I’ve really been feeling my aggregate oats recently. By that I mean, I’m very thankful for sites that aggregate other sites, because, as we all know, there are too many Web sites. Yubby, a site we checked out a few weeks back, does it with video. And elegantly enough, into my lap falls its free online radio station analog: RadioTuna. RadioTuna is a user-friendly portal for all things online radio-related. You can search by genre, artist, or station. The interface is slick and navigation is painless, and I instantly dove in and searched for stations pertaining to Buck Owens. Lo and behold, up popped 62 stations that play Buck Owens, and they all looked cool. When I clicked on one, it instantly popped up in the right-hand corner. (Radio Tuna also will alert you if a station is playing a pre-selected favorite artist of yours.)
I like Radio Tuna because we have access to the experts. The wonder of MP3 blogs and radio stations is that there are some really, really smart, educated, music-loving folks out there, and they have access to stuff that you would never have. Piles of old records from family basements, obscure and out-of-date Dutch imports, limited-edition stuff that’s long out of print – these people have it all. RadioTuna is a portal into the mind of those weird, anti-social dudes hovering over the used-vinyl bin at a garage sale.
This is why I like Radio Tuna over things like Pandora, too. I don’t trust Pandora’s DNA thingie, and for anyone whose sat in a coffeehouse playing Pandora, the songs repeat after, like, 35 minutes. You’re at the mercy of the one Pandora intern who created the music’s “genetic” sequence; sites like RadioTuna expands the breadth and lets you shop around.
Of course, with any aggregate site there’s always the risk of getting less-than-stellar search results. Not so with Radio Tuna. Their unique genre profiling system tracks and profiles all stations in real-time, 24/7, using a proprietary algorithm. This allows it to sort its stations into really fine-grained categories (over 40 sub-genres in our ‘dance’ category alone) and calculates the genre bar-graphs that you see next to every station result. These help users choose between stations, and provide a visual indication of the ‘musical DNA’ of each station. Stations don’t need to tell them what genres they play; Radio Tuna knows automatically. The genre profiles in particular make the whole process of discovering new stations much easier and less frustrating than it is elsewhere; if it ends up your genre of choice is Happy Hardcore, then you’re in business.
Previously I mentioned how the stations popped up in the right-hand corner. This is nice. There’s no pop-ups or other sites to navigate, and the music keeps on playing. If you hear a new artist that you’re interested in knowing more about, you can summon an artist bio by hovering over an artist name and clicking the icon that appears. You can also bookmark artists and stations, and share stations with others via email or social networks. If you register for an account on Radio Tuna you can access your bookmarks from anywhere and link up to your Twitter and Facebook accounts for auto-updates. And it gets better: soon RadioTuna will be releasing embeddable mini-Tunas (!) for anyone to embed on their webpage, as well as a slimmed-down version of the player for radio stations to use. They’re also developing an iPhone (they’re still around?) app for release later in the year.
So there you have it. RadioTuna is a sleek, simple, and far-reaching way to check out online radio, which brings me back to our friends hanging out at the used record store, looking a bit anti-social and misanthropic. Ninety-five percent of the time, we don’t want access into their minds. But for the other, music-related fiver-percent, the access is radical, and that’s precisely what RadioTuna provides: a spacious musical mansion with many nifty rooms, long corridors, and staircases leading nowhere. A great place to get lost!