Thanks to the popularity of streaming media, people have been predicting the downfall of things like the radio and cable television for years. However, the status quo hasn’t changed that much, and particularly in the realm of music, people still frequently turn to free resources, where they can listen to music for free; no subscription fees and no apps or software to download. There are actually quite a few stellar places to listen to music online, which can be accessed without anything more than a quick few seconds to sign up for an account and click “play.”
In the following article, we’ll take a look at some of the best of them, seeing how they stack up against the needs of audiophiles that want an online “radio” solution. Read on!
Much like streaming video, the most prominent ways to listen to music online all require a subscription fee. Apple Music. Spotify Premium. Pandora. Amazon Prime Music. The list goes on and on, and while all of those services are good, the cost of online access to our favorite media can pile up quick! Therefore, it’s prudent to hunt down those music sources that don’t cost you a dime and are just as accessible.
Moreover, it can be an added inconvenience when you’re required to install a new piece of software every time you want to try something new. Or, when you have to crowd your smartphone with another superfluous app that you didn’t want in the first place.
Our ideal scenario? Places to listen to music online, at no cost, with no required downloading. And there are plenty if you know where to look. Those requirements will form the baseline criteria that we uphold for this list.
- No payments
- No downloads
- Minimal account setup
Every single recommendation that we’re going to make in this article upholds those three criteria. More than that, most of them will give you extensive access to millions of songs from thousands of artists. Bonus points for any of them that allow you to make a rockin’ good playlist, as well!
Without further ado, here are some of the best places to listen to music online, without paying a dime or downloading a single megabyte.
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”
― Victor Hugo
Look, I know fully well that this is a video streaming service at heart, but let’s look past that obvious fact for just a moment. YouTube is a shining star in a sea of free media, and whether you’re looking for music, videos, or anything else, it should certainly be the first place that you stop and look.
The best things about YouTube apply to the entire experience, no matter what you’re listening to or watching. All of the content here (apart from the very limited YouTube Red series) is entirely free. More than that, you can queue it up in any order that you like, and make playlists with just a few clicks in the site’s intuitive interface. All that you need is a Google account, and you can have access to millions of different songs (and music videos) at your leisure. Thanks to the success of Google’s ad revenue, literally the only thing that’s going to be standing in your way are a few well-timed advertisements.
Spotify Premium may be one of the best music services that you can spend a few bucks per month on, but Spotify’s free service shouldn’t be overlooked, by any means. It doesn’t offer nearly as much freedom as the paid version (for obvious reasons) but none of the service’s library is out of your reach.
The only feature that you’ll technically have is “Shuffle” mode, but even that can be immensely satisfying. Music will sort and play based on your preferences, and the ads are never particularly obnoxious. Though I would highly recommend giving the Premium version a shot, Spotify Free is still worth your time if you’re on a budget.
In the realm of internet radio, Pandora is an old pro. It’s been in operation for quite a few years, and during that time no competitor has managed to force it out of the spotlight.
It all starts with a song, genre, or specific artist. You’ll make a Pandora account, type in some music that you’re interested in, and it will begin to compile a personalized playlist based on the way that you listen to music. Artists, genres, and other tunes related to the things that you like will show up in your personalized radio, while things that you skip or downvote will show up less.
The longer that you use Pandora, the better it gets. If you really end up digging it and want to upgrade to the paid version, you can opt in for Pandora One, which has no advertisements.
Some options on this list will be for listening on the go, and more will be for comfortable entertainment viewing and listening. Vevo is the latter. Like YouTube, you’ll get videos to accompany your music, but they’re streamed in high definition and presented in a truly appealing format.
Vevo will give you access to the newest songs and music videos, available for free streaming through your browser. On top of that, you can pick up on what celebrities are listening to by searching through Vevo’s curated playlists.
YouTube actually hosts quite a few music-centric videos from Vevo, but if you’ve seen their quality there, you’ll find a lot more to enjoy through the primary Vevo site. All of it, of course, is free.
iHeartRadio has many similarities to Pandora. Like that competing service, iHeartRadio will build a custom radio station just for you, based on the genres of interest that you select upon visiting the site.
Also similar to Pandora, your listening experience will get better the longer that you use it. The more feedback that you provide, the better iHeartRadio will be at selecting music to play for you. It doesn’t just feature music, either. Talk radio shows, comedy, and other audio gems are all featured here. Try the “Perfect For” option to let Vevo build a listening experience that’s perfect for the current time of any day of the week.
Many of the above free services are all centered around offering popular music, both new and classic. Soundcloud is a bit of a different beast, and with it, you can expect to find some truly unique music. Much of it has actually been curated by other musicians, and many independent musicians (or established popular artists) will upload their own tracks to Soundcloud.
It has its own trending charts, which allow you to keep track of which tracks and playlists are currently popular for a wide variety of people using Soundcloud. If you’re a fan of indie music or indie labels, this is the service that you want to keep an eye on. Of course, like the others that we’re dropping in this best-of list, it’s free!
Out of the several internet radio services that we’ve listed in this article, Slacker remains my personal favorite. Why? Because it’s led me to more music “discoveries” than any other service, and it’s personally curated playlists (you know, made by humans instead of automated bots) are spot-on, out of this world kinds of accurate. If you don’t believe me, try it out. You’re bound to lose an hour or two.
From popular playlists to “Staff Picks,” you have quite a few avenues by which to simply dive in. You’ll have to be willing to tolerate advertisements (just as you will with any other free service), but overall, they’re not so intrusive that you won’t be able to enjoy your music.
These are just a handful of the many music services offering online streaming. Many others purport to offer “free” service, but out of those that do, these are the best of the bunch. You won’t find any companies offering free online streaming that don’t also require you to put up with some degree of advertising, but considering how on the ropes the music industry can be due to the relatively affordable costs of paid streaming applications, this is understandable.
Musicians have to get paid, after all!
If you’re still in the market and trying to find the streaming service that best suits your needs, trying out each of the competing options listed above can give you a good idea of what the current music streaming landscape looks like. If one of them in particular truly strikes your fancy, then you can consider upgrading to a paid subscription. Usually, that allows you to both ditch the advertising and stream individual songs and albums at your leisure.
It should be said, before we’re finished, that Spotify and Apple Music are leading the pack right now, in terms of paid music streaming services; no other competitor comes close. However, between these two, only Spotify gives you the option of listening for free, so it’s a great option to get started with. Regardless of which one of the above you try, you won’t have to download anything, and after creating a simple account using an email address, all of them will let you start listening for free. After listening for a while, let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below!