Listening to Music for Free

By Carlos Portocarrero

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I used to listen to music all the time. Back in college, I owned the very first MP3 player. When I told people what it did and how it worked, they always asked the same question: “So you can only have seven songs on it? That’s stupid.” I tried telling them about how the songs were digital, that you could shake the player and it would never skip, about downloading songs through MIRC for free — but they weren’t having it. I guess I was ahead of my time.

Oh how times have changed. For some reason, I haven’t bee keeping up with music for the past few years. What used to happen automatically now seems to take a bit of work. Work I haven’t been doing. Who’s hot? Who’s the “new” group? What is the what?

I’m totally clueless. So I’m trying to get back into it and if you’re in the same boat, you’ll appreciate not having to spend any money to do it. Here are some cool ways you can listen to tons of good music without forking over any cash:

  • Pandora: This one is really cool. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Pandora is all about customizing your own “radio station.” You go to the site and pick a song or artist as a starting point. The site will start streaming the song you asked for, or a similar one. This is where the magic comes in — you can either give a song thumbs up or thumbs down and based on that decision it will seek out more songs like the ones you like based on a complex algorithm that “knows” what makes one song similar to another. So the more time you spend thumbing up and down, the better tweaked that particular station will be. You can have all kinds of stations too: country, techno, classical, etc. Hook up your computer to some decent speakers (or to your stereo) and you’ve got yourself a personalized radio station with no commercials. The great part of Pandora is that you’ll hear new music you’ve never heard of that you might like based on your thumbing of songs. Check it out for yourself, it’s pretty sweet. And if you have an iPhone 3G or another smart phone that allows it, you can do this wherever you want!
  • Seeqpod: This one is a little different. Say you found a song on Pandora and now you really want to listen to it again. Pandora won’t do that for you, and unless you’ve bought the song or the CD, you’re out of luck. Seeqpod lets you search for specific songs and listen to them online. Not only that, it functions as an online playlist, so you can save and add songs whenever you want, wherever you go. So let’s say you go to a party and the music sucks — you can log into your account (which is free) and load up your “party mix” playlist or whatever you kids call it these days. Boom: instant music. You aren’t downloading the song to your computer or your MP3 player, but you can also use your cellphone to tap this list.
  • iTunes: I only started using iTunes this year after M gave me a Shuffle as a present. It’s great for running and it comes with iTunes, which is Apple’s music-transfer/MP3 store program. Here’s the thing about iTunes: it’s the easiest way to get digital music onto your computer and onto your MP3 player. What Apple has done is turn what used to be a laborious process into something fun and simple. When I saw my mother in law happily downloading songs onto her player, I knew that they were onto something. People will gladly pay 99 cents for the ease-of-use that this program gives them. Even if you don’t like Apple or you’re totally against paying for music (see the next bullet), you have to give them that much.
  • Illegally Download: This one might be a little questionable to some, obviously. But it’s really easy to do and everyone is doing it. If you have no moral issues with it, knock yourself out. It’s the cheapest, but not always the easiest, way of getting the music you want for free.

It’s clear where the future of music is going: online. You’ll be able to listen to everything over your phone, so having enough memory to store all your songs is becoming less and less important. As long as you have a fast enough connection to the Internet, you’ll be able to listen to all the music you want.

I’m always on the lookout for new sites or software programs, so if you guys have any new ones to add to the mix, let me know.

P.S. This post has been selected for the Festival of Frugality over at Value For Your Life. Make sure to go check out the other great (but not as great) articles over there.

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