Web Exclusives: More

June 6, 2001:
Radio revolution
Through Alex Sanford '81's three-year-old site, www.Live365.com, listeners can hear radio from around the world 

Also: Read Feb. 24, 1999 Life of a Launch by Alex Sanford '81

By Rob MacKay '89

The revolution will not be televised. It will, however, be streamlined on Internet radio, thanks to Alex Sanford '81.

This Kansas native is founder, president, and CEO of Live365, an Internet network consisting of more than 30,000 radio stations from more than 150 countries. With World Wide Web wizardry, Sanford provides the tools and bandwidth for clients to reach listeners anywhere on the planet by broadcasting via his site, www.Live365.com.

Based in Foster City, California, Live365's client list is as diverse as the inhabitants of the globe. There are professional and amateur deejays,English- and non-English speakers and sites dedicated to everything from Brazilian Samba to heavy-metal rock 'n' roll to pure corporate propaganda. Noel Diotte's Coverunner Radio, for example, consists of "sailing music and appropriate talk" from her 34-foot yacht somewhere in the waters off southern California. The Canadian Arm Wrestling Association has a site,too, as does Penguin Radio.

"Lots of people, like high school sports teams, religious groups and political clubs, have audio content that they want to share, but no way of getting it out there without tremendous expense," says Sanford, a philosophy major at Princeton whose thesis was on the necessity of naming."We offer the opportunity to create your own radio station site for an infinite number of listeners for a low fee." (The stations can be listened to for free by anybody with access to the Internet.)

Another advantage of Live365 is that the spoken word can be saved for eternity. "Let's say you really like a speech given by U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan in 1998. Well, you can archive the liveness of the event and put it out there forever," says Sanford, a former international lawyer who worked in various Asian countries before following his entrepreneurial urge. "It's really good for instructional tapes, on-demand audio, training, or to promote your business."

Live365 probably has the world's largest directory of streaming media,which is similar to broadcasting, but over the Internet instead of over the airwaves. Its advantage is that it's multi-directional. The listeners -Sanford estimates that his site gets about one million unique visits per month - can respond and interact with the producers.

"This is democracy at its best," he claims. "You have a direct relationship with listeners, and you can be heard without needing a license or radio tower. Imagine, you can send information on human rights abuses to countries that don't have freedom of speech."

In business for about two years, traditional forms of media are finally catching up. Yahoo nominated Live365 as "Best Music Site" in 2000. It also won "Best of the Web" awards for 2001 in multimedia and streaming audio from Forbes and the San Francisco Chronicle. PC World Magazine recently recognized the start up as offering the "Best Free Stuff Online."

Now Sanford is studying wireless opportunities and looking at new ways to sell advertising, improve service, and get the word out. Nevertheless, what the future holds seems to be truly up in the air right now. "Internet radio is here to stay, and we're on the cutting edge of it," he says. "But remember, this is sort of like a pot luck buffet. Eaters can choose anything they want, but the members are making the food, not us."

Rob MacKay, is an editor at Timesnewsweekly, a weekly newspaper in Queens,New York. He can be reached at robertazo@hotmail.com.