Early commercial broadcasts in the traditional radio format have been happening since the 1920s. The first live internet exclusive radio broadcast was Seattle based rock group Sky Cries Mary and took place on the 10th November 1994. It was broadcast by Starwave a digital media start up owned by Paul Allen.
During the same month, just a week later the Rolling Stones had a concert that was the “first major cyberspace multicast concert.”
Also during the same month WXYC were the first traditional radio station to announce broadcasting on the internet. WXYC had begun testing bandwidth and broadcasting in August 1994. On the same day WREK using CyberRadio1 software started streaming their beta launch and advertising of their stream did not happen until later on.
In 1995 a free download called RealAudio was released by Progressive Networks. It was reported by Time magazine that it took “advantage of the latest advances in digital compression” and delivered “AM radio-quality sound in so-called real time.” Shortly after Nullsoft and Microsoft released free downloads of audio players with streaming capabilities. More and more online radio stations started to spring up as audio player software become more readily available.
One of the earliest American 24-7 internet radio stations licensed by BMI and ASCAP was Sonicwave.com, which was created by Edward Lyman.
In the same year Europe’s first radio station to broadcast its traditional program on the internet in full was Virgin Radio in London. It was available 24 hours a day and was a live version of its FM signal.
At the end of the 1990s internet radio started to attract huge investor and media attention. In the United States in 1998 Broadcast.com set a record in it initial public stock offering for the largest jump in price in stock offerings. The offer price was $18, whereas the opening price for shares was $68 when trading opened on the first day. This was more surprising considering that the company was losing money at the time and they themselves had stated in one of their prospectuses that they didn’t expect that tot change anytime soon. On the 20th July 1999 Yahoo bought the company for $5.7 billion.
In 1998 in Sydney, Australia NetFM’s The Vinyl Lounge (longest running internet radio show) started net casting.
After 2000 stream quality improved as bandwidth became cheaper and today most stations stream somewhere between 64 kilobits per second and 128 kilobits per second which is close to being CD quality radio.