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Free Internet Radio: What It Is and the Best Ways To Listen

Tune in to heaps of great radio stations from anywhere online. We explain what free internet radio is and the best ways to listen.

Lucy Rowe

by Lucy Rowe in Tips

Last updated 31.05.2024

Free internet radio header

Looking for entertainment, great music, or news and current affairs? Then the rich variety of internet radio has you covered. Better yet, there’s rarely any upfront costs. Meaning you can consume content as you like, without hurting your wallet.

So, let’s take a look at what free internet radio is and the best ways to listen.

What Is Internet Radio?

Internet radio is pretty much what you would expect: It is radio that is broadcast over the internet. Internet radio stations send their digital audio to servers that have the ability to stream audio. Then people connect to this server to listen. Rather than the traditional way of using radio waves, like AM, FM and Longwave, or in more recent years, DAB.

Image shows a woman broadcasting online by using a microphone and a computer.
Broadcasting over the internet just requires a computer and an internet connection.

Many radio stations broadcast both over the internet and by using radio waves (i.e. terrestrially). Especially big radio stations like WFAN-FM or BBC Radio 1. That's because not everyone listens to radio the same ways anymore. Some people keep it old-school and listen to their radio-set or in-car radio. But others are streaming radio online. Broadcasting terrestrially and over the internet let's listeners tune in however they prefer.

However some radio stations broadcast solely on the internet, like KCRW Eclectic 24 and NTS.

Is Internet Radio Free?

You can listen to the streams of most internet radio stations for free. The only cost is your WiFi or mobile data package for accessing the internet. It’s also worth noting some radio stations have some exclusive content for subscribers only, like the Patreon radio station Rochester Free Radio. But typically most internet radio stations are free to listen to.

    The Best Ways to Listen to Free Internet Radio

    Now we've looked at what free internet radio is, here's the best ways you can listen.

    1. Through Your Favourite Radio Stations Dedicated App

      Many radio stations will have their own dedicated radio app. These can be downloaded to your smartphone for you to tune in from anywhere. And will often have all the controls and info you need, in one central place. Find them by searching for a radio station in Google Play or the App Store.

      Image shows a screenshot of the Gen X Radio app.
      The purpose-built radio app for Gen X Radio.

      2. Through a Radio Stations Website

      Most internet radio stations have their own website where you can stream the station directly. Usually they've embedded a web player, and by clicking this you can listen to the stream. Look out for play or 'listen live' buttons to start a stream.

      3. Through Your Smart Speaker

        Listening to a free internet radio station is made even simpler with smart speakers and other voice-activated devices. For big radio stations and you should get away with ‘Hey Google, play [radio station name] or ‘Alexa, play [radio station name]. But for smaller stations it’s worth checking what the exact command is on their website. This is because not all radio stations have a Google Action or Alexa skill set up for their station. Instead, they might use a radio directory to have their station played on smart speakers.

        Image shows an Alexa-enabled smart speaker, on a desk. In the blurred background is a woman sat down and on her phone.

        4. Through a Radio Directory

          Radio directories are like big catalogues of internet radio stations. Users can browse through their lists, or search for a particular station and then play it through the directory. The likes Streema or Streamitter all have thousands of stations to choose from. But it’s worth noting some apps like TuneIn, insert their own adverts into streams, which some listeners will find disruptive.

          Want Some Free Internet Radio Inspiration?

          Whatever you're into, we can guarantee there's a free internet radio station for you. To get you started, why not check out these 15 best free internet radio stations. And let us know what you're listening to over on Instagram, X , Facebook, or TikTok.

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