Even if music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music have made a giant splash in the music industry, radio stations and radio DJs are from losing their touch. New hits and new trends still often come from the radio.
If you’re looking to keep up with the latest musical trends, your best bet is to use an internet radio station. You might not be sure which one you should listen to, but luckily, we do.
Best internet radio stations at a glance
- KEXP 90.3 FM — Seattle
- KCRW 89.9 FM — Santa Monica, California
- WWPR 105.1 FM — New York
- XRAY.fm KXRY 107.1 FM — Portland, Oregon
- Dublab — Los Angeles
- KUTX 98.9 FM — Austin, Texas
- WFMU 91.1 FM — Jersey City, New Jersey
- BBC Radio 6 — United Kingdom
- WWOZ 90.7 FM — New Orleans
- WQXR 105.9 FM — New York
- KUSF 90.3 FM — San Francisco
- Radio Free Brooklyn — Brooklyn, New York
- NTS Radio — London
- Radio Musical De Cuba — Havana
- Cinemix— Seattle
- BBC World Service
Seattle’s best public radio station, a partnership between the University of Washington and Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project, highlights the best new alternative music from around the globe. Best known for its live studio sessions, KEXP is often among the first major media outlets to showcase up-and-coming bands, making it a great place to hear new music before all of your Spotify-loving friends.
An NPR member station based out of the Santa Monica College campus, KCRW was founded in 1945 to train ex-servicemen in the then-emerging technology of radio. Now, it’s just a great place to find emerging music. Creators of the famed Morning Becomes Eclectic radio program, a show that highlights new music and live performances from talented indie artists, KCRW is an excellent place to hear well-curated musical selections, as well as to catch up on national news.
Grace your ears with the latest bars featured by Power 105.1, one of the top hip-hop stations in the city that birthed the very genre. Power 105 is genuinely urban. The daily spin features a heavy focus on both mainstream and underground hip-hop and R&B with a splash of Latin and reggae crossover. It’s also home to several talk segments, but none bigger than the Charlamagne-hosted Breakfast Club, one of the culture’s most influential (and controversial) talk radio shows.
Portland’s most acclaimed independent radio station serves up the sounds of the city’s popular underground music scene to a global audience. A crowdfunded station formed in 2012, XRAY offers a varied selection of music and progressive talk radio programming and has been broadcasting around the clock for years now thanks to the help of nearly 70 part-time DJs.
Dublab is an internet-only broadcast that showcases the cutting edge of the DJ universe five days a week. The station also offers each live show for download via its website. With a rotating cast of all-star DJs that includes world-renowned heavyweights like Daedelus, Teebs, Flying Lotus, and more, Dublab is among the best streams on earth for fans of emerging beat music.
Owned and operated by the University of Texas in Austin, KUTX showcases a range of genre-specific programming, from indie and pop to disco, Latin, and other genres. It’s an eclectic mix of shows, but they are each extremely vibrant and well-curated, making it an excellent place to find something new and unexpected.
WFMU is the granddaddy of them all. The longest-running independent radio station in the U.S. is also one of the best internet radio stations on the web. This listener-funded station offers a free-form variety of eclectic shows that are sure to provide something for everyone. Such free-form formatting can a blessing and a curse, as some hours will prod listeners to tune in elsewhere.
When it launched in 2002, BBC Radio 6 became the first new station created by the BBC in more than three decades. A digital-only channel that focuses on alternative music from all over the globe, Radio 6 plays everything from guitar music to dance, jazz, and soul cuts. Unfortunately, the BBC’s mobile apps are only available for those living within U.K. shores, but everyone else can just as well head to the website for a listen.
For those who aren’t lucky enough to live in the Big Easy, WWOZ offers up the sounds of its fair city to the world, showcasing New Orleans’ famed jazz, soul, bounce, and R&B each day. The station’s selections center largely around the jazz tradition — which is still alive and well in the city — providing an amazing look inside one of the world’s most interesting and storied sonic universes.
Among the finest — and most-listened-to — classical radio stations in the world, New York’s WQXR is also one of the oldest FM stations in the world. It’s among the best internet radio stations as well. Showcasing the best of composers new and old, it’s an excellent place to tune into when looking for some serious music for work or study. It’s also the perfect pairing for that nice bottle of red wine you have stashed away.
The extremely varied sounds of the Bay Area are best explored on KUSF, the University of San Francisco’s radio station. A glimpse of the region that delves deep into the complex communities that have thrived there for decades, KUSF’s programming is overtly Californian, providing listeners with warm-weather jams they’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
A community radio station that’s run out of the basement of a bike shop in (you guessed it) Brooklyn, New York, Radio Free Brooklyn offers interesting independent programming, with a variety of interesting talk and music shows to take you through your day the Brooklyn way.
Founded in 2011 by Boiler Room co-creator Femi Adeyemi, NTS Radio offers a massively diverse selection of live and prerecorded music, in a variety of genres, that is often curated by some of the most influential artists in the world. More than 200 hosts regularly appear on the station, whose slogan is “Don’t Assume.” Famed artists who have curated content for NTS Radio include Thurston Moore, Gilles Peterson, Peanut Butter Wolf, Floating Points, and more.
There’s nothing more fun and energizing than the sounds of Cuban music, and there is no better place to hear it than Radio Musical De Cuba, a Havana-based station featuring an assortment of constantly streaming Cuban sounds. Grab a cigar and a glass of rum, and prepare to enjoy the sounds of one of the world’s most interesting musical cultures.
Cinemix is an all-soundtrack station that exclusively plays songs from film and television. A listener-supported station that broadcasts from Toronto, the station highlights the excellent works of iconic film composers like John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and more.
The BBC’s new worldwide arm provides up-to-date coverage of notable events around the globe, as well as interesting interviews, travel, and sports segments. Fans of global politics will love the matter-of-fact way in which the BBC covers those topics.