Radio head 

I’m spending the evening at my friend Alex’s place, and I must admit, I’m jealous. Behind the facade of his cozy Hamtramck home lies what’s certainly the future of online music: easy access and everyday use.

Of course, Alex’s quaint 1930s walk-up doesn’t exactly broadcast hi-tech. In fact, everything here looks old — arched doorways, vintage light fixtures and two separate antique bathrooms, one with the original tile floor. Alex moved in two weeks ago, so he’s still rearranging the furniture.

“I haven’t figured out where to put the couch,” he says while I admire the fresh green paint he’s applied to the living room’s ancient plaster walls. We sit down to puzzle over the decision, when I notice a tiny round hole in the far wall, near the floor.

“That’s for the stereo,” he says, motioning to a pair of standard-issue hi-fi speakers on either side of the room. Two long speaker wires trail behind each, chasing along the baseboard and finally disappearing into the wall. “I keep my stereo receiver in the other room,” he says, “along with the computer.”

I ask to see, so we stroll down the hallway to where the wires lead. We enter a small bedroom-cum-office, and I begin to understand. There’s a set of shelves newly mounted to the wall, each bearing a piece of stereo equipment (CD player, turntable and tuner). Underneath is an L-shaped desk, tossed with pens, stacks of paper, CDs and an older beige Macintosh. (Alex tells me later he wants a newer computer. “Let me put it this way,” he says, “this one was made before the Internet was even an issue.”)

Still, he proceeds without a glitch. “Check this out,” he says, smiling as he reaches for the mouse. He clicks open a browser window and pulls down a favorite site, www.bbc.co.uk/ radio1.

“I got hooked on BBC 1 last year when I visited the U.K.,” he says. “I just like their DJs.”

We joke about how, in Britain, it’s almost 4 o’clock in the morning. A moment later, a bubbling techno beat is thumping from the speakers in the other room.

Alex has a cable modem connection from Hamtramck’s MediaOne. It sounds great, and I realize I want my own wired Web home.

He tells me about a recent hit U.S. single from the group Eiffel 65. “It was a huge hit in Europe before it was released here,” he says. “The BBC’s playlists are, like, nine months ahead of ours.” I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never heard the tune.

He clicks open a folder on the desktop. A couple dozen MP3 files appear. “These are the songs I heard when I was driving in Scotland,” says Alex. There are tracks from Chemical Brothers, the pop group James, and something from Eminem called “Guilty Conscience.”

Where did he get them? “Free from Napster,” he boasts, without a hint of irony.

Later on, we listen to an archived edition of NPR’s “This American Life” at thislife.org (“I always miss the live broadcast,” he says.)

I ask Alex what he likes best about his Web radio lifestyle. Choice, he replies.

He shows me another site called NetRadio (netradio.com). “It’s kind of corporate-y,” he adds, “But the plus side is, it tends to work.” NetRadio has distinct channels, the latest Web broadcasting perk. You can listen exclusively to movie sound tracks, opera or only songs played at Woodstock in ’69 (or 1999, if you like). We settle on a channel called “’70s country.” Billy “Crash” Craddock’s 1974 hit “Rub it In” begins.

So I’m envious, even though getting a setup like Alex’s isn’t hard if you have a computer with a fast Web connection. See, here’s my little confession: Your own Mr. Netropolis still has a slow dial-up at home. But for lucky broadband users, all it takes to get your stereo wired for the Web is a drill. And a few dozen feet of stereo wire, of course.

“Go to Radio Shack,” says Alex. “It costs four bucks.”

mtRADIO IS HERE

MetroTimes.com is pleased to announce the launch of mtRadio, our very own 24/7 Web radio station. Featuring “All Detroit music, all the time” (catchy, eh?), mtRadio is our first foray into Webcasting and we’re mighty proud.

Every song we play was provided directly by local bands, DJs and solo artists. And to keep things interesting, we’re playing tracks only from our absolute favorite acts. How’d we do that? It was easy — we just consulted Sonic Metropolis (sonic.metrotimes.com), our comprehensive Web guide to Detroit-area musicians.

And here’s the best part: Every song you hear on mtRadio can be downloaded from Sonic Metropolis as a full-length MP3. So who needs Napster anyway?

One more thing. mtRadio is an experiment of sorts, so there are a few ground rules: You must have a 56K connection (or faster). And today, we can only handle a few hundred users at a time. But tomorrow … who knows? Check out mtRadio today at radio.metrotimes.com and tell us what you think!

Join Adam Druckman online at metrotimes.com, or e-mail adruckman@metrotimes.com

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