Hey Alexa… How ‘Bout No Mainstream Hits???

Since The Other Side went online, there have been requests for an Alexa skill — that’s the ability for you to say “Alexa…” to some Amazon-designed device, followed by some request to order a pizza, put beer on the shopping list, or watch a movie on Amazon Prime. Internet streams and radio stations can be ordered up this way too!

Alexa skill development isn’t super hard, but you do have to be a Python or JavaScript coder to make sense of it. And, it turns out your audio stream has to use HTTPS/SSL (that’s the type of web stream that puts the little padlock in your browser bar). I decided to work up a secure audio stream and learn to code a skill. I even went a step further and developed skill commands to have Alexa tell you the current song, the song that played previously, and the last 5 songs. I did a YouTube video that demonstrates it! It’s in “beta test,” which means only approved devices can play it. For now, that’s just the Amazon Echo Dot that I have in the kitchen.

The problem is that I need to provide documentation to Amazon that the online station is “legal” to have the skill accepted for the Skill Store. This involves, at the very least, proof that I’m paying Sound Exchange royalties. Ay, there’s the rub! It turns out that hosting our audio stream with a company called Live365 made me legal by taking care of royalties and licensing. The extra added benefit is that Live365 has its own Alexa skill that will play any of its stations. It doesn’t have all the fancy “currently-playing song” stuff. But, it provides a great way to get The Other Side on an Alexa device without having to get my own skill approved by Amazon (I may go back to my own skill down the road, but for now…)

Here’s what you do to listen with the Live365 skill:

  1. Enable the skill by saying Alexa… Enable Live-Three-Sixty-Five. You may also enable the skill from the Amazon Skill Store.
  2. Start the skill by saying Alexa… Play Live-Three-Sixty-Five. You’ll be prompted to choose a station or genre.
  3. Respond by saying Play The Other Side (don’t forget the word “Play!”).

Give it a try and send me an e-mail if you have questions or issues.