NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Free music still exists online, but it’s about to get a little harder to find.
For months, music listeners have had their pick of free music on demand from Spotify, a music streaming service that partners with the four major record labels to offer some 15 million songs, but that’s about to change. When Spotify launched in the U.S. in July, it initially offered users unlimited free streaming for the first six months in an effort to attract more customers. Now time is running out, meaning that users will either have to pay at least $5 a month or be restricted to 10 hours of music a month.
At the same time, Grooveshark, another website with a vast amount of songs available to stream for free, could soon be forced to cut back its music selection. All four major record labels are now officially suing Grooveshark due to complaints over copyrights and royalties. It’s certainly possible that Grooveshark could somehow emerge from this unscathed, but anyone who watched the record labels go after other music sites in the past decade will probably expect the worst.
Even if Grooveshark was forced to change its business model going forward, there are still plenty of other websites that music listeners can turn to for free music.
Spotify may not offer unlimited free streaming anymore, but 10 hours of music each month will likely be enough for many casual listeners. The real downside, as anyone who uses Spotify knows, is that when you use the free version, the music is frequently interrupted by annoying advertisements.
MOG’s music streaming service is very similar to Spotify’s, with roughly 14 million songs available on demand and three pricing levels, but unlike Spotify there is no time limit for the free streaming plan. Instead, users can earn more free plays by sharing music choices with friends on MOG.
Google Music may not have as much free music as either Spotify or MOG, but every day it offers new songs and albums from big-name artists that users can download to their computers for free. Moreover, users can upload up to 20,000 of their own songs to Google Music for free to stream from any computer or mobile device. This way, you don’t have to waste any of your allotted time on services like Spotify listening to music you already have.
Like Google Music, RCRD Label lets you stream and download new tracks from established and lesser-known artists for free every day. There’s no membership fee or subscription; all you have to do is create a free account and you can download the tracks, no strings attached. The website’s selection is much smaller than the others on the list, but then again, the point of it is to discover new artists, whose catalogues you can listen to elsewhere.
Don’t laugh. If you really want to listen to and discover new music for free, you could do much worse than MySpace. The social network is overhauling its business model and recently introduced a new music player that lets users listen to more than 40 million songs from independent and unsigned artists. Some of those songs are probably pretty scary, but who knows? You might end up finding your next favorite band.
Pandora was largely overshadowed when Spotify first came out, but now it may be time to revisit the service. Sure, Pandora doesn’t let you listen to the songs you want on demand (you search for a song and get a playlist of related songs), but it arguably does something more valuable by forcing you to listen to similar songs and artists you may not even be aware of.
Calling Turntable a music streaming service misses the point somewhat. In reality, Turntable is a virtual hangout space (not unlike Second Life) that just happens to be built around music. Users create avatars for themselves and can join or create various music rooms of their choice, each centered around a different genre, where users take turn playing the role of DJ and chatting with other users. It’s probably not the right service for someone who just wants to passively listen to a few songs while at work, but the site does offer the potential to discover new artists and new friends, all for no cost.
When all else fails, there’s always YouTube. If there’s an artist or song you want to listen to, chances are YouTube has it – it just may not always be studio quality.