January 15, 2005
Ripping the net

For a few months Michele and I have been using a piece of software called StationRipper and it is fantastic.

Michele is a devoted listener of 97X - Woxy, a radio station from Cincinnati that made the jump from over the air to over the net. After 20 year on Ohio radio, the station was sold and the previous owners created a net only version. They have DJs, commercials, and in most respects sound like a regular radio station.

The station plays new alternative rock music and we are always hearing something fresh. Michele keeps a notebook at the computer just for writing down new songs she hears.

A few months ago, when I went to the computer show with James & Mark, Mark told me about doing streamrips from MP3 stations. A lot of net radio broadcasters use a system called Shoutcast to send out their music. Shoutcast allows anyone to make a playlist of their MP3s and let others on the net listen to it.

Some smart guys realized that Shoutcast was simply sending the entire MP3 file via the HTTP protocol and started writing code to save the MP3 as it arrived. This is the Streamripper project.

The best Windows implementation of Streamripper is StationRipper. It couldn't be easier to use.

You launch the software, hit the Shoutcast link, choose your station, and hit the 'Tune In', and the MP3s start getting recorded.

The MP3 is appropriately titled and has the ID3 info already embedded. The bitrate of the transmission is the bitrate of the MP3 file. Most net radio broadcasters use between 64 and 128 kb/s bitrates, so the quality is decent but not great.

The point is not to make archival audio files to replace buying music, it's simply to give yourself a way to listen to the music and find the new great things. On 97X Woxy, you also hear the DJ speaking and even the commercials. Since they mix the songs into each other, you often hear the overlap. On other stations without DJs, the MP3 files are perfectly trimmed.

Leave it running for a day or so and you'll easily have hundreds of songs waiting for you to listen to in your music directory.

This is good for everyone. It's good for me, 'cause I get tons of music. It's good for the radio station, 'cause I'm listening to them. And it's good for the artist, 'cause I'm buying CDs.

I heard the band Rilo Kiley as I was listening to the recorded MP3s. Easily I was able to listen to several of their songs that had been broadcast in one fell swoop. Next time I walked by a music store, I walked in and bought the album. Here's a sample of one of the good songs, It's a Hit. If you go to the Rilo Kiley site, you can listen to the whole album in one of those music Flash thingies. Then you should buy their album immediately.

Give StationRipper a try, you won't be disappointed. There are is a Mac streamripper implementation called StationRipperX, but since I am OSX challenged, I haven't tried it. Perhaps a Mac user might give it a try and review it? (James? Sean? Mr. P?)

Posted by michael at January 15, 2005 07:58 AM