This is cool: Radio Search Engine, a new site launched out of beta this week by serial entrepreneur Michael Robertson, turns tens of thousands of radio stations into an easily searchable music jukebox.
Let’s say you want to listen to Royals from Lorde. Just search for the song, and Radio Search Engine will show you a dozen or so radio stations from all around the world that are playing it right now, ready for you to tune in. The site also offers a list of Top 20 Adult Contemporary songs, which start playing with a single click.
Once you start to play a song, the site starts to assemble a playlist of similar songs — kind of like Pandora if you will, but with the differences that these songs are playing in real time on different radio stations. Here’s how Robertson described the technology that’s working in the background to make this possible:
“We index 40,000 stations in real-time which is a huge amount of bandwidth. These stations are AM/FM simulcasters (virtually every AM/FM station also broadcasts online) and net only stations. Tens of thousands of spiders probe stations trying to determine what they’re playing. This information goes into a database which is indexed every few seconds. This database is what users are interacting with at RadioSearchEngine.com.”
To be honest, the result isn’t quite as fine-tuned as Pandora, and the catalog of songs is obviously a lot smaller than that of a subscription service like Spotify. However, Radio Search Engine does work fairly well with popular songs — the kind of fare you’d expect to play on some radio somewhere right this minute — and the interface actually also works pretty well to find live streams and recordings of spoken word programs like This American Life.
Of course, this isn’t Michael Robertson’s first digital music venture. Robertson founded MP3.com and MP3Tunes.com, both of which were sued by the music industry, resulting in the sale and eventual demise of the former and the shut-down of the latter. Asked whether he expects any blowback for this new venture, Robertson told me: “I think search engines are commonplace so for once I’m not running first and taking arrows”