The internet offers a great new alternative when it comes to listening to music you already love and finding new music to fall in love with. Although music broadcasts have traditionally been the domain of FM radio broadcasters, internet radio stations can offer much more in the way of variety and sub-genre music choices that are not popular enough to be played on larger FM stations.
But internet radio has only been around for a relatively short time and has only been in wide use for about the last 8-10 years. The birth of internet radio really begins with the invention of internet streaming technology. Although computer engineers have been trying to stream media over the internet since the mid 20th century, it was not until the mid 80s that it became possible and not until the mid 90s and early 2000s was it possible for the average consumer to stream media directly to their home computer.
In fact, a hallmark in the road to internet streaming was a November 1994 Rolling Stones concert which was the first to be broadcast live over the internet. That same month, WXYC, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, became the first FM radio station to simultaneously broadcast over the internet. Now the vast majority of FM radio stations simultaneously broadcast their streams over the internet as a standard practice.
Of course, in the early days, only those people with high speed internet connections and extremely fast computers could actually listen to such streams in real time without annoying pauses and buffering problems. But today, high-speed internet is the standard, and most computers are fast enough to handle live streaming effortlessly. In fact, most new PCs come with free streaming media players already built in. And if even if they don’t, it is very easy to find and download free media players from the internet.
In 2003 it was reported that revenue from online radio stations was at $49 million. However, by 2006, that number had risen to $500 million. In addition, a 2008 survey found that over 13% of Americans listen to internet radio regularly.