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Now we can all be our own music program directors, and can create personalized music streams to enjoy wherever we like to listen to music.

Doing this is easy and inexpensive.  Here's how.

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Programming Interactive Internet Radio

Create your own 'radio stations' that send you exactly the type of music you wish to hear

Internet radio can not only avoid all the distance limitations of regular radio, but can also be personalized to give you a unique set of music programming.

Part two of a three part series on intelligent interactive internet radio services; see also :

1.  An Introduction to intelligent interactive internet radio service
2.  Creating your own personalized music streams
3.  Specific services reviewed



It can be frustrating listening to regular broadcast music - 'oh no, not that song again'!  How many times have you wished that a telepathic programmer would read your mind and send exactly the music you like and want to you, with no effort required on your part.

Sure, we can always create 'playlists' of music to listen to, but these are fixed and unchanging, and become predictable and boring.  And much of the time when we're listening to music, we don't want to be interrupted every 3 minutes or so by the need to select the next track to play.

Now there's a completely new alternative, and one which is close to the ideal 'mind reading programmer' scenario.

Here's how to create internet 'radio stations' that will uniquely stream a selection of music that you will like.

How Complicated is it to Get Exactly the Music You Want?

Well, you'll probably never get 100% all the time exactly the music you want - but then again, most of us don't even know 100% for sure what we want all the time.  If there are exact pieces of music you specifically want to hear, and/or in a specific order, you should buy the music and then play it through an MP3 player.

But in terms of describing and fine tuning your preferences so that you consistently get music you like, it is astonishingly simple and only takes a little bit of information from you to get the process started.

Simply 'seed' the process by telling the service a bit about what you like, and then perhaps work through some of their suggestions - they'll generally suggest some additional styles/groups/songs based on what you've already specified.  You really only need to make a few selections to start with, and then start playing the music.

From that point, you can fine tune the process, track by track.  Plus you don't need to be stuck listening to something you don't like - generally there is an option to skip a song any time one comes along that you don't like.

You can generally communicate with the service either through their website on your computer (or sometimes with a special music playing program on your computer) or through one of the other music playing devices such as an iPhone or Logitech Squeezebox.

How to Design Your Own Music Stations

When you are creating your own music stations, you have one major policy decision to make - do you want to make a music station that covers all of everything you like, or do you want to make a series of stations covering the different genres you enjoy?

We recommend that you do not try and make a 'one size fits all' station, and instead you possibly create several different stations.  You might want a 'golden oldies' station, an 'easy listening' station, maybe an 'instrumental' station, and so on.

In my case, I have classical stations that I've focused on things such as '19th century romantic/nationalist composers', 'opera', 'piano music', and so on.

The reason to split into different stations is easily understood if you compare it to painting.  If you remember back to when as a young child you'd paint or draw with crayons, what would invariably happen as you mixed more and more of the lovely vibrant colors together?  You'd always end up with a muddy brown, right?

It is the same with this type of preference system.  Maybe some of the time you like one easy relaxing gentle music, and some of the time you like a very active hard beat style of music.  If you tell the system that you like both, it may end up being confused, and by seeing you like music that scores strongly at one end of some attributes, and also liking music that scores strongly at the other end of the same attributes, it might merge and blend these and tell itself that you like all music anywhere along the range of formats, which means you've ended up giving the selection system conflicting and confusing information that reduces its ability to zero in on specifically the styles you like.

So - generally better to choose separate stations for each different major style of music you like.

Some of the services then give you an option that you can select to choose music chosen from across all the different station formats you've designed.  That is the best way of then getting a broad mix of music, all of which you like.

Creating multiple stations also means that you have specific options for the mood and situation.  You might have a 'quiet sophisticated music' station to play when you have friends over for a dinner party, and a 'loud dance music' station for when you and your friends end up drinking too much and wanting to cut loose!

Rating the Music You Like and Dislike

Once you've created and start playing one of the themed stations of music, you then have a chance to rate each piece of music as being a good or bad choice, so as to influence how the system chooses future pieces for you.

This is simple and obvious, but there's one thing to consider.  When you are rating the music, remember the theme or style of the 'station' that you've designed, and then rate the music for how closely it matches the type of music you like within that genre.

This helps to keep your different stations, each with a different style/theme/genre clearly distinct and separate from each other, and this consistent rating and theming of each music station makes it easier for the service to do a better job of getting you exactly the pieces of music you'll enjoy.

Licensing Restrictions on Your Programming Choices

It is no exaggeration to say that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act gives a massive amount of dominating control over how music is played to the owners of the music copyright.

Just like movie studios have been slow to embrace and work with the new forms of playing/watching movies (they even initially tried to outlaw all forms of VCR - a technology that subsequently saved rather than destroyed Hollywood), so too are music producers slow to understand and work with the potential offered by new music services such as these intelligent interactive internet 'radio stations'.

On the one hand, internet 'radio stations' have to pay a fee to the music owner for every time any song is played to anyone.  Depending on their licensing agreement, every piece of music you listen to costs the service some money (some services instead pay a flat percentage of all the revenue they earn instead of a per song royalty).  This contrasts very unfairly with regular broadcast radio, where the radio stations only pay flat fees to the music owners, not a fee per listener.  Internet radio stations have to pay substantially more to pass music on to you than do regular broadcast stations, and as a result, the established radio broadcasters have been attempting to slow down the spread of favorable business models to the new online services - services which massively threaten their own survival.

But, wait - it gets worse.  Not only do internet music services have to pay draconian sums of money, they also have to struggle with massive restrictions on how flexible a service they can then offer to you.  The restrictions are as stupid and counter-productive to the best interests of the music owners as they are annoying and detracting to us, the potential listeners of the music.  But try explaining that to the mindset of people who saw (and still do see) things like vcr's as major threats rather than benefits to the movie industry.

What this means is that some things you think you should be able to do are not as easy or possible as they could be.  This is because the music copyright holders want to force you to actually buy the music from them whenever possible, rather than sell the music to you, play by play by play.  So if you want to have total control over exactly the music you hear, then these restrictions are designed to force you to buy the tracks one at a time (or CD by CD) and create your own playlists.

But if you're willing to be a bit more flexible about the music you hear, then the restrictions aren't so galling.

There are two main restrictions you'll notice.  The first is that your music specifications have to remain somewhat generic - you can't say 'I want to create a music stream that only plays me music from the first five Beatles albums' for example.  Instead you'd have to create a station that had those five albums as specified things you like, but that would result in a stream with a mix of music from those albums and lots of other similar sort of music from other groups too.

The second restriction is that you can't keep skipping tracks every time you get a song you don't like.  This is so you can't use the skipping feature as a work-around; in the example above, you'd theoretically be able to skip every song that wasn't on the first five Beatles albums.  By limiting the number of times you can skip tracks each hour and each day, the music owners again limit the degree of total control you have over your listening experience.

So when you encounter these limitations, it isn't the music stream providers being unhelpful and obstructive.  It is the limitations imposed on them by the music owners.

Fortunately, most of us won't find these constraints too bothersome, and will enormously enjoy the music we get from the music streams we design.

Part two of a three part series on intelligent interactive internet radio services; see also :

1.  An Introduction to intelligent interactive internet radio service
2.  Creating your own personalized music streams
3.  Specific services reviewed

FTC Mandatory Disclosure : I was not given any of the products written about on this page by their manufacturers. I have not been paid money to write this article.

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Originally published 23 October 2009, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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