Listening to the radio on your own time

I may be dating myself, but I remember spending my early teen years listening to a transistor radio and holding a tape recorder micro-phone up to the tiny (and tinny) speaker waiting for my favorite Elton John song to come on. Invariably, the tension of waiting and the burning in my arm would cause me to miss the first 10 seconds of the song before I could press my two fingers to the Play and Record button.

Flash forward 25 years and I’m daily applauding Moore’s Law, which has morphed into the customizable adage that technology gets better and cheaper at an accelerated rate. My ancient tape recorder has evolved into my favorite new software – Replay Radio.

Everyone has a radio. But the thing that no one really notices about radio is that the schedule is the most limiting factor. What if you want to listen to public radio’s “This American Life” on Monday morning as you drive to work? Well you can’t. Unless you have Replay Radio. Then you can listen to whatever you want whenever you want. Its called time shifting, the buzz word used for personal video recorders like TiVo.

I now use this software in my talk radio business to record broadcast shows on a weekly basis. The software enables capturing or recording of both audio on the Web and broadcast radio and converting it to formats like mp3 or wav or an automatic burn to a CD for on-demand listening.

Bill Dettering, founder of Applian Technologies and creator of Replay Radio, took a few minutes to talk about his Jetsons version of the old tape recorder.

Q: Replay Radio can be used to time-shift digital media. How does the software work?

Dettering: It’s like TiVo for Internet radio. Basically, we have a built-in database of over 200 shows and 400 stations. You can pick a show or station – if it’s a show, we have set up the time and day it comes on – and create a list of what you want to record. Replay Radio just runs on your computer and when that time appears, Replay Radio will tune to that station and start recording it, then save it either as an mp3 or .wav file or burn it right to an audio CD. If you have an iPod, mp3 player or a CD player, you can listen to your radio shows whenever you want to.

Q: This software has the ability to record from broadcast radio as well as Internet radio?

Dettering: Yes. You can record streaming audio from any Internet radio station you can listen to on your PC or you can plug a regular broadcast radio into your PC and it will record through the line in port. There are some radio programs that aren’t broadcast over the Internet. “Howard Stern” is the most notable one we get requests for. But if Howard Stern is on your local radio station, you can record that.

Q: For a long time, at least in the case of streaming, audio was protected because you couldn’t download that format. But in a way you now can with Replay Radio by turning it into a wav and editing it however you want.

Dettering: We have some add-on tools that allow you to do that called “MP3 Magic”. You can slice and dice the recorded files and cut out certain parts if you want to archive it.

Q: Since the program lets you capture regular radio, are there any issues you see with copyright?

Dettering: That’s a good question. We’re operating in the same way that TiVo or a VCR operates under the copyright laws. The copyright laws are pretty interesting in what you can and can’t do with them. The premise to operate under is you are recording for your own personal use, just like if you recorded a major league baseball game on your TiVo. If you were to redistribute that broadcast, then the user would be in violation of copyright laws. From our standpoint, we’re just offering the recording tools and discourage people from violating the copyrights of the various content holders.

Q: What they do with it is out of your hands!

Dettering: Exactly. There’s a very long legal precedent called “Fair Use,” so we’re in a pretty stable area here. Occasionally, we get lawyers from some of the radio shows saying, “Hey, you’re broadcasting our shows.” We have to explain to them that we’re not doing that. There’s a bit of an educational process and eventually everyone is happy and going along with it.

Q: Do you get permission from your 200 radio show presets in Replay Radio?

Dettering: No, we don’t actively go out and get permission because we don’t really need to. It hasn’t been an issue so far and no one complains about it.

Q: What are people listening to?

Dettering: There are two different areas we focus on: talk radio and music radio. Initially we thought it would just be a talk radio-oriented product, but it turns out there are a lot of people who are recording music.

One of the features in our software is automatic track splitting. If you are listening to an Internet music station that has pauses between each song, Replay Radio will actually create individual mp3 files based on the file detection between each song. Then you copy it to your iPod and have commercial-free radio wherever you want. If you don’t want to listen to a particular song, you can easily skip to the next track.

Q: Let’s talk about the types of shows you have in the Replay Radio database.

Dettering: Most of the commercial radio stations. A lot of major markets have stations that are broadcast over the Web. There are a lot of news and talk stations. We started our database with a smattering of popular shows, and then people will just request us to add a show or station. Our database grows from the input our customers give us. We’re adding about 4-5 shows per day. There’s a whole International component as well. There’s no limit to how many shows we’ll eventually have in our database.

Q: You developed Replay Radio. Where did you get the idea?

Dettering: I used to have a “real” job at Excite@Home. Every day I would drive from San Francisco to Redwood City – about 45 minutes each way – and I never had anything to listen to on the radio. I often thought I wish I could record something rather than listen to commercials on the radio.

Q: What needs are you seeing that you plan on providing in the next version of Replay Radio?

Dettering: The really hot area now is music. I’ve been watching iPod really closely and just bought one – the first Apple product I’ve ever bought. I was really impressed – everything from the packaging, the design, the simplicity. I use it in my car and when walking the dog. We wanted to add more music-oriented stuff that appealed to music player owners. Some technology we’re developing for recording off the radio is automatically tagging the file with song information like artist, title and album.

To find out more about Replay Radio and Applian Technologies, go to or The full audio interview is available for listening anytime at

Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.