A Little Entertainment... How to Hear Lots of Free Music
If you're like me, you love to listen to music but want to pay as little as possible. And as much as I love my iPod playlists, sometimes I want to branch out a little and hear something new. Here are my recommendations for discovering new music for free, based on how you want to start.
I want to discover something similar to a band I like... Pandora is the way to go in this situation. You simply start with the name of a band or song that fits your musical mood and Pandora will create a "station" for you made of music with similar characteristics. You can skip songs you don't want to hear (up to certain limits) and, if your mood changes, simply start another "station" based on another band or song or customize your station. Pandora allows up to 40 hours of free listening per month. I used Pandora to explore the hip-hop of the 90s by starting a station based on one of my favorite artists, Aaliyah, and found out about other similar artists such as TLC and Monica.
I want to discover the music of a certain culture or country... You have a number of great options for learning about what is going on musically around the world. If you would like to learn about more traditional music, look for CDs published by Putumayo, Rough Guides, or Network at your local library. (These labels are easily accessible for purchase online as well.) These CDs are compilations that are meant to serve as a musical introduction to a culture or genre. Through listening to Network's guide to the music of Venezuela, I found out about Lilia Vera, who is now one of my favorite folk singers.
Once you get the flavor for a certain music, you can continue to explore the albums of artists you particularly like by checking out their albums at the library. My local library has its entire catalog and hold system online so I can find items and request that a CD be sent to my local library and held under my name, all from my computer. The library also provides a service called Freegal, which allows members of library system to download three free songs per week, no strings attached (contact your library system to see if they subscribe to this or another similar service). Freegal offers what appears to be the entire Sony music catalog I am a big fan of new wave music, so I used Freegal to find and download songs from the Swedish new-wave artist Eva Dahlgren.
Want to hear what's playing on radio stations around the world? I'm not aware of any more comprehensive website than Mike's Radio World, which is a simple site that provides links to radio stations that provide online streaming. I used this site to discover a radio station from Serbia that is great to listen to while I am working. Here's another list of streaming radio stations including some stations that are broadcast only to the Internet.
I want to make my own playlists... Yahoo! Music offers music videos from a number of different genres. You can make your own playlists and save them with your account for future play. You can watch the most recent hit videos or get a little deeper into the musical past. I found plenty of videos from the 80s that tickled my musical fancy. While it's not quite as customizable as Pandora, as you rate songs you hear on Yahoo!'s streaming radio stations and music videos, Yahoo! creates for you a personal "station" based on things you like. Just choose "Play My Station" or "Play My Video Station" after logging in.
I want to get lots of free mp3s... The iTunes store features new free songs and videos to download every week as a way to promote new artists. Go to the iTunes Store and scroll down to the bottom where it says "Free on iTunes". (To access the iTunes Store, you need the iTunes program, which you can download for free here.) If you like iTunes on Facebook, you will receive occasional updates about playlists you can download for free. You can play your downloads on your computer or transfer them to an mp3 player. iTunes offers not only free songs and music videos but also movie trailers and TV episodes, including lots of episodes that kids would like.
If that isn't enough free stuff for you (it isn't enough for me!) the free mp3 downloads on Amazon.com are next. The Amazon MP3 Store offers a free song of the day to promote new artists. Click here to get to their extensive collection of free downloads, provided by music labels to get you interested in their music for sale. The list is much too big to browse in one sitting, but you can narrow it down by selecting from the genres at the left. I discovered Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, a fabulous funk/soul band, through their free downloads on Amazon.
I want to hear a certain band or artist... Any band or artist who is anyone (or who is trying to be someone) will have a page on Myspace Music where you can stream songs for free. Keep your eyes open on social media sites for occasional free downloads. For example, Coldplay is currently offering a free live album for download on their band website, which I first learned about on Facebook.
I hope you enjoy listening to all this free music! Please share other ways you have discovered great music in the comments.