It seems like anyone who isn’t interested in streaming music, lately, is just plain out of luck. However, those longtime fans of downloaded music will revel gleefully in the list of available music sites that you can find online, some of them even free! The days of unrestricted peer-to-peer downloading have come and passed (at least, if you want to do so without risk of legal repercussion.) Therefore, it’s important to be aware of several of the great ways to listen to music while you’re online.
The entertainment landscape is changing in unprecedented ways on a yearly basis. If you’re one of the many that struggles to keep up with it all, read on! The article below is meant for you. Using our provided resources, you just might find your favorite ways to listen to some of your favorite music.
Of course, the operating word in this entire article that’s going to light plenty of fires (and put a few out) is “free.” Trying to find anything that’s legitimately “free” online can feel like a battle all its own, one that’s almost impossible to win. For every offer that you find, it seems like there’s a hidden catch or pitfall that’s going to cost you in the long run. Much of the time, that pitfall comes in the way of subscription costs.
…But are those really so bad? We’ll revisit that question later on.
It suffices to say that most consumers would prefer to spend as little money on their music as possible, and most of the time, that means “free” is the very bottom floor of that scale. What most don’t understand — or flat out don’t care about — is that copyright laws get in the way of your ability to download music entirely for free. They always have, and the landscape has only become more sharply positioned against people who would pirate music (or any other type of media) online.
Free Music vs. Paid Music
Realistically, there shouldn’t be a battle between “free” vs. “paid.” However, the market disruption being what it is, there are plenty of places where you can listen to music free of charge, without the need to pay for individual songs and albums, or fork over cash for a subscription fee.
None of these resources are going to let you download music, apart from a few. And those songs that you can access without cost aren’t going to be from the megastars that regularly top the charts. But we’ll get to that below, when we talk about those few free services, below.
Disclaimer: As we’ve already stated, Digital Recourse absolutely does not condone illegal online activity, including the unlawful sharing of copyrighted media — music, movies, or otherwise. Moreso than anywhere else you frequent, anything “free” on the internet should be viewed with extra scrutiny.
15 Best Music Resources Online
Below, we’re going to introduce you to 15 great online music services. Are all of them free? No. Unfortunately, “free” doesn’t do well in the music business, and since we’re not going to condone the illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted music, this is
We’re getting the big names in streaming out of the way first. How appropriate is it, then, that Spotify is one of the best music services that you’re going to find? You won’t be able to download anything, but as we’re pointing out through the entirety of this article, very few music services let you download products for free.
And Spotify does have a free option, that we encourage you to take advantage of. Your streaming options will be limited unless you pony up for a subscription, but it’s still pretty great.
The other side of the coin is Apple Music, a stellar listening service that is becoming more and more popular. There is no “free” option with Apple Music. The only way to access it is via a subscription service, but it more than pays for that cost, month-to-month.
With Apple Music, you get some of the very best music curation that you’re going to find. Playlists are handcrafted by audiophiles from around the world, which makes it a perfect option for people looking to discover new names, bands, and sounds.
A few years ago, I might have been announcing the death knell of services like iHeartRadio. It’s entirely free, which is currently the biggest draw to this particular name. But on top of that, it’s also extremely good.
There’s not a lot you can do to customize your listening experience with iHeartRadio, but the actual stations that you can tune into are pretty stellar.
Speaking of great listening options that are based on an online radio format, we couldn’t possibly leave out Pandora. It’s been around for ages and remains one of the better online streaming services that you can sign up with.
It has a premium option that’s definitely pretty compelling and lets you take more control over your listening experience. But you can still opt for free Pandora, which will set you up with customized playlists that change and evolve based on your own listening preferences. It’s the same system that’s worked for years, and it’s still quite good today.
Though Soundcloud’s financial situation doesn’t inspire many fans, the service itself is actually quite good. And unlike many of the subscription and streaming-based options that we’re putting on this list, you can download some music from it.
First and foremost, Soundcloud is a place for creatives in the music industry to share what they make. Indie artists and DJs in particular benefit from it the most, since they can share new tracks and mixes with their fans quite easily. And they can also enable downloading for tracks that they own, meaning that you can actually get those files on your computer.
If you’re looking to discover new artists and listen to what they’ve currently been up to, Soundcloud is where you want to be.
Is it the best resource for everything video and audio related online? That’s debatable, but it would certainly be an interesting debate. What isn’t up for argument is the fact that YouTube is the largest, and also doesn’t cost you a single dime. Hop on, listen to absolutely anything that you can search up, and don’t worry about anything.
Downloading? No, you won’t be able to (legally) but you can connect to YouTube on practically any device.
Many of our recommendations on this list give you free opportunities to discover new music, as long as you’re willing to go along with a radio-based format.
TheSixtyOne is all about discovery, however. The website’s interface is minimalistic, organized primarily so that you can see ranked listings of exactly what you’ll want to listen to. If you’re the type that’s willing to take a chance on what you’re listening to, click through to see TheSixtyOne.
Looking at it from the surface, Google Play Music might be a more highly recommended service. But that’s a complicated thing to analyze, so here’s the best synopsis we can provide — if you’re already immersed in the Google software family, particularly with an Android phone, Google Play Music is a great choice. If you’re not, then it’s slightly less compelling, and might easily be trumped by Spotify or Apple Music.
You can download music that you buy, which is always a benefit. And if you’re in the mood for free listening, there’s a fair bit of that to be found, too.
Like Google Play Music, this option from Amazon is a great deal if you’re already a frequent Amazon customer. If you subscribe to the fantastic Amazon Prime, then it’s almost a no-brainer. You’ll be able to stream plenty of music and download anything that you like enough to buy.
It should be said outright that this is not a free service. You’re going to have to pay for it, but like many of Amazon’s services, it’s one of the best things that you can put your money toward when you’re online.
I’m admittedly a huge fan of personally curated playlists. I love the idea that somebody else hand-selected the music that I’m listening to, with the intention of providing a very specific experience with a precise combination of songs.
That’s what 8tracks is all about, and I highly recommend that you check it out. I have discovered far more new and interesting bands through 8tracks than I have through any other service, except, perhaps, Spotify.
While we might recommend other free streaming services more readily than Jamendo, it’s still a good option. What makes this one particularly appealing is the fact that no signup is required. You can click through, check it out, listen to some free music, and never be bothered with the necessity of registering an account or remembering a password. Pretty cool, for an online service that will let you discover new music.
Last.fm almost feels like some kind of social media experience. It’s one of the best ways to get a feel for what’s trending and allows you to track the rise and fall of popular music. Remember hearing about billboards and ratings while you were listening to the radio? Last.fm makes that experience entirely virtual, through a compelling interface and on-demand music.
The only thing that you’re going to be downloading with this service is the app itself. It’s intended for smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices, and is one of those few services out there primarily designed to be shared between friends. You get to build and find playlists that can then easily be shared with those close to you. Of course, they have to be using the Playlist service, too, but since it’s a free download, it’s quite easy to get others on board.
When it comes to free music, you might think that the Free Music Archive is the best place to look. Heck, you’d even be mostly right.
However, the Free Music Archive (FMA) is populated with Creative Commons licensed tracks from musicians around the world. That means you’re not going to find albums from the latest and greatest performers, here, but you are going to find interesting experiments across many different genres of sound. And the most appealing part of it is the way that it’s licensed — if you need background music for a project that you’re working on, this can be a great place to find some!
If you’re particularly ambitious, we recommend checking out NoiseTrade. This isn’t necessarily a music discovery service, so much as it’s a place where you can find music from artists who want to be discovered. Think of it as a meeting grounds, for fans of new and upcoming musicians. Much of what you’ll find on NoiseTrade is completely free, and if untested indie music from lesser-known bands is your jam, you’re really going to enjoy it.
How’s that for a fruitful list? Not all of these sites will give you download options, but many of them are free, they’re all legit, and they come together to present 15 of the best sites that you can use to sate your music hunger, online. Any remaining questions about our recommendations? We’d love to hear it, in the comments below!