The feature was primarily exclusive to PC versions, initially taking into consideration the ability for PC hard drives to better support user tracks; however, the feature is adopted to a limited scale on two console platforms. The PC port of Grand Theft Auto III was the first game to include a custom radio station, followed by PC ports of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV, Grand Theft Auto V, and Grand Theft Auto Online, as well as the Xbox versions of GTA III, GTA Vice City, and GTA San Andreas, the PSP releases of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, and the iOS ports of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas and GTA Liberty City Stories.
The station assumes various names, becoming increasingly immersed in the games' settings in the years since GTA III. First known as the "MP3 Player" in GTA III and GTA Vice City, the station was renamed as "User Track Player" in GTA San Andreas, followed by "Independence FM" in GTA IV and GTA Chinatown Wars, "Tape Deck" in the iOS version of GTA Vice City, "MIXTAPE" in the iOS version of GTA San Andreas, and "Self Radio" in GTA V and GTA Online.
Inserting custom music into the stations consists simply of placing music files into a designated folder. Initially, GTA III and GTA Vice City requires the user place music files in the "
mp3" folder located within the primary game folder (i.e.
Program Files\Rockstar Games\Grand Theft Auto III\mp3). For GTA San Andreas, shortcuts of music files/folders may also be placed in a "
User Tracks" folder, located in its GTA "User Files" folders within My Documents. GTA IV follows GTA San Andreas' system, designating a "
User Music" folder in its My Documents "User Files" folder for custom music.
Methods for inserting user-defined tracks in console ports are more varied. For the Xbox version, a CD must be installed into the console's hard drive. For the iPhone version of GTA Chinatown Wars, players simply create an iTunes playlist titled "GTA", assigning the playlist to the game.
The manner in which custom music is played in the stations varies game by game. In GTA III and GTA Vice City, music tracks will be played in alphabetical order according to their file names and cannot be skipped. GTA San Andreas, however, offers the option of playing the music files in sequential order, on random, or within a rudimentary radio station that only plays commercials between music tracks. Players are also allowed to immediately skip to the next track if the station is not set as a radio station. To ensure recently inserted tracks are sure to be played, GTA San Andreas requires the players "scan" the music folder using the audio options for new music tracks. GTA San Andreas' radio station options are brought over to GTA IV, GTA V and GTA Online, where a DJ (Gary Sheen in GTA IV, Cliff Lane & Andee in GTA V and GTA Online) and imaging voices are added and appears between songs and commercials for the radio station option; players are still required to scan for new music files. The player is also given the additional option to play the previous track. GTA Chinatown Wars' Independence FM simply randomizes music within its playlist.
In GTA III, only .mp3 and .wav files are supported. Either the music files or their shortcuts must be placed directly in the "
mp3" folder located within the primary game folder (i.e.
Program Files\Rockstar Games\Grand Theft Auto III\mp3). That means, neither directories consisting of music files nor their shortcuts will work.
GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas have only been known to support .ogg and .mp3 music formats (as well as shortcuts of folders containing those types of files). GTA IV, however, extends file support to include .wma and .wav files. Songs to be played in GTA IV must also be free of any DRM restrictions. GTA V and GTA Online has the same file support as GTA IV. When playing a new track in the Xbox version of GTA San Andreas, the HUD specifically mentions the order of the track and the CD number (i.e. CD 14 Track 3).
GTA Liberty City Stories and GTA Vice City Stories on the PSP also allowed custom soundtrack. A computer program named Rockstar Custom Tracks was required to rip CDs from the computer's disc drive, converting the tracks to the .gta file format. With the PSP connected via USB or its Memory Stick inserted into the computer, the .gta files need to be placed into the device's "
SAVEDATA\<game product code>CUSTOMTRACKS" directory (e.g. "
ULES00502CUSTOMTRACKS" for the European version of GTA Vice City Stories). Alternatively, digital music files can be converted to .toc files using third-party software and with file extensions visible, can be manually changed to .gta files and be dragged into the same game folder.
In the iOS version of GTA Vice City, the player must create a music playlist on their iOS device named "VICECITY", and add songs to that playlist. After that's been done, they must start up the game, be in any normal vehicle, and keep changing the radio station until they reach the custom radio station, now titled "Tape Deck". "Tape Deck" is between "Radio Off" and Wave 103. GTA San Andreas follows the same principle, except that the playlist this time is named "GTASA" and the custom radio station is titled "MIXTAPE". MIXTAPE is between "Radio Off" and WCTR. The custom radio station on GTA Liberty City Stories is also called "MIXTAPE", but its playlist should be named "GTALCS".
In Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online, as the radio wheel displays the song artist and title while selecting a radio station, the same is also displayed when selecting Self Radio. Originally, it wouldn't show up on vehicles with dashboards which display the aforementioned details (such as the Zentorno and Tailgater), but it was fixed in one of the updates.