With so many options for free, legal music available for your Mac, it’s a wonder to torrents and piracy still exist. Of course, it depends to an extent on your tolerance for advertising. We’re going to look at six of the best services you can use to stream and listen to music for free. Of those six, four are supported by advertising.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, underwater, wearing ear muffs for the last five years, you know about Spotify. Perhaps the biggest online company never to post a profit - it’s the best known of the advertising supported streaming music services. Available in online and desktop versions, the free service (Spotify Free) has over 20 million songs to stream.
Spotify Free is pretty good, but it has some issues. The frequency of ads is fairly high and the amount of audio you’re allowed is just 10 hours a month or 2.5 hours per week.
By switching from one free trial to another, you can stack up hours of free streaming music, without adverts.
Spotify has competitors, though none are as popular. Rdio is the most promising of the bunch. When you sign up for Rdio, launched in 2010, you get 6 months worth of free music without adverts. Like Spotify, Rdio has around 20 million tunes in its database. A catch is that after your six months, that’s it - you have to subscribe or stop using the service. Another issue is that Rdio restricts the amount of music you can listen to in a month, but it doesn’t tell you how much that is. Instead, there’s a bar in the player window that slowly runs out as you listen.
After you’ve bled Rdio dry, switch to Deezer to stay free. After sign-up you’ll get 12 months of free streaming music, from a 25 million track strong database, supported by adverts. When your first year is done, the service caps listening to 2 hours a month. That’s when you go back to Spotify!
Down with the Kids
As a complement to any of these services, true music fans can search out brand new artists on a number of sites. Bandcamp is where all the hipsters went to set up pages for their musical projects when MySpace stopped being cool. It’s a great place to find brand new music, though you do have to search pretty deeply to find stuff you like.
SoundCloud is used by unsigned and signed musicians alike. It’s a great place to find new artists, remixes and special releases.
Quiet success story SoundCloud is like YouTube for audio. After a start as a favourite among podcasters, it’s now a destination for musicians, professional and amateur. Artists are able to tag their music by genre so it’s easy to find and follow users on their who post tunes that fit your taste.
Finally, there’s iTunes Radio. Available in the UK from Autumn 2013, the service is supported by ads or is ad-free on OS X and iOS with an iTunes Match subscription for just £21.99 a year. That’s a fifth the price of a Spotify Premium subscription. We’re fans of Spotify’s radio feature; it’s a great way to discover new music. iTunes Radio is very similar - with automated playlists generated by genre, artist or a designated track.