[TUNES] Here's Your Free Online Music

Category: Music

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche did not overstate music’s importance by much. Fortunately, there's plenty of music available for free, via the Web or mobile devices. Here are the best places to find and listen to music online…

Where to Get Free Music

Many people can’t wake up in the morning, or even shower, without tunes in their ears. The morning commute, the humdrum of the office, the tedium of the gym, even making dinner can be unbearable without the sound of our favorite music.

But if you pay for all that sound, it’s going to run you a pretty penny: $10/month for the premium versions of Apple Music, Google Play, or Spotify, to name some of the best-reviewed streaming music services. Pandora’s $5/month or $55/year is about as low as you can go and still get a great library of songs with a decent set of playback features.

For those on a budget, here are some free streaming music options. They differ from subscription services in convenience, audio quality, and depth. In some cases, your listening will be interrupted by ads. But they may be sufficient to fill your need for any sound other than the real ones surrounding you.

Free Online Music (Audio Technica AT-PL50 turntable)

Spotify supports streaming a wide variety of music on desktop, Web, and tablet apps. You can create playlists of your favorite songs, but on a phone you can only listen to your playlists in “shuffle mode;” songs from the list are played in random order, and the number of times you can skip an undesired song is limited. The idea is to annoy you into paying for premium service that eliminates these nuisances. Also, free phone users cannot download and listen to tunes offline, so if your phone’s Internet service is spotty, Spotify may be the wrong choice for free music.

Pandora offers a huge selection of radio stations; that’s it, no libraries in which to store your own music files, no on-demand titles. But Pandora has done a very good job of organizing its stable of radio stations by genre, and its apps quickly learn your musical tastes by the likes and skips that you make.

Pandora's Music Genome technology analyzes the melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, lyrics and vocal styles of songs. This enables Pandora to suggest a playlist of artists and songs that you'll probably enjoy, even if you've never heard them before. I've discovered some music I really like this way. If you want to click on button and hear a lot of your favorite tunes all day without much more effort, Pandora is for you. (Note: Pandora acquired Rdio in November, 2015, absorbing Rdio’s music assets.)

More Online Music Options

Vinyl records and turntables are making a comeback! Back in 1982 I was in college, and wanting a direct-drive turntable. But it had to be $50 or less. My housemate said I might find an inferior belt-drive model for that price, but no way could I get a direct-drive. There was no Craigslist or eBay then, but I found exactly what I was looking for in a local thrift store. I still have that Audio Technica AT-PL50, pictured above.

Slacker, like Pandora, is all-radio. You pick an artist, song, or genre, and it will play a sequence of songs that are related. With the free version, you're not guaranteed to hear the specific song or artist you selected, but usually it rolls around before long. You also can’t skip commercials, and song skips are limited in the free version. There’s no saving of playlists or your own tunes for offline listening. Upgrade to Slacker Radio Plus ($4/month) and you get unlimited song skips, no ads, song lyrics and the ability to download songs on mobile for offline listening. Slacker is renowned for the crisp, hi-fidelity sound it delivers. One of its three main categories is Talk Radio.

iHeartRadio includes a library of 15 million on-demand songs, as well as live streams from over 1,500 radio stations. You can create “custom stations” based on songs and artists; essentially, these are playlists of songs streamed from the library. Custom stations are ad-free. The downside of iHeartRadio is rudimentary control; no pausing, skipping, or rewind.

Google Play Music debuted in June 2015, with an interesting mix of features in the free version (ad-supported, of course). You can listen to Google-curated radio stations; create a custom station based on a song, artist, or album; or listen to music you own. Google Play Music lets you upload up to 50,000 songs that you have purchased anywhere else, and roll your own playlists from them.

I've listed just a handful of the most popular online music options. Do you use one of these, or do you have another that you prefer? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[TUNES] Here's Your Free Online Music"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

01 Mar 2016

I use Accu Radio and LOVE it!

Posted by:

Don Fedak
01 Mar 2016

91.1 Toronto for Jazz, Blues and Big Band tunes.

Posted by:

01 Mar 2016

To Sharon H.

Being a vinyl lover as well, have you ever heard a direct-to-disc recording? THE BEST EVER!!! They cut a metal "mother" as the band is playing in the studio. They have to record/cut the entire side of the LP in one sitting. They can't stop and restart. Pretty unique!

My all time fave is "Thelma Houston - Pressure Cooker" on Sheffield Lab vinyl.

I'm a musician and I want my stereo to sound just like it does for me on stage. It's not the same but D2D is very close. Enjoy!!!

Posted by:

01 Mar 2016

There's "Radio Tunes" for android.


Have it on my tablet and "bluetooth" it to an external speaker. There are 10+ genres to listen to and only the odd commercial (to buy the "pro" version) to interrupt the tunes. Just love this one.

Posted by:

01 Mar 2016

part way down on LEFT is Folkways Radio, and it also seems to catch some of the Library of Congress recordings:

And if you are an Ira Glass This American Life fan, there is always the 'This American Life Radio' - episodes from their 18 year history: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2013/10/24-hour-stream

And there is the Library of Congress Podcasts themselves -- but they are limited and ummmm, well limited: http://www.loc.gov/podcasts/

Posted by:

Dennis Foster
01 Mar 2016

Does the free version of Google Play have periodic commercials?

Posted by:

01 Mar 2016

Response to onedeafeye. I get Pandora in New Zealand, and my sister uses it in Australia, so I am wondering which is the third country?

Posted by:

01 Mar 2016

Perhaps it's old school, but youtube still works pretty easy for music. Pulled it up in the car the other day when I wanted some Honnydrippers.

Posted by:

Lloyd Collins
01 Mar 2016

With dial-up, no streaming for me. I download from youtube, then listen on my PC, or burn CDs of the music to listen in my pickup.

I have an turntable, or phonograph, as I call it, and listen as I rip to my PC.

When are 8 Tracks coming back?

Posted by:

02 Mar 2016

RadioSure. About 10,000 or more radio stations from around the world. Every genre you can think of or instruments of your choice. Easy recording etc.
TuneIn is another good radio only with thousands of stations.

Posted by:

DJ Toby Chicago
02 Mar 2016

Hi Bob! As a long-time internet DJ on a top British station, perhaps your readers might like to know why many i'net stations and music services bit the dust within the past month or so. Royalty and licensing rates went sky-high around the first of February, 2016 (especially in The USA) and even some giants like Live365.com could no longer stay online. My best advice is choose a few i'net stations you like (not on services like Pandora, Spotify, etc.) and stay with them. Think of individual stations as small businesses you wish to help keep open. If the station is sponsored, the sponsors help keep it on the internet IF the audience numbers are good. Stations use servers to stream their shows, and good servers keep very unidentifiable listener statistics like number of listeners are from which country and what time they tuned in. Internet radio stations usually are free to listen to, unlike most satellite radio stations on services such as XM/Sirius. Thanks for all you do, Bob!

Posted by:

DJ Toby Chicago
02 Mar 2016

Response to "Ed" - RadioSure, TuneIn, iHeart Radio, etc. services serve a purpose but when you find an internet station you like, please tune in to it directly online. That way the station itself has a more accurate reading from their server as to how many people are listening and from which country at that particular time. A service like TuneIn might have 5,000 people tuned to the same station at the same time, but will show up on the station's server as just one listener. The more listeners that can be counted, the better the sponsors like it, and the better the sponsors like it, the longer they support the station! Again, think of this as supporting a small business instead of a big corporation. Thank you!

Posted by:

Jim Swan
02 Mar 2016

In 2015 my music album "None-Too-Great Hits" earned my all-time record high income of 72 US cents. I've had it listed on just about every available downloading as¥nd streaming site since 2006, and it costs me $49.95 per year to keep it listed. Whoopsie! Do you think it's the title?

Posted by:

Jim Swan
02 Mar 2016

Sorry for posting the same comment twice. I was unfamiliar with the system, and it won't happen again.

Posted by:

02 Mar 2016

@ Denis, hope this answers your question:

Dear Pandora Visitor,
We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.
We believe that you are in Canada (your IP address appears to be XX.XX.XXX.XX). If you believe we have made a mistake, we apologize and ask that you please email us.

Pandora is only heard in the US, Australia and New Zealand. Sux.

Posted by:

02 Mar 2016

If you belong to a public library, your membership may get you to http://www.freegalmusic.com/ which has a selection of millions. The library I belong to allows a member to download 5 tunes a week to their device - to keep. Freegalmusic.com also has videos. All that's needed is a card # and for your library to belong.

Posted by:

02 Mar 2016

@Bassman700 >> Indeed, the SheffieldLabs D2D recording/release of the ThelmaHouston-PressureCooker album will bring tears if listened to with proper playback equipment. Unfortunately, as with any LP, each playback (or improper tonearm calibration) will reduce the audio quality of such limited number of D2D LP pressings, which cannot be replaced. My copy of this LP was originally recorded to cassette tape using a Nakamichi deck and then later on, it was transferred to a CD and finally ripped to FLAC format in LP preservation attempts. I have only played it on my turntable less than 10 times.

A DishNetwork subscription automatically provides Sirius Satellite Radio music (99 channels), which can be considered "Free" (Note: Sirius has commercials-free). Sirius continuously streams all around my house, when g/f is not watching TV or I am not listening to my vast library of FLAC music stored in a 3TB NAS drive.
Although Sirius can be faulted for not providing the highest quality audio feeds, it is far better than most free internet streamed music.

Music lovers need to make a distinction between high quality audio/music versus what passes as music from earbud speakers and/or internet streamed 'sound'! Mr. Rankin, too bad your good coverage did not make any distinctions regarding the quality of the audio that is streamed over the internet.

Posted by:

02 Mar 2016

Sharon H,
Many thanks for the web addy for tropicalglen.com.
What a gem!

Posted by:

Adrian C
02 Mar 2016

I really enjoy Last.fm on my laptop at work (with earphones). You can totally customize your music and they offer similar artists as you fav your own. You can fav artists, songs, albums. The music connection got a bit funky with their latest 'upgrade', but you can choose to connect with either Spotify or Youtube. I like youtube better (Spotify wants to install an app. They charge if you want to listen on your phone, but the web is free.

Posted by:

09 Mar 2016

For classical music, try streaming wrr101.com

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