All of us are extremely lucky. Thanks to the proliferation of services like Spotify, Google Play Music, and Apple Music, we live in an age where it’s easier than ever to listen to any song you want almost instantaneously.
Of course, there are lots of things to consider when you’re about to sign up for a music streaming service – one of the most important of which is the price.
Sure, $10-a-month isn’t too expensive, but it’s also too much for a lot of people. Students or large families with low incomes often can’t afford to throw away so much money every four weeks on something as trivial as music streaming.
If you can’t afford one of the premium services, don’t despair. In this article, we’re going to introduce you to seven legal ways to listen to music online completely for free.
1. Spotify Free
“Every song, every artist, every album”
Spotify is the only one of the “big three” to offer a free tier. Neither Google Play Music nor Apple Music has the facility.
The free tier has been through several incarnations since Spotify first launched in 2008. At various times the company has limited users to five plays of each track every month, a 10-hour listening allowance per month, and a restriction on smartphone playback.
At the time of writing, the restrictions have been reduced to a bare minimum. The only major differences between the free and premium versions are the inclusion of ads, offline playback, higher quality audio, a lack of support for devices like Sonos and Amazon Echo, and limited mobile playback.
Spotify is notoriously tight-lipped about its long-term plans from the free tier, but in terms of the number of artists and volume of songs, it’s unrivaled.
“Free music for lazy people”
Like Spotify, Pandora has both a free and subscription tier. The free tier is more restricted than the Spotify equivalent, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time.
Essentially, it only has one feature: Pandora-curated music radio based on your likes and dislikes. You can’t skip tracks, listen offline, listen on-demand, or customize your own playlists. Since September 2013, when the company removed a 40-hour monthly limit on free accounts, there has been no limitation to how much music non-paying users can listen to.
The free tier might be subject to restrictions, but it’s the perfect way to listen to music you know you’ll love without much effort.
On the downside, Pandora is only available to residents of the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. If you live outside of these three countries, you will have to use a smart DNS provider to gain access. Pandora has blocked users on VPNs since 2007. Unfortunately, reputable smart DNS providers aren’t cheap, thus negating the whole purpose of free music in the first place.
“The leading source of music videos”
Ever since MTV played the first music video on live TV in 1981 (ironically, it was the aptly-named Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles), the music industry hasn’t looked back. Michael Jackson smashed records when he spent $7 million on Scream, Madonna infuriated the Catholic Church in Like a Prayer, and the rest is history.
These days, it’s almost impossible for a song to top the charts if it doesn’t have an accompanying video (though if you’re a budding pop star, don’t worry, it’s surprisingly easy to make one).
If music videos are your thing, YouTube is the obvious answer. Thanks to its partnership with record label-backed Vevo, it has the videos available for almost every song you can think of. You will be able to find old classics, new releases, and anything and everything in-between.
“Short user-generated playlists make music discovery a breeze”
With the three big hitters out of the way, let’s conclude the list with some less well-known options. The first one we’ll investigate is 8tracks.
The service approaches music streaming in a unique way compared to its competitors. Its raison d’être is music discovery, and the entire app is geared towards that goal. The music is grouped into user-generated playlists, each of which must have a minimum of eight songs. On each playlist, you have to skip three songs before you can jump to the next playlist.
The free plan underwent a significant overhaul in December 2016. Due to falling revenues and the developers’ desire to keep the site alive, a new paid tier was introduced and restrictions were imposed on the free subscriptions for anyone based in the United States. Initially, American residents were limited to 30 minutes per week, but that has now increased to one hour per week.
The good news? The changes don’t affect people outside of the United States. If you’re anywhere else in the world, you can listen to as much free music as you like.
“Pandora, but with fewer ads and more music”
Jango has been steadily gaining in popularity over the last couple of years. The service itself was a trendsetter, in 2007 it became the first music streaming service in the world to meld an internal social networking feature with internet radio.
Also, unlike the other services we have covered so far, there is no premium version of Jango. The entire product is ad-supported, but in exchange, you won’t be asked to pay anything.
The service itself revolves around users who create and share their personal playlists. There’s no on-demand feature.
The site divides playlists into more than 40 categories. Clicking on a category will reveal all of the choices in that category. Once a playlist is playing, you will find links to other similar lists, song lyrics, and even biographies for the current band.
“Yes, that MySpace. No, it’s not dead. Yes, it has lots of free music. No, I’m not joking”
Do you remember MySpace? It was the social network that started it all. Since the rise of Facebook, its usefulness as a network has long-since evaporated. But its usefulness as a free music streaming service? It’s alive and well.
Much of the MySpace musical renaissance is down to Justin Timberlake. He was part of a $35 million takeover of the ailing firm in 2011. The new owners, Specific Media Group, ditched most of the social aspects and refocused the site towards a music streaming service.
Today, you’ll find thousands of free songs. And they aren’t obscure songs no one will ever want to listen to. MySpace boasts the latest hits by everyone from Lady Gaga to Blake Shelton.
There are no play limits, no time limits, no ads, no subscriber-only features, and no geo-blocked songs. Don’t be ashamed; make an account. There’s no reason not to.
“Find new bands and support upcoming artists”
Unlike every other service we’ve discussed, you won’t find a Lady Gaga track anywhere on Bandcamp. Nor anything by Coldplay. Nor Drake. Nor any other global superstar. Why? Because Bandcamp’s sole purpose is to help you find and support brand new music artists.
It’s an arrangement that works well for artists and fans. Fans can listen to all the music on the site for free, donate to bands they love, buy albums they enjoy, and in some cases, even download music without paying.
Artists get to create their own microsite. They can use it to create a biography and sell their music, but also sell merchandise, concert tickets, and other associated products.
In recent years, some slightly more well-known artists have even started to abandon their record labels in favor of self-promotion on the site. The most famous example is The Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer; she walked out on her label just days after being named 2010’s Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards.
How Do You Listen to Free Music?
In this article, we’ve introduced you to seven ways to legally listen to music for free online. Some of these are well-known, some less so. Regardless, we hope the information about the free tiers will be useful when you’re trying to decide which service to use.
Now it’s time for you to add your own suggestions to this list. Which apps and services do you use to get your fix of free music? If you know about a high-quality free app that you feel deserves a place in the article, we would love to hear all about it.
As always, you can leave all your suggestions, recommendations, comments, and queries in the comments below.
Image Credit: By FOTOKITA via Shutterstock.com