This is a great time for music lovers. Not so long ago, we had relatively few choices when it came to how we heard our music. We could buy it, which is ideal if you’re sure you’re going to like it once you get it home; listen to the radio or watch MTV, OK as long as you’re content to hear what someone else decides you should hear; or go see it live, again wonderful, but depending on where you live and the kind of music you like, maybe not possible. And those examples only take into account our very recent history. Go back much further and people who wanted to hear music had to play it themselves (also not such a bad option, as any musician will tell you).
Now though, anyone with access to the Internet also has access to a nearly limitless amount of music, much of it free and entirely legal. I don’t mean that online music can or should take the place of buying CDs and records, seeing music live, or making music yourself, just that it’s awfully nice to be able to satisfy your musical curiosity so easily. So, while the Free Library will no longer be offering the Freegal database of downloadable music, there are still plenty of great ways to access your favorite tunes.
Let’s look at some of your options.
Library Streaming Services
While music on the open web is great and the amount of content is growing every day, you still can’t find everything. That’s where the library can help. Check out our streaming music service over at the Download Media page. Online Music from Alexander Street Press is comprised of six individual collections focusing on jazz, classical, traditional, and world music. You can stream all day, create playlists, and more. A library card is required to login and a world of great listening awaits.
Online Streaming Services
Subscription services like Spotify, Pandora, and Last.fm are also a great way to hear music online. These services are free and supported by advertising – just like radio – except that here you get to choose what you want to hear. Spotify lets you listen to the specific songs, artists, and albums you choose without limitations, while Pandora and Last.fm offer you the ability to create custom radio stations based on the music you love. At the basic (ad-supported) level each of these services are free. Even better, all indications are that the market for streaming music online is about to get even bigger with recent reports that Amazon, Apple, and Google are all hoping to get into the market.
Embrace the video wormhole!
As if listening to your favorite music weren’t addictive enough, there is also a nearly endless stream of music video on sites like YouTube and Vevo. Vevo is sponsored by three of the “Big Four” major record companies and serves up new music videos and hits from some pop’s biggest starts. YouTube, of course, is also a great source for today’s hottest videos, as well as your old favorites from the video era, but the real fun begins when you discover one of YouTube’s many hidden corners of music arcana. From lost dance floor gems, to Afro-rock greats, to forgotten Philadelphia A-sides, these fan created videos offer a music wormhole too fun not to allow yourself to fall into now and then.
Of course, all this is only the beginning. You can also find new music on aggregators like The Hype Machine; search out tomorrow’s hits on Bandcamp, or hear a little of everything on SoundCloud. Please share your favorite sources for online music with us in the comments below.