iTunes – Music Online – Radio & Podcasts

Tuning in Online

Radio on the Internet works pretty much like radio in the real world, except that – what with the Net being global and there being no online equivalent to radio stations fighting over frequency bands – the choice is almost infinite. You’re limited neither by your geographical area nor your next-door neighbour’s four-storey gazebo.

You can listen to a fair selection of radio stations within iTunes, but this is only a tiny fraction of what’s available elsewhere on the Net. And then there are “Podcasts”: shows saved as MP3 files so they can be transferred to an iPod or kept for later.

Internet Radio

Radio in iTunes

Radio in iTunes is extremely simple. Connect to the Internet, click the Radio icon in the Source List and browse through the list of genres and stations. For each station you’ll see a bitrate – this is important as you will only enjoy a glitch-free listening experience if you select stations which stream at a bitrate that is slower than your Internet connection.

When you’ve found a station you like the look of, double-click it, wait a few seconds, and the stream should begin. You can create shortcuts to your favourites by dragging them into a playlist.

New stations are frequently made available online. To update your list select Radio in the Source List and then hit the Refresh button in the top right corner of the iTunes window.

More Internet radio…

iTunes only scratches the surface of online radio. Search Google or browse a directory such as About, and you’ll find links to thousands more stations. Most of these stations are accessed via a website. All you need to tune in, if you don’t have them already, are the right media players: RealPlayer and Windows Media Player are both suitable.

…and on to the iPod

There are two main limitations with online radio, apart from the imperfect sound quality. One is that, though some online radio stations offer programmes “on demand”, you generally have to be in the right place at the right time to listen to them. Second, you can’t access online radio on your iPod. However, there are programs available specifically for getting around these limitations by recording radio onto your hard drive as MP3 files. RadioLover (Mac) and HiDownload (PC), for example, allow you to set up schedules for recording the same show each day or week, record multiple streams simultaneously, and even break streams into individual MP3 files, ready to be imported into iTunes. But beware that, depending on you country, the station you’re listening to, and what you do with the download, recording from a radio stream may be illegal.

Podcasts

Unlike most online radio, which is “streamed” across the Net in real time, Podcasts are made available as files (usually MP3s) that can be downloaded and transferred toy our iPod or other digital music player. Podcasts are usually free and often consist of spoken content – current affairs, poetry, cookery, etc. There are many musical Podcasts, too though there’s a grey area surrounding the distribution of copyrighted music in this way.

It’s usually possible to download an individual “show” directly from the website of whoever produced it, but it’s far easier to use iTunes to subscribe to Podcasts that you’re interested in. Click Podcasts in the Source list and then click the Podcast Directory link to browse and subscribe to Podcasts via the iTunes Music Store. iTunes the automatically downloads the last dew programmes from each Podcast you’ve subscribed to and places them in a special playlist, ready for transfer to your Pod. That way you have fresh news stories, debates, poems, music or whatever each day – ideal for the morning journey to work. To control how all this happens look under the Podcasts and iPod tabs of iTunes Preferences.