every day,” says executive producer Tom Edwards. “The audience for our news programme The Globalist is up 30 per cent year-on-year, and The Briefing is up 50 per cent.” The station’s global-perspective news and optimistic attitude to subjects like the pandemic has made it a valued alternative to traditional media. “Monocle started in 2007 at the beginning of the financial crisis, which is key to the strength of the brand.” As such, it’s go-to radio for those looking towards a positive, informed outlook. monocle.com/radio

Roberts Revival iStream 3 with DAB+, FM, internet, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon Prime Music, £199.99, robertsradio.com
Roberts Revival iStream 3 with DAB+, FM, internet, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon Prime Music, £199.99, robertsradio.com

Radiooooo

Online station Radiooooo – yes, five Os – describes itself as a “musical time machine”. The concept is apt. Set up by former artist and DJ Benjamin Moreau and music producer Raphaël Hamburger in 2012, the site is a beautifully curated and ever-evolving archive of music. Listeners can tap on any location in the world and choose different decades or their musical mood (slow, fast, weird or any combination of the three). If you want to hear experimental Mexican slow tunes from the 1950s or Russian disco from 1983, this is your station. Radiooooo’s playful pop aesthetic has made it a huge hit, with more than 30,000 contributors submitting music to upload to the site and 350k listeners a month. radiooooo.com

VQ Susie-Q with DAB+, FM, internet and Spotify, £299.99, myvq.co.uk
VQ Susie-Q with DAB+, FM, internet and Spotify, £299.99, myvq.co.uk

Radio Garden

When you open the Radio Garden site, you are greeted with a spinning image of the globe covered in neon-green lights. Every one of these is a radio station. Somehow it uses three-dimensional geolocation software to create a lo-fi and speedy way to discover the sound – and news – broadcast at any moment and in every corner of the planet. This is truly the sound of the world at any given time. The non-profit site was developed between 2013 and 2016 by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, but went viral again during the lockdown. If you want to receive real-time broadcasts from Seoul and Moscow, Lisbon and Melbourne, this is the one for you. radio.garden

Como Audio Solo with DAB+, FM, internet and Spotify, £349, comoaudio.co.uk
Como Audio Solo with DAB+, FM, internet and Spotify, £349, comoaudio.co.uk

This story was originally posted on 11 June 2020.

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