Internet radio pioneer SomaFM still leading the way

From The Guardian:

Internet radio has come along way in the past 10 years. Before broadband and the advent of music sharing sites like Pandora and Spotify, where people can now share their own playlists, online radio was your only choice if you wanted to listen to music on your desktop.

San Francisco’s SomaFM internet radio station, an eclectic network of 21 channels playing everything from underground electronica, chillout, ambient groove, indie rock, underground 80s, avant-garde jazz and lounge classics, has been on iTunes before iTunes was even called iTunes! Rusty Hodge is its founder, programme director and general manager, and a general one-man broadcasting institution.

“I’ve been doing stuff on the internet since ’88 or ’89,” he says, when I caught up with him at SomaFM’s nerve centre in downtown San Francisco. He worked for Real Audio, which developed the first streaming technology in the mid 1990s and DJed on college radio before officially launching SomaFM in 2000, becoming one of the first internet radio stations.

Instead of simply churning out music, SomaFM’s playlists are carefully curated, handcrafted affairs. The music is streamed and segued 24/7 with no commercial breaks or inane DJ chatter.

“One of the things I always loved about college radio was that they don’t have any commercials. I thought it would be really good to have something like that, but whereas with college radio the programming drastically shifts after an hour, I thought we’d have multiple channels with fairly consistent programming on each channel,” says Hodge.

Hodge, now aged 49, was a young dotcommer during the first internet boom in the 90s, working as a programmer for startups in the San Francisco Bay area.

Along with the help of eight part-time DJs, SomaFM has pretty much maintained a continuous presence on air for 12 years. The station is still going strong and with over 5.8 million “listener hours” a month is one of the larger internet-only broadcasters.

“[The DJs] all have normal jobs, they come in here, grab new music that’s sent to the station on CDs from various labels, we trade music between each other and they playlist together from their laptops.

Continue reading the rest of the story on The Guardian