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Spank Gold Volume 5: Spank's Edinburgh Diaries 2001-2008

Revisiting Spank's Audio Lair

No, it's still not particularly family-friendly, since you ask.From an email I received on August 5th, 2010:

Hello Live365 Broadcaster,

As you know there are a lot of new things going on here at Live365. There's a new website, new features, and even a new logo.

Now we are looking to what's next... We want to tap into your thoughts and expertise to help us drive new broadcaster initiatives. With that in mind, please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. Your input will help direct the future of Live365 broadcasting.

Have you ever had one of those days when you suddenly think, "Shit! I own a radio station, don't I?"

Those of you who've been here for the long haul will be well aware of this, of course. Back in 2002, I wrote about how internet radio was on the verge of extinction, thanks to the usual arguments about how record companies - and, to a lesser extent, artists - could get paid for it. It seemed like the ideal time for me to join in the fun, so I gave a few quid to net radio company Live365 and started up my own station. It was called Radio Spank for the first year, but I changed its name after that following a polite request from a similarly-named fellow broadcaster.

Despite those prophecies of doom back in 2002, Spank's Audio Lair has been running for nearly eight years now. To be honest, I'd kind of forgotten all about it. By its automated nature, it's easy to just dump a pile of MP3s into your 300MB of storage and let them play themselves: and I'd stopped noticing the $10 a month that Live365 were debiting from my credit card. I'd still get the odd email from a band who'd ask if they could be on my playlist - for example, this lot wrote to me only yesterday. But apart from that, the Audio Lair had more or less dropped off my radar. When I checked out the enhancements that Live365 were talking about, it turned out that I hadn't logged onto their site in 18 months.

To be fair, they're right: there are some terrific new features in Live365. You no longer need to download a special player to listen to it, as they've embedded it directly into the site sidebar. It's now a doddle to set up a list of your favourite stations and switch between them whenever you get bored. And the displays of album art accompanying the songs are a very nice visual touch. I approve, frankly.

My own station was sounding a bit feeble in these new surroundings, though. Bear in mind, I originally configured it back in 2002. The MP3 storage space allocated to broadcasters was relatively small compared with now, and the vast majority of people would have been listening to it over a dial-up link rather than broadband. Those two factors meant I had to encode my MP3s at the shittiest bitrate possible, resulting in sound quality roughly equivalent to that of mono AM radio.

People expect better these days, so I've given the station a bit of an overhaul. It's now running at 64kbps stereo rather than 24kbps mono: Live365's description of this as 'CD quality' seems a bit OTT to me, but it's up there with decent FM. I've updated the content with a new selection of tracks - 95 different ones, there wasn't quite enough room at this bitrate for the full 100. Plus, I promise to upload new tracks a little more frequently than once every eighteen months.

If you haven't been to Spank's Audio Lair for a while, maybe now's the time to check it out again. And if a simple text link isn't fancy enough for you, here's a widget link which shows you what's currently playing (another splendid new feature from Live365). Let's rock!

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