Wednesday, 21 April 2010

'Turn On, Tuna In, Drop Out' - The Future of Internet Radio

Internet radio, thousands of stations out there but where do you even begin to start looking for a station that will suit your taste in music?  Enter Radio Tuna and with it the future of Internet Radio.

The brainchild of a small team of Brighton (UK) based web developers, Radio Tuna will not only help you find internet radio stations it will match them to a particular genre with amazing accuracy.  I caught up with Will from Radio Tuna who explained further:

Q1:  How would you describe Radio Tuna to someone who had never seen or heard about it?

The short answer is 'Google for online radio', the longer one is 'a nifty search engine that brings order to the chaos of internet radio, making it easier to find needles in the haystack of stations and genres. We cover around 20,000 stations and make them searchable by artist or genre through a simple and intuitive interface'.

Q2:  For the techies, how does it work?

There's a number of separate processes working together. Once our spider or site user adds a suitable station to the database, we regularly visit its server status page to collect the track data that tells us what they're playing. We process this data as it's often dirty i.e. 'Madonna - Holiday - 789HITZ RADIO' and use a fuzzy algorithm to match it to our database of 10 million tracks. Once we know what the track is, everything else flows from there - we know its artist, genre etc and this data is tied to the station. Once we have a number of tracks for a station we work out the genre profiles that you see on the site. It's quite involved and there's quite a bit of clever tech behind the scenes - I could go on but that's probably enough!

Q3:  RT is a really impressive service - how did the idea of creating it come to you?  Was it a daunting project when you started?

Thanks! It kind of grew naturally out of other things - our blog ( is probably the best place to read about how it all began. Yeah, it was daunting but we've just kept putting one foot in front of the other. It helps that it's such an exciting project.

Q4:  Do you like Tuna? (sorry couldn't help that one!)

Very much so, as long as it's sustainably caught!

Q5:  How much of a challenge does the success of applications such as Spotify or LastFM provide to RT?

Naturally they are a challenge - they're great services! However, we feel that we're different enough for us to happily co-exist alongside them. Sometimes you want to hear a particular album or artist right now, and sometimes you just want someone (or something) to play you a selection of music that you'll enjoy. Radio is very much about the latter, and it's good sometimes to be taken places you wouldn't necessarily choose to go.

In absolute terms, radio provides a wider range and depth of choice, with better niche provision - unlike other services, there is no 'catalogue' limited by the licence deals we've managed to strike or the limits of our servers. We don't actually know how many different tracks get played, but our database contains over 10 million tracks and we still can't identify everything!

The other difference is that most stations are curated by experts and enthusiasts, real people who are mostly broadcasting for the love of the music. There's something special about knowing that someone out there has chosen to play you a particular piece of music right then that you'll never get with an algorithm.

Q6:  Which country do you get the most visitors from?

The US, followed by the UK, then Japan and Italy. Since we launched in December we've had visitors from 186 different countries and territories.

Q7: When do you plan on going past beta?

Good question! We are now getting pretty close to being able to drop the beta tag, but it'll probably be another month at least until we do.

Q8: RT has just introduced me to 'Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy' by Bappi Lahiri for the first time.  Who has been your favourite artist find?

No one artist stands out, but we have collectively discovered a love of Bluegrass.

Q9: Most of my friends who develop web applications spend a lot of time surfing the net when they're not working.  Are you guys pretty much the same, or do you rush away from your computers to look for inspiration elsewhere?

We're all heavy internet users most of the time, whilst working or not! We do tend to read around what we're up to (books as well as tech sites), as well as keep up with others in the Brighton web dev community.

Many thanks to Will.

If you wish to get in contact with the Radio Tuna team or have any feedback for them, click here and select contact on the bottom left hand side of the screen.

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