Listen up, music lovers: How do you get your music fix? Do you buy expensive CDs or online mp3s? Your love of tunes doesn’t have to cost you as much as you think. There are several ways to get your fix for free or cheap.
Sometimes you can’t get around buying a CD or a few individual songs. Listening to music in your car or on the iPod, for example, might require you to buy the occasional CD. But what if you’re at the computer the majority of the time? I’ve got some options that will save you big bucks.
My favorite, and the one I’ve been using for a few years now, is Pandora. Creating a station is easy. Enter in the name of your favorite artist or song. Then, Pandora will play artists or songs that are similar to the one you entered, including a mix of songs from that same artist. You’re able to give each song a “thumbs-up” or a “thumbs-down”. As you do this, Pandora will get to know your tastes better. I like this service because it helps me discover new artists, or new songs by artists I already like. You can listen to 40 hours a month for free (with occasional ads), or pay $36 a year for an unlimited, ad-free subscription.
Another option I’ve tried is Spotify, which started in Europe and came to the US just a few months ago. It has exploded in popularity and it’s easy to see why after just a few minutes of using it. To use this service, you have to download an app from their website. After creating an account you’re able to search for artists or songs and play them within the app. The sound quality is amazing — the best I’ve heard from an internet radio service. And their library is massive — to date I think they’ve had every song I have searched for. The big downside is that you only get 10 free hours a month with ads. You can pay $5 monthly to have unlimited ad-free access on your computer, or an additional $5 ($10 total) for access on your smartphone as well.
Grooveshark and Slacker are two other services I’ve heard good things about. I’ve used Grooveshark, which doesn’t require you to download anything, but the quality is spotty and it’s often harder to find songs you’re looking for. At times, they don’t have any songs from a particular artist. I don’t have any personal experience with Slacker.
Finally, there are sites like Iheartradio.com where you can listen to your favorite FM radio stations over the internet. You hear them exactly like you would were you in a car. If you can’t find your station there, you can Google it. Most radio stations let you listen to a live stream on their website.
All of the services I mentioned use ads to support their free models. So if you don’t mind the occasional 15-30 second ad, you should be able to find an option that works for you. I’ve only mentioned a few, but there are many more out there. Think about this — for the price of one CD, you could get two or three months of access to tens of thousands of songs from one of these services.
Photo by tim geers