Best of Online Music
Buying songs through iTunes or Google’s Play Store won’t break the bank, but true cheapskates spin their songs using streaming music services. Anyone with an Internet connection and the willingness to endure a few ads can listen to millions of tracks for the low, low price of $0. Streaming music services are a dime a dozen these days; here are four that let you listen to the tunes you want, when you want them—in unlimited quantities—for even less than that.
Wait, isn’t Spotify a premium streaming music service? Yep, but free subscribers can tap into all of Spotify’s offerings in the desktop client, including the ability to make and share playlists or listen to any of the 16 million-plus songs in Spotify’s catalog on-demand. The software even integrates songs stored on your local drives.
- Massive catalog of on-demand music
- Making playlists is easy
- Optional apps add a lot of features and functionality.
- Facebook login is required
- Lackluster radio stations
- Mobile listening is iOS‑only and limited to lamesauce radio.
Grooveshark’s user-uploaded tunes give it a gargantuan catalog with hit-or-miss audio quality and a dubious, lawsuit-luring legal footing that has already caused Grooveshark’s apps to be yanked from all the major app stores. There are ton of different ways to find and listen to music, though. Unfortunately, the interface is fairly horrible.
- Huge music catalog
- Includes unlimited on-demand, radio, playlist, and social listening options
- Upload your music collection to Grooveshark’s servers, then stream it anywhere
- Legal issues could close the service
- Variable audio quality
- No sanctioned mobile apps for major brands; must sideload apps from the Grooveshark website
- Free listeners limited to radio functionality on mobile devices
- Fugly, clunky interface
Slacker doesn’t offer on-demand listening to freeloaders, only radio-style listening, but its library is 10 million-plus songs strong and the 200-plus stations are all curated by actual DJs for maximum awesomeness. Plus, freebie listeners get the same device support as paid subscribers, including mobile apps and home audio devices like Sonos, Sony electronics, and the Logitech Squeezebox. Yay!
- Large song catalog
- DJ-curated radio stations
- Full device support for free listeners
- Polished, attractive interface
- Smaller library than Spotify or Grooveshark
- Playlists and on-demand listening for premium subscribers only
- No rewinding and limited song skipping
Turntable.fm shines by tickling your social bone. Up to five DJs take turns spinning songs for a “room,” either using Turntable.fm’s licensed music or uploading tracks of their own. Other users can hop into the room and listen to what all the fuss is about, up- or down-voting songs all the while. Oh, and did we mention the chat function and awesome customizable cartoon avatars?
- Outstanding social aspects and visual style
- Great for discovering new music
- DJing and customizing avatars is just plain fun
- Dozens of rooms with varying musical themes…
- …but geez, there are a lot of electro/dubstep rooms
- U.S. only
- Limited licensed song selection
- Users have little say in what music plays
How to Get Free Reads
It’s great that e-readers make it possible to tote around a veritable library of books wherever we go. What’s not so great is having to pay for all those tomes. Well, guess what? You don’t have to. There are several ways you can satisfy your reading jones for free.
Project Gutenberg offers over 40,000 books in the public domain, giving you a great excuse to brush up on the classics.
Free-eBooks.net showcases books by independent writers of both fiction and nonfiction, with Top 10 lists and member voting providing useful guidance. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’re eligible to borrow one e-book a month (with no due dates) from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which comprises more than 145,000 titles. And any Kindle owner, regardless of Prime membership, can borrow e-books from their local public library, if it uses the OverDrive system for online checkout. (For more info on this, visit www.overdrive.com.)