Alexa Streaming Radio Mailbag

I’ve been getting a lot of questions on this topic and seeing a lot of talk about it on discussion groups too, so it’s a good time to open the Alexa Streaming Radio Mailbag.

Note that the information provided here is accurate as of this writing, on 5/23/17, but is subject to change due to software or hardware changes at any time in the future at Amazon’s discretion.


Sad Song


1. I used to listen to {station / artist / album / song / playlist} on {TuneIn / iHeartRadio / Pandora} all the time, but now it won’t play. Alexa can still play other music from the same streaming service, so what’s the problem?
Content on streaming radio services is subject to change at any time according to contracts those services have with content providers (e.g., record labels, radio stations, podcasters, etc.). Sometimes a contract is not renewed. Sometimes the contract is renewed, but under different terms that may exclude the specific music you’re looking for, or put it behind a premium membership paywall.

This is why I’ve never gone in for streaming music services. If there’s a given album or track I know I’m going to want to be able to hear whenever I like, more or less forever, I buy it. Remember: any music you buy or get for free from Amazon is automatically added to your Amazon Music Library and becomes available for Alexa to play.


2. I used to be able to request radio stations by their number on the dial, but now Alexa says she can’t find the station. What happened?
It used to be possible to request streaming radio stations by their call letters (e.g., K-L-O-S) or number on the dial (e.g., 95 point 5 F M). It seems the last Alexa software update changed something such that requesting radio stations by their number on the dial mostly doesn’t work anymore.

There also seems to be a bug because requesting by call letters isn’t working for certain stations either, such as WFLA. When you ask, “Alexa, play station W F L A,” Alexa cheerfully replies, “Playing W F L S…” and starts streaming that station. It’s unclear why this is, but the issue has been reported to Amazon. If there’s a specific station you want and Alexa consistently substitutes some other station, be sure to report it to Amazon because that sort of thing is useful information for their efforts in chasing down software bugs.

With the exception of WFLA, which I tested out myself just to verify the bug, I haven’t personally ever had a problem getting Alexa to play a radio station when I requested it by the station call letters.


3. Amazon says Alexa can play radio stations from all over the world, so why can’t she play the station I’m asking for?
Alexa can only provide access to radio stations that stream their content over the internet. While this is becoming a standard practice, it’s still not universal. Small, local stations often don’t have the budget or technical staff to support live streaming over the internet. Larger stations sometimes don’t choose to stream because they don’t believe their audience is interested in having that service available.

It’s easy to find out if your desired station supports streaming: just check the station’s website. A simple internet search on the station call letters should find it. If a given radio station doesn’t have a website at all, it’s a safe bet they’re not streaming either. If they have a site, look for a link along the lines of “listen live” or “now playing”. The presence of such links usually indicates there’s a live stream that’s accessible online.

If there’s a station website but no sign that they offer live streaming, contact them and let them know you want it. If enough of their listeners start requesting live streaming, it gives the station a justification to invest in it.


4. It’s really great that Alexa can play radio stations from all over the world, but how can I find them?

Click here to search the TuneIn site for supported radio stations from around the world. You’ll be listening to radio stations in Fiji, England and India in no time!


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Bose Soundlink II

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