The beauty of today’s technology is that you don’t always have to schlep around your iPod or favorite CDs (people still buy those, right?) to access great music. You also don’t have to be a slave to the Billboard charts to unearth new artists. With so many great online music streaming services, the musical world is your oyster. Here are our favorite free ways to listen to music online.
Spotify – This service allows you to search and play specific songs, albums and artists. You can create your own playlists, import your own songs from your hard drive and iTunes. Find other friends who use Spotify via Facebook Connect, and subscribe to their playlist, or find public playlists that speak to you. One downside is that the service does require a separate software download. The free version includes ads, but you can upgrade to Spotify Unlimited, an ad-free version for $5 a month, or Spotify Premium for $9 monthly, which includes mobile access to the service and your playlists.
iHeartRadio - Missing your favorite hometown radio station while you’re traveling? If they’re an iHeartRadio’s radio station partners, you can listen no matter where you are. Check out one of iHeartRadios own stations or create a custom station based on a specific artist or song. There’s a mobile app, as well as access through XBox and Google TV.
Pandora - Pick a specific song, artist or genre, and using data from its Music Genome Project, Pandora will offer music similar to your requested listening experience. Keep in mind that the actual song or artist you request may not appear right away or at all, but based on their information, they’ll offer a similar sound. There’s a free, ad-supported version, or you can upgrade to Pandora One, their ad-free version for $36 annually, which comes out to reasonable $3 a month.
Slacker Radio – Slacker Radio offers the standard musical fare/options, with some programmed specifically by popular DJs. There’s an emphasis on sports via its ESPN stations in its paid options. There’s Slacker Radio Plus for $3.99 a month & Slacker Premium Radio for $9.99 a month. Premium includes songs on demand. It’s available on mobile platforms, as well as home devices via Sony, Logitech and Sonos.
Hype Machine – This is an innovative site that curates songs after they’ve been featured on blogs. Most of the songs are indie artists, folks under the radar, and remixes of popular songs. Songs are rated by site users, and when you register, the site will collect the music that you “heart” so you can access them easily later. Make your own playlists or subscribe to other people’s channels. The site also offers mobile access. There are no ads within the playlists, but just as banners on the site.
8tracks – 8tracks is an internet radio where users can share and listen to online mixes of at least eight tracks. You can search for mixes based on artist or genre. The mix creator — or DJ, as referred to on the site — can add a description and add own art to entice listeners. The site feels much more intimate and personal, as mch as you can get wtih internet strangers anyway. Mix songs are a surprise until you play them. There’s a premium version, which is $25 for a 6-month subscription, plus a 14-day free trial, with no ads. It’s available as an app for iPhone and Android.