I am proudly part of the “Napster Generation.” I remember they day in high school when I found a cool site that let you download other people’s songs for free. With my 28k modem, each song took about 45 minutes to download. How things have changed.
Laws have developed. Napster, in its original form, is a nearly forgotten memory. The only recent mentions of Napster relate to the founder’s character making an appearance in a movie about Facebook, The Social Network.
As internet speeds increased, college students and tech nerds flooded the web with alternatives to Napster. There was the virus and crapware haven Kazaa, there was Limewire, you could take neighbors songs with myTunes. There was no shortage of illegal music on the web.
Today, there are many legal options. Why steal music when we all have high-speed internet, many of us on our phones? There is little reason.
Pandora was the first internet radio that I listened to regularly. The site allows you to create your own account where you can create “radio stations” that play music similar to your tastes. I have stations for my favorite bands and genres. I can listen to Tiesto Radio, Swing Radio, Linkin Park Radio, Metallica Radio, AC/DC Radio, Pop/Top 40 Radio, or make a station on the fly.
Benefits: Free music. You can discover new music similar to your tastes. Rating features work well and you will only hear music you like. Free mobile app. Has a Roku channel.
Downsides: Free music limited to a fixed number of hours per month (I have never passed the limit). You can get Pandora One for $36 per year to waive the limit. Free version has advertisements. You can’t pick your own playlist. Need a live, high-speed internet connection.
Last.fm is much more popular in Europe than North America, but I don’t know why. I love Last.fm. It is similar to Pandora’s music discovery engine, but has no advertisement interruptions. I often turn on Last.fm on my Xbox and play music when I have friends over or when I want to rock out cooking, cleaning, or getting ready for a night on the town.
Benefits: Free music. No interruptions. Well built music discovery engine. Free mobile application. No streaming limits.
Downsides: Only works from a live, high-speed internet connection. You can’t pick your own playlist.
I am a huge fan of Grooveshark. Grooveshark is like iTunes for the internet. You can create an account that lets you save playlists and stream whatever song you want at any time without interruption. The library is massive.
Benefits: Choose your own playlist. Pick any song for free. No streaming limits. Mobile app available.
Downsides: Ad bar on website and certain features are locked unless you pay $3 per month for premium access. Mobile application only available for premium subscribers.
Note: You can use the free mobile application TinyShark to access your Grooveshark account for free.
Don’t discount podcasts as an awesome music source. I am a big fan of electronic dance music, and all of my favorite DJs have their own podcast. I even have a Podcast at DJYofi.com. (Which you should definitely check out)
Podcasts can be hosted by any website. Many are listed in the iTunes store, many are not. If you find one you like, just add it to iTunes or your favorite podcast manager. You can download and listen to the majority of podcasts for free.
My favorites are Tiesto’s Club Life, my DJ Yofi – Yoficast, the Sensation Podcast, Armin Van Buren’s State of Trance, and Sydney Blu’s BLUcast. If you have different tastes, you can find almost anything with a quick web search.
Evil Option 1 – Ares
I couldn’t get the whole way through without mentioning a couple of illegal options. Ares is an open source peer-to-peer music interface that gives you access to a large file sharing network. Think of this as a new version of Napster or Kazaa. You can download the application for free from SourceForge.
Evil Option 2 – MP3Skull
If you want songs without having to download a program, MP3Skull is the site for you. MP3Skull is an audio file search engine aggregator. Just type in the song you want and you can almost always find a download link.
Evil Option 3 – BitTorrent
BitTorrent can be used for either good or evil, but most use it for evil. With a torrent program like the open source uTorrent or Azureus, you can download a .torrent file that gives you access to all of the seeders of a torrent. You can learn more about how torrents work at Lifehacker.
Disclaimer: I do not officially endorse the use of illegal download methods. Use them at your own risk.